The Walking Dead Episode 2-5 Review: Top-Notch On Any Platform
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains specific details about Episodes 2-5 of The Walking Dead adventure game.
Back when Telltale’s The Walking Dead story adventure came to iOS, I gave the game five stars — or at least I gave Episode One five stars. Now that the game is complete on iOS (and on all platforms), I am going to return to the game and talk about what went down in the other four episodes. Now that we’ve seen it all, how good is The Walking Dead?
In a word: excellent.
I have very little to add concerning the technical merits of the game beyond what I said in my original review. Throughout the five episodes the game remained an incredibly stylized interpretation of the comic book’s visuals with excellent voice acting and solid touch controls. Consistency was one of the things that made this title so great.
One of those consistent things that helped make this game such a success is the writing. It’s not often I get to praise the writing of an iOS game — usually I’m writing things like “This game was awesome, even though the script was terrible.” Here, though, the story drives the game so well that I suspect many players won’t soon forget it. It is easily one of the best written story adventure games I’ve ever played.
In particular, the core narrative of Lee’s relationship with Clementine, so vital to the story, is also incredibly memorable. The Clementine character is written in such a way that she comes off as a believable child, not an annoying child-character; and Lee’s development from felon-on-the-run to dedicated caretaker is likewise nicely arced.
The storytelling element of the most interest to some was the “tailoring the game to your choices” element. When the first episode released, it wasn’t clear how making certain decisions (like choosing to save one character over another) would play out as the game progressed.
To test this, I kept two games running as I went through the first three episodes; in one I played “Good Guy Lee,” and in the other “Jerk Lee”. If Good Guy Lee made one story choice — like “save Carley” — then Jerk Lee did the opposite — “save Doug.” If Good Guy Lee sided with Kenny in an argument, then Jerk Lee always stood by Lily. I wanted to see how making some crucial decisions changed the game.
Not surprisingly, there was no way to make a choice that really derailed the overall narrative. For example, in the end of the first episode, you can choose to save either Carley or Doug. Whichever choice you make, that character fills more or less the same minor role in the next two episodes before dying to Lily’s bullet. And when Lily shoots them, you get to choose to either leave her behind or take her with the group. Leaving her behind removes her from the game; but taking her along only changes how she leaves the game – she breaks out of her bonds and steals the RV before the group gets the train moving in the next chapter.
This tailoring gimmick is perhaps the thinnest part of the game, but it’s still handled well at the storytelling level. After all, Telltale promised story “tailoring,” not multiple plotlines. By episode four I’d decided to leave Jerk Lee behind and just let Good Guy Lee’s story play out.
In the next few weeks, websites like ours are going to be cranking out “Best iOS games of 2012″ lists like candy. I guarantee that The Walking Dead will be a regular item on those lists. If you have not yet experienced the game, and you’ve got some time off coming over the holidays, there are much worse ways to spend your time than by playing The Walking Dead. Think of it as a Christmas gift to yourself.
Our Score: 5 out of 5
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