Skip to main content

Game Review: The Walking Dead: the Complete First Season (PS Vita)

The Walking Dead: the Complete First Season won nearly 100 "Game of the Year" awards in 2012 and with good reason. Its storytelling is superb, the voice acting is excellent, and the script can go from tender to brutal in a heartbeat. This is a game with a lot of heart and a lot of brain, and I'm not talking about the ones splattered all over the streets. (It is the zombie apocalypse, after all.)

In the game, players take control of Lee Everett, a convicted killer on the way to the big house when the world goes to hell. After gaining his freedom and encountering Clementine, an orphaned girl, Lee must decide how to keep them both alive in the world where the dead walk.

The game is episodic and adapts itself to the choices players make, usually in the form of dialogue or a critical action such as pushing away zombies. For instance, in a tense situation among fellow survivors, Lee could either be reasonable or aggressive. Or, if a herd swarms the group, Lee frequently has to choose between saving one person or the other. Decisions need to be made quickly; there's a bar that counts down whenever Lee is presented with a choice, and not choosing in time has consequences, too. In my first playthrough, I couldn't figure out the controls, so the guy I was trying to help got eaten. That got Lee and Clem kicked out of a safe place.

The stakes get higher and higher as Lee discovers that staying put is not a good idea, and neither is trusting others completely. Here, puzzle-solving and action take a back seat to figuring out how to get your character's--and everyone else's--personal baggage out of the way in time for the next crisis.

The writing is strong and often takes jaw-dropping turns. Characters react believably to situations. The only exception is Episode 4, which I thought was weak and contrived, and no wonder -- developers switched to another writer for that one. Fortunately, trusty Sean Vanaman came back for Episode 5, the final chapter, which had me wincing at the start and in tears at the end.

The graphics are great -- comic-book style, and everyone's faces are expressive. The only issue I had with the PS Vita version was the game's inability to process intense action. I would know when a cut scene was coming up because there would be an interminable pause. This technical glitch took me out of the moment several times over the course of the game. Ruiner!

There's a bonus episode called "400 Days," where players control five different characters for short vignettes. A diner acts as an anchor throughout the disparate paths. The choices made affect the ending of the episode.

Speaking of endings, players can see if they made the same decisions as other players after every episode. It was interesting to see how close the differences were in some cases, like a 48/52 split between letting someone annoying get killed and trying to help them. In one case, I was in the minority for choosing to save someone. Huh.

Still, for all the moral ambiguity that the game writes in, the message is always clear: as soon as one of the living opts for survival at the cost of compassion, humanity loses a little bit more of its soul, and the world becomes darker still. I guess that's why end-of-the-world type stories are so fascinating -- you have to wonder: What if society breaks down and all the rules and laws and niceties can't be enforced anymore? Who's always had that little dark corner in their head that's been wanting to let loose all this time?

The answer: PAFO! Play And Find Out! (Taken from the late Robert Jordan's "RAFO!")

This post brought to you by sleeplessness. Seriously, I slept fitfully after I finished the game. That doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, but it is. The ROI on my emotional investment was high! Well done, Telltale Games, well done! NOW FINISH SEASON TWO AND TAKE MY MONEY

Popular posts from this blog

An International Women's Day Miracle!

Truly, International Women's Day is a special day. No, not because multitudes are out there rallying for our rights and giving voice to the powerless. It is because I won a gift card from a company raffle!


Let me explain why this counts as a minor miracle. You see, I never win anything. I answer every damned survey sent my way, participate in all the raffles, buy lottery tickets -- to no avail. This particular raffle occurred monthly, and I had been faithfully entering my name every month for two years, with no results. Finally, last month, I declared: "No more!" and unsubscribed from the mailing list -- but not before entering one final time, because why not.

Hah!

There's also some déjà vu at play here. You see, four years ago, I won a gift card from a company raffle. The one fracking time I won anything! I was elated! Shortly thereafter, also on International Women's Day, I was laid off from my job.

Sooooo...since the day's almost over, I guess I'm not…

Paint Nite!

Last night I joined the "Oops" Paint Nite event hosted by the Club Cafe in Back Bay. About 12+ people came to relax and have two artists guide them through painting this original work:


The point was not to slavishly duplicate "Oops" -- we were instructed to make it our own, to relax, and not to utter the words, "Mine sucks," "Can you do this for me?" or "I thought this was paint-by-numbers!"

Speaking of dashed hopes, I had assumed that wine was included. I had done something like this before, only it was in the morning and we all got mimosas. Not so here! While the artists were setting up, I schlepped over to the bar and was rewarded with a generous pour of Cabernet. Now I was ready.

The setup: Everyone got a 16" x 20" canvas, three paint brushes, and a palette (a paper plate) with red, yellow, blue, and white paint. One artist (Brian) had the microphone and would paint with us, while the other was the assistant (Kory) who wo…

Get Out (2017)

Get Out has a charismatic lead, a terrific soundtrack, and damn good cinematography. While it’s described as horror/comedy, it’s more disturbing/cringe-y than scary, and I mean that in a good way. This is an entertaining movie that’s also pretty effective as social commentary.

The film stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, a photographer who’s about to spend the weekend at his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parent’s house. Naturally, it’s in a secluded spot in the woods. When they get there, the awkwardness that might be expected from a first-time meeting gives way to a series of bizarre behaviors and interactions. While Chris initially takes it all in stride, it eventually becomes clear that there’s something sinister going on behind the scenes.

The acting and dialogue are highlights of the film, as is the camera work. In particular, Kaluuya’s eyebrows and head tilts are so expressive that the audience knows what’s going on in his head even as he politely brushes off eccentricities. A…