Over the weekend I played through the first episode of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead. I was expecting good things based on Telltale's earlier episodic games, but I was still pleasantly surprised at how well they captured the tone of the books, something the TV show has failed to do in my opinion.
The game plays out like a modern point-and-click action adventure, and lasts maybe 2-4 hours. It's not particularly challenging, gameplay-wise. You're mostly playing through for the story. I got stuck for about a half an hour on one part at the motor lodge, primarily because I didn't see one item that I could pick up.
That the gameplay isn't that hard doesn't mean there are no challenges in the game though. You'll be presented with decisions that you have to make under a time limit, decisions that you'll make based on gut feeling and then try to rationalize to yourself later. Telltale claims that the outcome of the game, and the story through the remainder of the episodes, will change based on the decisions you make. So for that reason, even though the episodes are short, there's some replay value here.
What I found that the game manages to do, which the TV series didn't (aside from presenting likeable characters... even the child character, usually incredibly obnoxious, is intelligent and endearing), is capture the same panic and tension that you find in the comic book.
While playing episode one, I was nervous to do anything that would make noise or attract the attention of zombies, I was dreading getting into a situation to be attacked, and enjoying the downtime with other survivors. Talking with them and getting into the human nature involved with being in a disaster situation of this magnitude. While watching the show I just kept finding myself wishing for the next zombie attack just to make things interesting.
Now that could be a testament to the differences in medium... perhaps the writing and pacing in the comic book, or the interactivity of the video game are just simply better at portraying this sort of ongoing zombie survival. Or it could just be that the TV show is dull as shit.
Another thing I appreciate is that the Walking Dead game doesn't attempt to put you in the shoes of Rick Grimes for yet another portrayal of the same story that's already been told in the comic books. Instead you play as Lee Everett, a convicted murderer on his way to prison when the initial zombie outbreak starts. You play in the same geographical region, even meet one of the characters from the books before he meets up with Rick, but overall it's an entirely new story set in the same universe.
The graphics and character models are heavily stylized, drawing inspiration from Charlie Adlard's artwork in the comic book, and while some of the lip-synching is a little off, the voice acting for the most part is incredibly well done.
The episode is $5, and there are currently five episodes planned, releasing once per month supposedly. Based on my enjoyment of the books, and my enjoyment of this first episode, I'll likely be buying these the day they come out for as long as Telltale wants to make them.