by Brian Robbins

 If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past two years I’m sure you’ve heard of the TV series The Walking Dead. Sure, the comic has been out for quite some time but the show is more recent, and has been a massive hit with audiences since it began. With the show’s success, it didn’t take long for board games, plushies and silly bobble-heads to hit the shelves. Luckily, Telltale’s new action adventure game isn’t a cash grab- it’s actually one of the best games I’ve played all year.

I didn’t buy any of the episodes when they first hit Playstation Network and Xbox Live. I just didn’t know how I felt about episodic games quite yet. I kept hearing everyone ramble on about how great the game was and that the story line was phenomenal. Just this past month I decided to just buy the full retail disc with all five episodes loaded onto it. It wasn’t a bad deal at all; for 30 dollars you’ll get everything and it won’t fill up your hard-drive as much as its downloadable cousin would.

  As soon as you get past the long loading screens you’ll find yourself playing as Lee, a man down on his luck, whose present company is the police officer who is driving him to prison. As all great horror stories go you’ll be free within the first five minutes and our hero will discover the world isn’t exactly what it used to be.

 As Lee, you’ll have many options to interact with not only characters but also random objects in the world, but there isn’t a whole lot of flexibility in terms of actual gameplay. There are only one or two ways to solve a puzzle or challenge to progress to the next area. It’s disappointing to have so much freedom and so many options with characters attached to rather bland gameplay.

  Surprisingly enough, gameplay seems to take a backseat in this title- what you’re really after is the main storyline. Without spoiling too much you’re tasked with helping a little girl named Clementine (voiced masterfully by Melissa Hutchison) find her parents. As you’re progressing through the game you’ll interact with many characters that endanger not only you but also Clementine.  If you’re even half human, you’ll care about what happens to her and you’ll do anything to protect her from both the devious other survivors and the ravenous undead. 

 It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in all of the characters. TellTale Games did a masterful job in casting wonderful voice actors who seem to deliver a more powerful performance than the actual actors in AMC’s series. In fact, I’d rather watch a storyline about these survivors than any one of the main characters in the show.

 It’s not all lollipops and rainbows in this game. Sure, the game has some of the best writing around but there are major technical issues that will immediately suck you completely out of the game. When the actual disc version of the game came out, there was a massive bug on the Xbox 360 where it would reset your progress from Episode 2. This unfortunately happened to me when I was just about finished with the episode.

 After restarting the game, all of my progress in Episode 2 was wiped clean. I invested so much time talking to characters and going through the storyline I just felt like quitting. For the sake of gaming I had to finish it. The story was too good and at least now I could change some of my decisions up to that point and make a fresh start. That being said, it was a horrible experience and I basically rushed through the story to get to the part where it reset.

 I know some of the bugs that were present in the disc weren’t there on the actual downloadable title, so the majority of gamers didn’t experience them. It’s just that with these hiccups it can just push the entire experience down. If the game just had a little bit more time to bake in the oven I feel like this title could be a serious contender for game of the year.

  I’ve been playing video games pretty much right out of the womb and this was the first storyline I was completely invested in. I was nervous to see if my favorite characters would live or die at the end. A video game has never made me sad, scared and left me anticipating what’s next like The Walking Dead. In terms of the gameplay there just wasn’t much there: the main attraction is interacting with characters. You can only get so far with quick-time events. If you can stomach the technical bugs and some boring gameplay mechanics, you’ll be in for one of the best games of 2012. Here’s to the sequel!