The Walking Dead: Episode 1: Short, Sweet Drama (+ Giveaway)
Monday, May 14, 2012 at 12:06PM
Ernie in pc, reviews, steam, telltale games, the walking dead, xbox360

Zombies are dead. Well of course, they're reanimated corpses, what else would they be? Alright, let's take this from the top then. The zombie genre is dead. These days, anything starring the dead risen is laughably late to the party or trying to desperately cling to the waning corpse rush of the past few years. I tend to avoid zombie-centric media at all costs, save for a few exceptions, such as The Walking Dead. Surprisingly, I wasn't all too excited to play the game - which is based in the world of one of my favorite TV series - mostly because I'm no particular fan of point-and-click adventures. However, when a review code for The Walking Dead: Episode 1 landed in my lap, I couldn't let it go unplayed, and I am very happy with the end result.

Hit the jump to find out how you can win your very own copy of The Walking Dead: Episode 1!

I was a bit late to the Walking Dead party, having passed on the comics even after hearing their universal praise. The TV series however, is firmly entrenched on my short list of preferred watching. The fight for survival is gritty, gory, suspenseful, and generally well told. Imagine my surprise to find this game has much the same of what endeared me to the show. In this battle for survival you take Lee - a convicted murderer - through a suburb of Georgia at the onset of Z-Day. As a kindly old sheriff is whisking you away to the local station, Lee notices an alarming increase in police activity, and then it happens. After some cinematic action that I shall not spoil for my dear readers, Lee comes to and is immediately thrust into all sorts of bad predicaments, typically involving flesh eating corpses.

All around good guy Lee Everett with his Clementine

Let me just take this moment to point out that I had to roll my eyes when discovering that Lee, the latest entry in a very small pool of dark-skinned protagonists, was a criminal. How genre-bending! I was even expecting him to start spitting freestyles at any given moment. As I played further into the game, I became increasingly fond of Lee Everett, a convict with strong family ties, a high level of intelligence, and a respectable occupation as a professor at the University of Georgia. Before being arrested, anyway. From what we see in this first episode, Lee is as headstrong and likeable as Rick Grimes (before Ricktatorship). I have a hunch that his innocence will somehow be proven before the end of this season, and Lee will become one of the gaming world's best examples of a black hero. But that's enough about race politics, I don't mean to bore you.

From the very start of things, the pleasing art style jumps out and claws your eyes like an artsy walker infected with the love virus. Thick ink lines and bold colors are an obvious nod to the medium of the source material, something that comic enthusiasts will love as soon as the game begins. Though most of the game is of the point-and-click exploratory vein, there are some wild deviations from the norm, such as controlling the reticle to strike a geek with one of various weapons. These segments are few and far between, so don't expect House of the Dead action. Picking your surroundings for items and information comprises most of the game, which in turn creates dialogue within your strained group of survivors. It's here where the title shines in my opinion, as the other characters have very distinct personalities, some of which harken back to moments spent watching them on television. Dealing with some familiar characters from the comics and show is awesome, and interacting with them allows them to exhude some of that personality that they've made so famous in prior appearances. Lee, as a natural born leader, finds himself making incredibly vicious decisions, like who to save and who to sacrifice at times. And though they're not all life or death, certain decisions are remembered by the characters they affect, something that will come back to you later in the game or later in the 'season.' Have you ever tried telling a hopeful tween that her parents are dead? The decisions you make create alternate and branching paths through the game, reason to play twice, or possibly more. 

This might be a fortunate situation if she wasn't, y'know, a zombie

You are given the option to disable the 'guides,' something I highly recommend only after your first play through. These guides overtly display what can be interacted with in the environment and what the other characters think of your decisions. Turning the guides off not only adds to the immersion of the apocalypse, but also creates an air of mystery in regards to what you can expect from certain characters later down the line. Adventure pros may even be comfortable starting up without guides from the get-go, but I felt I may have needed them, coming from an action and first-person shooter background. Still, I felt right at home with the simple control supplied in The Walking Dead. Using a keyboard and mouse, most action was completed via point-and-clicks, WASDing, and occasional timing tap or rapid tap. Control would probably be much easier if playing on a gamepad, however mouse and keyboard purists should rest assured that getting Lee to do what you want him to do is a breeze. 

All in all, The Walking Dead: Episode 1 is a few fleeting hours of genuine drama, heartfelt moments, unexpected twists, and plain old fun. The game ends on a cliffhanger worthy of an entire TV season's end, and teases the next episode by giving away just enough to tempt my wallet. At a $5 buy in, this title has great bang-to-buck value, and something both Walking Dead fans and adventure game enthusiasts should add to their library. Needless to say episode 2 cannot arrive soon enough.

The Score: 8 outta 10 Blasters!

BONUS: Win a a free copy of The Walking Dead: Episode 1 for Xbox 360
The sweethearts over at Telltale Games have been kind enough to grant us with one extra code for The Walking Dead: Episode 1, and rather than letting it rot in solitude, I want to give it to you! It's been a while, but you know how these giveaways work: tell me your favorite Walking Dead character, or just say "I want free shit!" It's okay, I won't think you're a greedy bastard (you are) because we all want free shit, don't we? Hit the comment section below and I'll pick a winner at random by week's end. Be sure to leave your email address - good luck!

Update: The winner has been sent the code. Thanks for playing!

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