- Developer - TellTale Games
- Platform - iOS
- Device tested - iPhone 4
- Price - £2.99
The Walking Dead: 400 Days
The strength of the episodic Walking Dead games, the ones which, last year, swept about every awards show going, were their characters. Lee and Clementine in particular, the man and young girl who the games revolved around, were incredibly strong - in a medium where child characters usually mean tedious protection quests and eye-roll dialogue, the fact TellTale made us genuinely feel for that kid was impressive. I nearly cried at the end of episode five.
The Walking Dead: 400 Days, a new, standalone episode designed to bridge seasons one and two, doesn't have that strength of characters. Rather than focusing on two people, it shows us five vignettes, each starring different people. As such, it's hard to attach ourselves to any individuals and a lot of the stories lose their oomph. The Bonnie story is particularly weak. She's a former drug addict who, we're led to assume, has a bit of a thing for this guy called Leland. But Leland is married to Dahlia, and there's this whole love triangle. It all comes to a head when outsiders attack the trio's camp, but it's hard to really care, since you've only known these characters for all of five minutes.
That goes for one of the other stories, too, the one about Wyatt and Eddie, two stoners wrangling over who should get out the car to go check on a guy they've just run over. In season one, the writers of The Walking Dead had time and space to develop characters subtly; in the Wyatt and Eddie story, they're cramming exposition and characterisation into every single line. It's full, overplayed, desperate - it feels like the writers are constantly out of breath, trying to hurry all their story through before the vignette ends.
The other three chapters are solid, though. Vince, a young man arrested for murder, has the best horror scene. He's chained up on a prison bus that's being overrun with zombies, and has to pick which of his friends' feet to shoot off in order to break free. It's a bit of Hobson's choice, considering, again, you don't really know these guys, but there's some tension involved at least; you feel like a total sod when you run out the back of the bus, seeing the guy you shot trying to crawl away on one leg.
Russell has a good story. Another young man, he's picked up by Nate, this laughing, horny, drunk guy who maybe, just maybe isn't as dumb as he seems. Considering this story is only 20 minutes, Nate and Russell have an interesting arc. They're kind of like an inverted Lee and Clementine - as the story goes on, they learn to trust each other less, eventually going their separate ways. This one's well-written. Nate is the best character in the game.
The main event, though, is definitely Shel's story. If you're in love with The Walking Dead's brand of heavy-fisted moralising, this is the one for you. I won't ruin plot details. I will say however that whereas the decision making in the other vignettes is sometimes arbitrary, the choices you make in Shel's story are really hard-hitting. The final binary toss-up forced me to take ten minutes out to ponder it over. Save this one till last.
Overall, 400 Days struggles with its own time constraints. We're told the choices we make will feed somehow into season two, which is set to kick off, maybe, later this year. So, perhaps my decisions to send Eddie out of the car and to shoot Danny rather than Justin will come back on me. I hope they do, because otherwise, a lot of 400 Days is empty fare.
The iOS version is a little fiddly in places also. It's still a case of your finger being the worst possible controller for touch-screen gaming. It looks great, though, still carrying off that hand-drawn comic book style effortlessly. There's something more disgusting about pencil sketched entrails than prosthetic ones. I don't know what it is.
But despite some weaker stories and control quibbles, The Walking Dead: 400 Days is a sound, compelling game that acts as welcome filler between seasons one and two proper. It's nothing like as meaty as the other Walking Deads, and the whole five stories interconnecting thing reeks of Amores Perros-esque style over substance, but 400 Days is a good game.
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