Developer: Telltale Games
Roger Ebert once said ‘[no one] has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers.’ Of course, video games have come much further than Pong. The truth is that those who do not play a wide variety of games often overlook how effective they can be as a form of storytelling. Telltale Games’ first season of The Walking Dead is one of the greatest examples of just how effective the medium can be in this respect. Season Two is arguably an even better example.
TWD: Season Two continues the story of the corruption of humanity during a zombie apocalypse. You take control of a young girl called Clementine, the deuterogamist players protected in the first game. As you are now watching the nightmare unfold through a child’s perspective, the emotional impact is even greater than before. Once again, striking cel shaded visuals, a great script, and incredible voice acting fully immerse you into the dark story. The characters are three-dimensional, and they all develop in meaningful ways. What happens to them, and Clementine, matters. It is not for the faint of heart.
In terms of actual gameplay, The Walking Dead is a point and click adventure game, but Season Two has very little actual pointing and clicking. There are virtually no puzzles and fewer opportunities to explore or engage in optional dialogue scenes. Instead Telltale has opted to always push you forwards and focus on the first season’s strongest mechanic, choice-making. Not simplistic ones like choosing to be good or evil either. Hard choices. Choices you may regret. The time limit you’re given every time this happens will intensify even seemingly trivial decisions. The consequences aren’t always immediate, keeping the player on edge. In Season Two you always get the sense that you’re progressing the story forwards, though perhaps a little something is lost from the faster pacing. Some twists are glossed over by the cast rather quickly.
Although, in a sense this reflects the harsh reality of their world. Everyone needs to keep moving in order to survive.
The Walking Dead has no difficulty settings, unlockables, or competitive aspects. It puts the story first. This is a TV drama with interactive moments, masterfully manipulating our emotions as we watch the consequences of our actions. The result is an experience far more personal than had it been told through an alternative art-form.