The Walking Dead: A New Day01 May, 2012
For the sake of full disclosure: My knowledge of The Walking Dead lies mainly with the TV series, and not so much with the comic books the game is based on. I assume a lot of players are in that same boat here, and will draw comparisons to the more mainstream adaptation.
Either way, fans of The Walking Dead will at once feel at home with "A New Day", though prior knowledge of the universe is by no means needed. This is a fully isolated story, sans some references to existing material and characters.
"A New Day", more importantly, is decidedly an adventure game (albeit an easy one) that successfully pushes the boundaries of the genre further than Telltale has managed in the past. Some have called it a "thinking man's Left 4 Dead", but to me it feels more like Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Action sequences are mostly puzzles in disguise, and you will find yourself using your brains more often than your reactions to solve them, sometimes even using a simplified version of adventure game inventory.
The simplicity and action-like nature of the puzzles might not be something for an hardcore adventure purist, but these types of puzzles fit the story's tone and urgency quite well.
In fact, in many senses it is that pacing that is the game's real strength. Nigh everything you do requires a snap decision, and even the dialogue can be timed. This goes hand in hand with the dire situation of the post-apocalyptic world.
For every choice you make there will be a consequence, with everything from which characters you encounter to their attitudes toward you being affected by what you say and do. More importantly, your actions will affect who lives and who dies.
There are locations where you will have time to explore without being on a clock, but the areas are pretty confined. Those who were hoping for larger environments, more akin to The Devil's Playhouse, might be disappointed.
What there is to explore, though, is impressive. This is a good looking game world, and the graphics capture the feel of the comics well. Telltale has had some issues moving outside their signature look before -- the dreaded Jurassic Park: The Game is a good example -- but here they have managed to emulate The Walking Dead universe almost perfectly. The facial animations are a bit stiff, but better than what we saw in Back to the Future.
The music, voice acting, and sound effects are, as per usual with Telltale's games, excellent, and help create a haunting, tense atmosphere, one that's every bit as good as that of the TV show. Telltale has done a great job at re-creating The Walking Dead world.
For those who lament Telltale games's lack of polish, you probably won't be surprised to see the Xbox controls listed under the PC and Mac version's settings. (I was hoping to find the computer controls listed in the Xbox version, but alas, that did not happen.) Not a huge deal, obviously, but still kind of an oddity.
Much harder to forgive are the crashes. A handful of times I had the game quit back to the desktop, forcing me to start at the last autosave point. The autosave routine works pretty well, thankfully, but having to restart is annoying. To avoid this, simply try not to pause the game during cutscenes, as, apparently, that's what crashed the game. That's an odd bug; one that Telltale should have caught.
Bugs aside, I did find "A New Day" to be an excellent video game debut for The Walking Dead. Following the protagonist, an escaped convict, in a world overtaken by zombies is an intriguing starting point, particularly when you can affect the world to a pretty extreme degree. Judging by the trailer for "Starved for Help", your choices will significantly alter future episodes too.
Sean Vanaman, former Mojo-er Jack Rodford, and the whole Telltale team have done a commendable job here. Everything from the writing to the graphics is very well executed.
"A New Day" is an appropriate title, then, as it might just be time to forget those horrid Universal games, and give what looks to be Telltale's best franchise in quite a while a go. I personally preferred playing the Xbox version -- the graphics look lovely on the big screen, and the console controls are a bit easier than the keyboard.
And for heaven's sake, save Doug.
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