The Walking Dead, one of my favorite TV shows of all time, returns this Sunday on February 14th. While others will be going out on dates for Valentine’s Day, I will be staying in with my true love, The Walking Dead. If you have not watched the TV show, then I suggest that you do. Based on the comic books by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world filled with “walkers” (a unique term for zombies). What makes the show so great in my opinion is that it does not intrigue viewers with bloodbaths of guts and gore to hook them on the series. While there is a surplus of “guts and galore” for those who are fans of the action-violence genre, the series flourishes on its narrative and plot. The Walking Dead makes you care for the characters. You watch them grow and survive in this horrible world and you start to empathize with them. That right there is a big mistake. Getting too close to a character can hurt you in the long run. Any character on the series could be killed in an instant and cause you to feel all the feels. But that right there is the beauty of the TV show. Where else do you grow to care for characters and then grieve for their untimely death? Maybe… in a video game?
The Walking Dead (yes… the TV show and the game have the same name) by TellTale games is an episodic graphic adventure video game based on Robert Kirkman’s comic book series. While the game takes place in the same fictional universes as the TV series and comic book, the story and most of the characters are unique to the game. You won’t see Rick Grimes in this game, but you will see another strong protagonist in Lee Everett. Much like Rick, Lee pretty much wakes up to a zombie outbreak and is forced to take shelter in an abandoned house. Dazed and confused, he managed to fend off one walker with the help of Clementine, a little girl whose babysitter got bitten and turned into a walker. As you will find out by progressing through the game, this meeting between Lee and Clementine would be the prelude to an important and strong relationship. As I said, the story and its characters really push the game forward and make it the excellent video game that it is.
As for gameplay, you won’t find any generic “zombie game” elements here. You don’t run around finding a multitude of ways decapitate and kill zombies. In fact, you never really even use a gun as a weapon to kill zombies with. The game is just not about killing zombies/walkers. It focuses instead on the plot and on the choices you make in this world.
Choices are important and vital in The Walking Dead. Whenever you approach someone to talk to them, you are usually given four options to pick from. Whatever you choose is what Lee will say to the character he is speaking to. Depending on what you say, you can improve or hinder the relationship and disposition other characters have towards Lee. Although what you say to other characters can be important, there are times in the game where your choices are the difference between life and death. In every episode, there are five big decisions that you have to make which are then illustrated at the end of the episode and tracked by TellTale’s servers. Sometimes you have to choose who you save from a fatal situation, and at other times you are tasked with deciding on killing someone or letting them live. You have to make your choice quickly or the timer will run out and make a choice for you. The timer nicely adds to the intensity of your decision making. These choices make it so that you can experience the game differently than others may have, making no one play through exactly the same.
Video games based on TV shows, movies, comic books, or other types of media are not always good, but that is not the case with The Walking Dead. Creating a unique story but keeping it in the same universe was an exceptional decision, and one that really worked for the game. If you have not done so, do yourself the favor of playing this great work. It will keep you on the edge of your seat. Plus, while you are at it, tune in to The Walking Dead this Sunday. I know I will.