- Developer - Telltale Games
- Release - Out now
- Format - iOS
- Device tested - iPhone 4
- Price - Free, £2.99 per subsequent episode, £10.49 for season pass
The Walking Dead
Zombies are a tired cliché in games, chucked in to give players lots of fun, gory combat without the moral quandary that comes with killing people. But The Walking Dead, by Telltale Games proves that, even after Dead Island, 3 Dead Risings and 17 years of Resident Evil, there are still interesting things to be done with zombies.
An episodic game that comes in five parts, chapter one of The Walking Dead is available to download for free from the App Store now. And in terms of breaking into mobile games with that new iPhone you got for Christmas, there couldn't be a better place to start. The Walking Dead is exciting, superbly written and acted, emotional, provocative, intelligent and above all else, terrifying.
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A separate narrative from Robert Kirkman's comic books, and the AMC television series, The Walking Dead has you play as Lee Everett, an ex-history professor trying to survive in a post zombie apocalypse US. You're accompanied by several other survivors, including twitchy family man Kenny, bumbling youngster Ben and Clementine, a nine year-old girl who's looking for her parents. The majority of the game's tension stems from your relationships with these people, as you haggle over who gets the last of the day's food rations and who should and shouldn't be allowed to carry a gun. Side against Kenny when he's arguing with another survivor, for example, and later on, when you find yourself in a pinch, he might not be so eager to help you.
Ultimately, though, the dialogue choices are just a mirage and your conscious decisions often come to nothing. Even if you elect to save one person over another, it's generally not long before that person, too, succumbs to some kind of death. And that's The Walking Dead's masterstroke. It depicts a world so dangerous and far gone that it's totally out of your control, and drives that helplessness home by turning your decisions back in on themselves. You might share your bottle of water with somebody on the basis that, in games, that kind of positive action generally leads to a good ending. But in The Walking Dead that logic doesn't apply and the game becomes much more frightening as a result.
There's a resonant silence and stillness throughout The Walking Dead which lets your imagination do the work instead of jump scares or gore horror. There is an absolutely excellent sequence in episode four where you return to basecamp to find Clementine missing and the whole group either too busy arguing, or too drunk to know where she is. It's a walled off building and there's no hint of zombies getting in, but for ten minutes or so the game lets your mind run wild as you scurry about the house searching for the girl. Effective, minimalist set pieces like these set The Walking Dead apart from other horror games, which usually rely on more monsters, and more action for their scare factor.
The Walking Dead is a game that you could write about forever; indeed, reams of critical writing has been printed on it already, celebrating its adult melodrama and choice based story. But really, it's best just to play it, and the nifty iPhone port is a great place to start. One of the few console games that actually translates well to touchscreen controls, The Walking Dead is also engaging, brave and powerful.
Episode one is available for free now, with the subsequent four episodes costing £2.99 each. There's also a season pass which unlocks every episode straight away for £10.49.
If you like good drama and want to see something fresh done with zombies then you have to get into The Walking Dead. It is just brilliant.
Overall Score: 9/10
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