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Walk This Way – Walking Dead Episode 1 Review

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It seemed last year that Telltale Games may have lost some of their goodwill by releasing Jurassic Park which was for the most part lukewarmly received by critics and fans. They shifted their style for that from the classic Telltale adventure game format which has made their Sam and Max seasons as well as Monkey Island and Back to the Future great episodic content. Having completed the first episode of  The Walking Dead I can say fear no more Telltale has produced a worthy companion to the comic.

One thing that Jurassic Park was maligned for was relying too heavily on Heavy Rain esque non stop quick time events. Walking Dead really only borrows this for some of the more tense moments (such as backing away from and evading zombies) and for the most part it works pretty well. It seems to me that Walking Dead is the best parts of Back to the Future and Jurassic Park mechanics put together. Most of the time in controls like an adventure game you click on things and pick them up and use them with something else. The puzzles are not really abstract and for the most part are really easy by adventure game standards. Ultimately it helped keep the plot going so that was probably for the best. There are a couple really good sequences that barely count as puzzles but feature some brainpower. Combat sometimes happens a little fast to even notice and it can be out of no where your mouse is now a large crosshair that has to go on a zombie’s head to punch it. Having it be sudden and quick is kind of the way action is in the Walking Dead you think you’re safe and boom a zombie is there for a second and eats your family.

 


I have to say I didn’t think the story was going to be much good but it was surprisingly entertaining and has me looking forward to the next episode. You play as Lee a man who may or may not have really committed a crime and like most police transfers which never seem to go too well he’s getting transported and it’s zombies that break up this one. You come across Clementine, a little girl waiting for parents who as one could guess aren’t probably coming back. You of course meet up with different groups of survivors in different areas (some places and people of course you will recognize for them to justify the Walking Dead license). Much like what happens in zombie movies you find yourself displaced often and scrounging. Naturally as we go people turn out to be jerks, people get eaten, and those people probably become zombies. The plot is good and works this episode really more sets up Lee and Clementine and begins to give us our group. So far I like em, it’ll be too bad to watch them die and come back.

When you boot up the game it tells you that it changes based upon your decisions. I have to give it credit character choices do influence how people treat you as you run into them and get into sticky most likely zombie filled situations. I lied to a character and he caught me in and called me on it. I was nice to one and he called me a friend (I’m totally invited to his bday party). While some of these choices seem like the are just going to act as accents to dialogue and character treatment through the series you will also have to pick who lives and dies in some scenarios. It’s going to be interesting to see if my choices with this much more serious matter play a big role. I certainly hope so because having to do things like that is kind of what makes Rick Grimes the protagonist in the Walking Dead comic awesome, he has to deal with messed up stuff and in sometimes messed up ways. While Rick isn’t featured at all in the game other cast members seem to drift in and out. It’s a little unnecessary but for the most part unoffensive. I don’t need to have a stop at Hershel’s farm but sure why not I’ll hang out there for a day. They don’t seem to milk which is the best case scenario.

Walking Dead has a neat cell shaded art style that is a nice bit of a departure from Telltale’s usual cartoony look. Sadly on the PC not all the textures looked great, there would be dull blocky textures right next to really goodlooking hi res shaded ones. Also some character models look much better than others. The zombie models themselves aren’t the best but at least stay close to the source material. I had a few framerate hiccups running on the highest setting here and there once there were more than a few characters on screen.

 


Much like a zombie I am hungry but rather than brains I would like the next episode of the Walking Dead (I completed this one in two hours). It’s not 100% adventure game or 100% quick time events and that’s a good thing. Everything seems to fit well for the universe. The new characters even when tropes feel deep and have some genuine moments. The decision making mechanic cinches it though and actually makes you feel like you are having an impact in the world. It was great too that in the end they showed what percentage of places picked what. This of course is just episode one and hopefully the momentum keeps going. If you are a fan of Walking Dead or any kind of thinking man’s zombie entertainment you’ll do well to give this a shot, in the brain.

Griefed Interviewcast – Pwnee Studios on Cloudberry Kingdom

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Masochistic platformers have been some of the best indie games in the last couple years. Pwnee Games is bringing us one of the most promising we’ve seen in a long time. Cloudberry Kingdom is fully randomized and has carnage for up to four players. They boast more possible levels than particles in the universe thanks to the algorithm created by Jordan Fisher. Tigs and I got the chance to play it a little while ago and it was a lot of fun. We got the chance to talk with Jordan and business and marketing head honcho at Pwnee Michael Suswal and hear about how this project came to be and some exciting places it’s going.

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Dear Sir or Esther Will You Play My Game? The Dear Esther Review

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Sometimes you will feel like indulging in a Michael Bay adventure other days to keep up some culture maybe you’ll pop in Fellini’s 8 1/2 . Dear Esther by thechineseroom is like an art house film in game form. Chances are a good amount of the audience will walk out annoyed and some will walk out smug with witty retorts such as “oh you didn’t get it did you?”This first person non shooter available now on Steam is destined to garner both of these kinds of reactions.
Dear Esther began its life as a Source mod from a project at the University of Portsmouth. Admittedly I hadn’t played the original incarnation from about four years ago but it seemed to get enough attention that they got help from the Indie Fund to finance the project. Given the level of involvement from all these different areas of the industry it’s a nice moment showing people coming together to help fund and publish more of the artistic sides of video games.

In Dear Esther we are the narrator, well we may be to be honest it’s not really all that clear. We speak directly to Esther in a poetric prose which sounds great coming from the seemingly well trained voice actor.  Things as we have found out didn’t end too well for Esther or any of the other about two people the narrator mentions. As you wander through the island you see reflections of the things that you say in the environment. There is no picking up, no “use” button, no directly interative means of the sort. In fact even your flashlight isn’t controlled by you.

The game looks great though. Source has struggled to stay afloat as graphics have progessed the last few years but the vistas here as well the small touches along the way (weeds, stalagmites, graffiti) all come together to make journey a nice looking feast for the eyes. The score by Jessica Curry can be minimal for most of the time but when it builds its effective and keeps you engaged. Thinking that things could pop out at any moment even if they don’t.

Much like To The Moon much of what happens is hard to construe as a game. This however is a step ever further than that. The story is abstract but I can say that it kept me going. I completed all of the game’s four chapters in one sitting totally around 2 hours.  An experience which is walking around an island may not be for everyone. I think that  these kind of games coming out are important. As an industry it continues the escalation of video games as something diverse and beautiful. Thechineseroom did a great job using environmental storytelling much like Portal did before. If you want a calm thoughtful experience give it a try.  Those thirsty for blood will not be satisfied by the slow moving prose and exploration . There isn’t too much more reason to return though I am curious if there are story bits  I have missed along the way. I can say though during my walkabout I was completely invested. There were times shadows moved in the distance, my curiosity was peaked and I was visually and audibly engrossed. Releases like this make me happy games are evolving and we need benchmarks like this along the way.

Thechineseroom online

http://thechineseroom.co.uk/