GameZone's 31 Games of Halloween 2013: The Walking Dead
Over the past several years, The Walking Dead has managed to become both a comic book and TV phenomenon. Last year, however, Telltale Games took writer Robert Kirkman's zombie-infested brainchild and delivered a gripping episodic series that told its own story while remaining true to the spirit of the series. The first season, which spanned five total episodes, went on to receive much acclaim and won the top spot in many individuals' “game of the year” lists.
On this edition of GameZone's 31 Games of Halloween, we're headed back to the land of the undead, but this time around, things are very different. That said, if Japanese psychological horror is more to your liking, be sure to check out our previous installment, where we discussed F.E.A.R.
Why it stands out
The folks at Telltale are a pretty talented bunch. The team previously delivered the hilarious Sam & Max games, the entertaining Tales of Monkey Island titles, and the enjoyable Back to the Future: The Game. Of course, Telltale also worked on Jurassic Park: The Game, which left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths. It was easy to see how people could be both really excited and somewhat cautious about the notion of a Walking Dead series of adventure games.
Thankfully, when that first episode launched, it set the groundwork for what would ultimately be one of the most memorable and touching adventure game series of all time. Right from Episode 1 - A New Day, players were instantly won over. Not only does the game have a great comic book look, but its writing is refreshingly sharp, and there are plenty of hooks to keep you engrossed in the experience.
Walking Dead has never been a happy-go-lucky franchise. Sure, there are moments when its characters get a bit of respite from the zombie apocalypse, and there's even some humor sprinkled throughout; but any fan of the series knows that things can never go right for too long. Each of the five episodes of Telltale's Walking Dead are fittingly moody, and you're constantly tasked with making tough decisions that affect the well-being of your character's allies, as well as your character himself.
This is one of those games that's entirely centered around its writing. Every character you meet, every bond you form, every rivalry you experience, and every situation you're put in — everything that happens in Walking Dead has a purpose. A lot of the time, you're placed in tough scenarios, and the decisions you make have direct repercussions on certain characters. You could (and will) lose members of your group due to the different choices you make, and it's never easy to deal with a loss. You're often left feeling as though it's all your fault or that maybe you could've done things differently.
Is it scary?
I wouldn't say that Walking Dead is scary on a typical level. Instead, the game does a great job of messing with your head and with your emotions. Like the comics and TV show, this take on the series is more about the survivors than the zombies themselves. In a sense, that's even scarier, because in a real-life zombie apocalypse scenario, you'd know how to deal with the undead after a certain point. It's the living, with their unpredictability and rash attitudes, that would be a cause for major concern.
So no, while Walking Dead isn't all that frightening from a traditional standpoint, it's scary because of what it makes you do. It's also really suspenseful — you just never know when you're going to be forced to choose between two of your comrades, or when you're going to have to make a huge decision that impacts the very foundations of your group. Knowing that the entire weight of a team of survivors rests on your shoulders? Yeah, that's pretty damn scary when you think about it.
Why play it on Halloween?
Ideally, you should probably get started on the Walking Dead games before Halloween. At four hours per episode, you're looking at a 20-hour time investment. It'd be best to play this episodic collection of adventure games in the weeks leading up to Halloween, and save the final episode to play on the actual holiday.
Each episode of Walking Dead keeps you engaged and leaves you wanting more. This series will torture you and tug at your heartstrings. Hell, it'll actually punch you right in the heart due to how emotional it becomes. Aside from the fact that it's set in a post-zombie apocalypse world, you should play this this series during the Halloween season because it's appropriately moody and haunting, and it'll stay with you long after you've completed it.
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