The Walking Dead on PC and iOS devices is a 5 chaptered, point-and-tap, horror adventure game and is one of the most engaging, compelling and emotional pieces of motion art I have experienced in my life. Each chapter is about an hour of gameplay and the narrative is driven directly by the choices you make. This means if you’ve made a specific choice in chapter 1 it could come back to bite you, or quite the opposite, by chapter 5.
The narrative follows Lee, a convicted felon, on his journey through zombie-infested Atlanta and the surrounding area. Right at the beginning of the game he meets a lone 9-year old girl, Clementine, who helps him discover his heart, as well as giving him the goal of reuniting the girl with her parents. Throughout the game we meet a series of characters – some good, some bad – and there are often periods in which you have to decide which characters…progress…with you to the next phase of the game [read: people get eaten].
Obviously there are the video game elements, and while it is fun being directly involved in the key multiple-choice decisions, I just wanted to watch what happens. In some ways it is quite sad that a video game captures the essence of storytelling more than many, many films I have seen recently. Maybe it’s because I spent the best part of 2 and half weeks with these characters and their stories, and had familiarised myself with the dread of their situation, that I found it so brilliant. To put it into context, when I finished the game I had that empty feeling you used to get as a 10 year-old when you got to the end of an amazing holiday. I didn’t want to part with the characters because I had formed an emotional relationship with each of them, which may sound weird/sad but I don’t care. I’d even go as far to say that tears were shed, which was a computer game first for me.
Everything about the cinematic aspects of the game were perfectly executed. The facial movements, even on an iPad, were clear enough for you to gauge the nuances of the conversations between characters. All of this was underscored by a brilliant selection of original music; melancholic strings and bass tones rolled along, enhancing the emotional gravitas of the story without being cloying. There were some tough decisions to make, and the characters were so well drawn that it was never easy choosing who would stay with you on your journey. The final act of the game hits 11, and while the very end funnels itself into linearity, the story is resolved in a very decent way. I am itching for game 2.
Overall, The Walking Dead game is absolutely phenomenal. There wasn’t one second in the game where I was bored, or wanted to fight more zombies, or felt like I wanted to put down my iPad. As mentioned, I played this over the course of 2 weeks but the final act I played in one evening because it was so thrilling. The game is currently available on the App Store (first episode is free; iPhone 4/iPad 2+), Steam and from TellTale Games‘ website.