Friday, October 26, 2012

Sticky Dead: The Walking Dead Review (SPOILER FREE)

In gaming there is a term known as "stickiness". The term refers to how long it takes before a player stops playing a game, multi-player adds to stickiness for example. Adventure games tend to have a low stickiness. Being puzzle games by nature, once a puzzle is solved there's not much replay value. Except perhaps for nostalgia, or the rare branching middle chapter (I'm looking at you Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis). Why am I talking about stickiness? Because I am beginning to wonder how well it applies to Telltale Games' "The Walking Dead". A huge tonal shift from previous adventure games, the Walking Dead may have the highest stickiness of any adventure game to date. The game is full of dialogue trees and difficult choices you can't just take back, and the big decisions are on a timer so you make those decisions fast! Sometimes you'll say something dumb and the person who you said it to might not back you up where you need them to. With so many choices the temptation is there to start a new game and decide differently to find out what happens if you moved in a different direction, adding a lot of stickiness. 

Then again, there's a part of me that likes the purity of my decisions. Good or bad. I've realised that some characters might have died unnecessarily, but I don't see me making any decision much differently. My first play through the decisions I make are the decisions I hope I'd make in those situations. Sometimes I disappointed myself by losing my temper, making decisions hastily (not helped by the timer the game places on every choice). I'm not sure if I have the heart to play the game all over again because the story so far has been deeply personal to me. I worry that playing again might dilute the impact the first play through had on me. Make no mistake this game does impact emotionally.

In fact the puzzles themselves aren't super difficult to negotiate, and in fact their simplicity serve as a sort of tension release valve, giving you plenty of time to puzzle out a solution. An incautious button press might alert the zombies if you jump for your gun instead of a handy melee weapon, but such puzzles are rare. So puzzle solving is a way of ramping back the tension, giving you a long moment to breathe and take in the weight of what happened. If anything the challenge of Walking Dead is negotiating the emotional problems and moral conundrums.

So, while I agonise over the wait for episode 5 (Telltale says November Release), I wonder if I could do it all over again would I change anything? I can't help but think, probably not. Then I ponder how much I'm thinking about a game even when I'm not at the computer and realise The Walking Dead: The Game, is much stickier than I could have imagined. 

- Johnpocalypse.

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