The Walking Dead

Graphic novels? Check. AMC show? Check. Telltale Games? Check. Facebook game? Ehhh…

Yeah, I love just about everything about this series, no matter the medium. The Facebook game, more an interactive comic, didn’t really do it for me. I think part of it is because there was no real sense of danger and immediacy. If anything, that’s what the other three bring. Just having a countdown timer to perform actions doesn’t cut it.

I started reading the graphic novels a while back. Chris and I started reading them in individual comic books, then started downloading them on his iPad. I’ve read up to around issue #90, but have not caught back up yet. I think they are around #95 by now, releasing once a month.

As soon as I heard about the TV show on AMC, I started DVR-ing it. It is the only show that Chris and I will try to watch as close to live as possible. Everything else we will try to wait until later so we can fast forward the commercials, or it just doesn’t matter if we watch it on the same day as the release. (American Idol and Army Wives, my guilty pleasures, are different… I prefer to watch Wednesday’s AIs fairly close so I can vote, and I’ll stay up past Chris’ bedtime to watch AW. He won’t watch either.) We also watch The Talking Dead with one of our favorite TV show hosts, Chris Hardwick, host of a G4 classic Web Soup. The show is rather shocking, considering that it is on TV. It is gorier than any show I can remember seeing on TV. The typical special effects that TV studios shy away from, that are usually relegated to print or R rated movies, are seen in full display here. Shooting a little girl in the face? Yep. Twice. Once in the series premiere, once in a season finale. Life or death situations for children? Yep. Practically every episode. Bodies splitting in half and continuing to come after you? Well walker. Being a proper zombie show, there are headshots and pink mist galore…. though I suppose it’s more a “grey mist” here. As awesome and shocking as the show is, though, the comics are moreso. I’m sure part of it is the fact that it is WAY easier to draw someone’s eyeball hanging from its socket, or chopping two little girls’ heads off (those ones weren’t even infected) than it is to make it convincing on TV. Another thing is that as much as they have shown that “nobody is safe” in the show, the feeling is even more intense in the comics… especially at the end of the prison setting.

One thing that is a little controversial for fans is actually one of the things I enjoy most about being a fan of both. They are very similar, and have a lot of overlapping characters, but the show is NOT the comic. There are some different characters that introduce a wholly different experience. For example, they never went to the CDC in the comics. There is no Daryl Dixon. Just his character alone provides a catalyst for change in the plot. Now, am I stoked that we get to see the prison next season, along with the Governor and Michonne? Heck yeah! But part of it is because I know it won’t be exactly the same, and I want to see how it changes. Shane was supposed to die back at the campground outside Atlanta. Dale was not supposed to die at the farm. Dale and Andrea are the ones who shacked up, not Andrea and Shane. I appreciate that the writers of the show use the same core characters, introduce some others, and just let them go. I really like the underlying social commentary aspect of the show as well. There is a lot of sociology and psychology that I’m not sure I would have noticed two years ago.

So… me? Huge fan. New game? Sign me up. I downloaded the first episode last night. After getting disemboweled because I looked at a walker too long, I decided to put the controller down and go to bed. It was way after midnight, and thus my bedtime. I finished the episode up this morning. It’s a very interesting idea. Rather than having controller schemes and buttons to memorize, everything is right there on the screen. Your reticule is actually the four buttons under your thumb. When you highlight an object that you can interact with, the actions pop up on the reticule. To look at something, press the top button. To use it, press the bottom button. To use a tool in your inventory (conveniently listed to the left of the screen), press the left or right button. When zombies attack, button mash and try to keep the reticule on the walker’s head. There are a series of decisions that you have to make. I didn’t even realize there was much of a choice until the end of the chapter when it compares your actions to those of the rest of the world. It turns out almost everyone is willing to save a little boy over someone else, but other decisions are far more equitable. Sometimes you are forced to choose who you are going to save. Warning: you probably won’t be able to save both. Sometimes you have to choose who to agree with in an argument. Sometimes you just have to choose conversation options. Overall, the frantic moments are mixed in well with the calm or depressing moments.

Depressing? Yeah. I actually cried when I played the demo. You walk into a house with a coloring book, kid’s handprints on the wall, and a note for the babysitter on the fridge. Then you get the three answering machine messages.  Seriously, just remembering it enough to type it is making me want to cry again. I decided to delete my version to save the impact for you. Maybe it’s just because I have a little girl of my own, but Bravo, Telltale. Bravo.

Overall, I think the first episode was about $5, and I don’t regret it. The animation takes a minute to get used to, but the controls are fairly intuitive. The game is similar to the old point and click puzzle games like Myst and Eric the Unready (one of my favorites). There are various puzzles to solve, like how to kill all the walkers silently or how to get the key for the pharmacy, and a series of actions have to be performed in order. It’s fairly straightforward and the sense of achievement for figuring it out isn’t as high as it might be if it wasn’t so straightforward. “Oh, I see I can pick this up. I must be able to use it over here. Oh, here’s where I can use it. Look, this is inside. I bet I can use it over on that other thing I could highlight but wasn’t able to use.” Also, there are some surprises. There are two characters in the game that are in the comics and the show, and no, Rick isn’t one of them.

It’s no Skyrim, but for $5, I’ll take it. The game is available on PC/Mac, PS3, and XBox Live Arcade. See the trailer here:

NY Times article on the game:

Achievement count: All… 6? of them? You get one for completing each section of the first episode.


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