The Walking Dead Episode 1 Xbox Live Arcade Review

Article first published as XBLA Review: The Walking Dead: Episode 1 on Blogcritics.

The Walking Dead are back and not just in an Occupy L.A. – May Day convergence exercise in downtown Los Angeles.  Interactive story game maker, Telltale Games has put together something new based off the popular comic book series.  The art is nearly identical to the comics but The Walking Dead game doesn’t bother retelling the comic or that of the TV series.  The game lets you play as a convict named Lee Everett, who manages to escape custody as the epidemic breaks out.  This allows the game to run concurrent to the early part of the story fans already know.

The Walking Dead game borrows heavily from the last couple of generations of survival horror games and the classic point and click type adventure games on PC.  Luckily, Telltale is mostly successful at marrying the two genres.  Most of the cell-shaded scenes are presented with classic Resident Evil-type fixed camera angles although thankfully, there are no tank controls.  The camera is slightly adjustable with the right analog stick and Lee moves directly with the left analog stick.  When the shaded crosshairs come across an item or person Lee can interact with, icons pop onto the display with your choice of action.

More than just solving puzzles, The Walking Dead game uses relationships and dialogue as the puzzle.  Nearly everything you say plays into how the game plays out.  Most of the characters Lee meets are of course, suspicious of him due to the circumstances and some even know who he is.  Your choices are really about who to ally with and how honest to be.  There are also some optional fetch quests that can influence the others in your group.  The meat of it though, is your relationship with the little girl you’ve chosen to take care of, Clementine.  If the choices weren’t difficult enough, many of them are timed.

Though the game does contain a lot of dialogue, there are zombies to kill.  Many of these combat sequences require quickly lining up the cross hairs on a target and selecting the appropriate action.  There isn’t any swinging of melee weapons or unloading copious amounts of ammo into walkers.  The combat is fairly rare which may dismay some potential players and result in the game being dismissed as an interactive comic like those found on smartphones.  While fairly short, there is certainly more to this game than just a lightly interactive television episode.

A couple of characters from the established franchise do make their way in The Walking Dead: Episode 1 game but in forms closer to the comics than the TV series.  The game is however, presented in a format similar to a television episode, with a coming soon sequence at the end.  Seeing where your choices put you will probably make you want to replay Episode 1 and even more so considering those choices will carry through continuing episodes.  What else will you do while waiting for the next one to be released?

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