Unfortunately I had never heard of the comics, my introduction to this particular series was the tv show, which is very good-by the way. I had read some comments about Tell Tale’s Walking Dead game, and how it gave the player some painful and hard choices, given I love that sort of emotional trauma in a game, I decided to give it a shot. Here is what I think.

The first thing to notice is a very stylised but effective art design, an excellent hand drawn and painted appearance to the scenes in The Walking Dead reveal Tell Tales talent for this sort of adventure. It’s real enough to give you a sense of emotion and attachment to the characters while still maintaining that comic book feel.

You play the role of Lee, some black dude that is being taken to Jail in the back of a local sheriffs car. Then all hell breaks loose with zombies and survivors facing all kinds of horrible, nightmare situations, which arise as you and others simply try to survive. I won’t explain the story here, partly to avoid spoilers but also because of the unique way in which this game tells the story.

You see, because of Tell Tale’s system of making their games, you have several points per episode in the game, where you can make game changing choices. Affecting who lives, who stays, who leaves and even dies aswell as what characters think of you. This is all very attractive to experience, since it means most players will experience their own relatively unique turmoil when faced with a hard choice, unique to their story and game events. It’s also interesting to compare your decisions with that of others in the end of episode screen, which shows you player choice percentages.

During conversations there is a timer bar for you to give a response, fail to choose a response from up to four lines of dialogue per response and well…actually I don’t know. Presumably it forces whichever response is the default highlighted. You see I don’t really like that, I’ve seen it before with Indigo Prophecy. It creates pressure to make a choice within a short period of time, I can see the thinking behind it, but I dislike how it works.

My problem is that I am not a particularly fast reader, so knowing I have mere seconds to select a response and that timer is already shrinking, before I can read what options I have, just annoys me. It’s supposed to make your choices seem more rushed and pressured because presumably, you make more meaningful choices when they are instinct. Coupled with a “it’s done now you can’t change it” design of progress can prove frustrating if you either don’t respond quickly enough or as I did a few times, accidentally choose the wrong response with finger fumbles.

You get used to it as you play more, and many of the responses won’t condemn you on their own, but I’d still prefer I had a method of reading the responses before I was pressured into deciding which one I would pick. Perhaps with a staggered presentation where the responses appear one at a time with a second delay between to give you time to read each one. (An option to not do this for fast readers is also fine).

The voice acting is excellent and it needs to be, with so much of the game hinging on your attachment to characters and the situations they are in. The music is also suitably depressing, while I can’t honestly say it’s the sort of music I would listen to outside of the game, it adds weight to the happenings within.

This isn’t a game for kids, the decisions you make, the emotional trauma you experience, the swearing and the tension between the survivors is all very brutal, that’s without even addressing the graphic violence. However, what puts this as a cut above what many developers choose to advertise as “adult” is that the choices and decisions you make have real impact within the game world.

Deciding who to save is one thing, deciding what moral stances to take and who to side with on the most sensitive of topics is quite a challenge. You will feel guilty at times and you will also experience grief and sadness. Most situations end badly for somebody, there are no easy answers in this world.

I spent most of the game trying to “do the right thing” and be a decent person, but I did do some pretty horrible things to some people, to enact my sense of justice, or logic.  It is a compelling story and with the multiple paths, probably worth replaying at some point, I do feel a bit emotional just now, the ending was quite painful to see and while a triumph of story telling, not something I want to experience again straight away.

The Walking Dead is a good adult adventure game, it has such power behind its story, to affect how the player feels, to really draw the player in and make them responsible for their actions. It’s impressive work, I can’t wait to find out what happens in season 2!

You should really play this if you enjoy adventure games, it’s controls are fairly basic and the action is very scripted, but you’re playing it for the story, and the path you forge, with every tear of regret.