The App: The Walking Dead
The Device: iPad
The Price: $4.99 for the first episode, with additional episodes available
The Basics: Of course there was going to a game based on the infinitely popular ‘Walking Dead’ franchise. When your comic is the best selling indie comic of all time and your TV show is the most watched cable show of all time, a game isn’t just a good idea: it’s a license to print money. Sweet, sweet money. And lots of it. So, without further ado, let’s ask the big question before we dive into this special Halloween edition of App Spotlight — is The Walking Dead an attempt to cash in on a popular name or is it a legitimately good game?
The Review: The Walking Dead is not only a legitimately good game, it’s one of the best games you could have on your tablet or smartphone. You may scoff at the cost, but it’s worth every penny.
Originally developed and released on consoles (where it received much acclaim), The Walking Dead is a prequel to the comic series, taking place in the weeks before the first issue. When the game begins, your character is sitting in the back of a police car, handcuffed and on his way to prison. Then zombies happen and by “zombies happen,” I mean you’re forced to kill the undead police officer who was driving the car when he tries to eat your face. From there, the game descends into all kind of creepy, bloody madness, forcing you to battle not only the living dead, but the living who want you, er, dead.
Developed by Telltale Games, The Walking Dead is a crafty update of old point-and-click adventure games. You rarely directly control your character, but can direct him around the environment, picking up objects and communicating with other characters. Action junkies need not apply here: there is no shooting and fighting in the traditional gaming sense and your numerous encounters with zombies are handled as a series of escalating decisions, told with incredibly cinematic flair. In fact, the best way to describe this game would be the Ultimate Choose Your Own Adventure. Every conversation and every situation has multiple options. Be careful what you say — get caught in a lie and watch your relationship with an ally crumble. Be careful in how you act — if you choose to save one life over another, there will be repercussions.
And that’s what makes The Walking Dead truly special: the game remembers your every action and branches out over the course of five episodes, delivering completely different narratives and experiences for each player. A character could be your best friend until the very end on one play-through, but you may get him killed almost instantly in another. And there will be much killing; the violence in this game isn’t cartoonish or silly and it often involves you watching characters you’ve grown to love get devoured by living corpses. This game is R-rated in every fashion and certainly not for children. It’s all so very dramatic and the excruciating decisions that you’re presented with are nothing short of incredible. However, this is NOT a casual game that you can pick up and play — each episode runs about 90 minutes with no real stopping points.
Although controlling your character can occasionally be slightly clunky (you can definitely tell it was developed to be used with a controller), most of the gameplay involves you selecting different dialogue options or tap on various spots on the screen, so most of the game plays great on a tablet. As great as the game is, I can’t recommend it on the iPhone — the game has too many details and looks too good to be fully playable and appreciated on a smartphone screen. It you have a tablet though, this is a must-own…provided you have a strong stomach and enjoy putting yourself through moral and ethical dilemmas.
The Grade: A