Review: The Walking Dead: Episode 1 (iPad)

Videogames have grown vastly over the years.  The more we expand on them, the greater the demand is for multiplayer experiences or graphics that allow us to forget it’s fake, which is why it’s very interesting–and even a little refreshing–that Tell Tale Games is able to successfully forego those shackles of traditional games and create its own line of captivating, fun and immersive titles.  The Walking Dead is the latest title that Tell Tale Games has created and released this past week on iOS and other consoles.  Given the success of the comics and the series which is about to start its third season, a video game adaptation was inevitable.

The game opens with a man in the back of a police car.  From the get-go we can see the apprehension in the character’s face, the emotion.  His name is Lee and he is the protagonist.  It isn’t long before things go awry and he finds himself stranded and sees corpses walking around, attacking anything that moves. His journey for survival starts and he is forced to make many decisions along the way, no matter the consequences.

The Walking Dead plays just like other Tell Tale Games titles, a series of dialogue decisions that have their own consequences mixed with quick-time events to test our reflexes.  That’s about it in terms of gameplay and while it may not sound interesting to many people out there, the games do prove to be fun and should be recognized for keeping their heads above water in such an ever-growing and challenging environment.  Investigation plays a huge part in this title and the iPad/iPhone offers smooth finger controls.  In certain instances we are given movement control over Lee and can walk around, searching for items and the like.  Using just your finger, you slide in any direction to control his movements.  The tracking is spot on and makes it incredibly easy to navigate the environments.  A white button pops up over every interactive object to show you where you can investigate.

Puzzle solving is the main gameplay element.  As you progress through the story, you are forced to use your head to get out of tight situations.  This mechanic requires you to search everything around you, imagine how certain items can be used to help your situation and piece it all together to proceed.  I would say my only real complaint with this is that if you miss something, it may take some time to figure out what it was, and backtracking can get a little annoying.  If you are thorough, however, you should have no issues finding your way.

The graphics are pretty nice to look at.  They have a cell-shaded feel to them, undoubtedly to feel more like the comics the franchise originated from.  Facial expressions and movements are fluid and intricate.  Surrounding environments are a different story, however; the detail and models are much less polished and may even remind us of slightly upgraded PS1 terrains, but the ones we actually traverse and investigate are given the same care as the characters in the story are.  While the game is simple and straight-forward, I feel that the graphics could have used a little more polishing to make it just a little more beautiful, but it still looks great on the iPad’s display.

A big part of the immersion in this title comes from the voice acting, which I must say is pretty spot on.  You can feel the emotions of the characters, especially Lee and some of the other adults you come in contact with.  As you can imagine, the survivors are in pretty hectic times and their voices portray this well.  Lee has a solemn and contemplative tone throughout Episode 1 and it helps bring his despair to life as the story progresses.  Other characters vary from anger and yelling to jokey and light-hearted, giving everyone a unique personality.

As of right now, only the first of five episodes is available to purchase on Apple’s App Store, however you are able to choose to purchase episodes 2-5 as a multi-pack and save yourself 25% in the long-run, downloading them as they become available.  For an iOS game the price tags feel a bit steep, but the episodes offer fun and engaging experiences.  If you’re okay with shelling out $20 + for the complete story, I would suggest getting it to partake in an interesting and beautiful game. When you finish the episode, your choices are compared and contrasted against other people and their choices as well, which is pretty cool.

The Walking Dead offers a fun experience.  Its simple controls and story make it easy to pick up and play, however the price tag for an App Store game may deter some people, especially given the fact that it’s more like an interactive book than a control-driven endeavor.  If you can put those things aside and keep an open mind, you will most likely enjoy this adventure.  Keep your eyes peeled for the coming episodes so we can all experience Lee and company’s complete story.

8/10

               
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