Tell Me a Tale, Telltale
As proof positive that I was going to approach this new year in gaming literally with one handgun aimed, cocked, and ready to splatter some proverbial gray matter on the backsplash of my ever-shortening attention span, I brought in the dawning of a new year by spending the early morning hours following fireworks festivities with a full run of the first entry in Telltale Games’ episodic adventure series, The Walking Dead. Not that this was a great feat of masterful reflexes and unbridled willpower. The individual installments of the point-and-click serial are designed to be played through quickly, relying for staying power not on lengthy gameplay but an engaging narrative. In the words of series creator Robert Kirkman himself: “All you have to do is make people hug and cry and s**t.”
In the span of a couple of hours, I had helped convicted murderer and ambiguous good guy Lee Everett escape the crashed police transfer cruiser taking him out of Atlanta, saved (or, more accurately, was saved by) pint-sized tough girl Clementine, and, after lying unconvincingly and sacrificing a farmer’s son, brought together a ragtag group of survivors in the Everett family’s old drug store. After failing to help several more individuals in my group and an emotional display of brotherly love, all the pieces were in place for the game’s closing moments at an out-of-the-way roadside motel, perfect for fortifying into a nigh-impenetrable base of operations for the next several months. But questions still lingered, like so many abandoned, rusting vehicles scattered haphazardly through the streets, not bothering anyone at the moment but biding their time to become lethal roadblocks at the most inopportune time. Namely, Episode 2: Starved for Help.
I make no secret of the fact that I harbor a deep love for the point-and-click adventure genre. From favorites of the ’90s, like Sierra’s Gabriel Knight and Leisure Suit Larry series and LucasArts’ Full Throttle and The Dig, to recent notable efforts like Sky Goblin’s The Journey Down or Jonas and Verena Kyratzes’ enchantingly penned The Sea Will Claim Everything. The genre has been further kept alive through fan-made titles like Adventure: The Inside Job and All in the Game, and is even represented (in a slightly altered form) in a slew of interactive novels available on handheld devices, such as the Phoenix Wright franchise. So when Telltale offered the premier episode of its by-then-completed series as a free download over the holidays, designed to draw in as many new players eager to drop cash for the remainder of the story as possible, it wasn’t a tough choice to acquiesce with.
So what’s my verdict? Have I been successfully sucked in by this marketing carrot-on-a-stick, propelling me through four more releases to reach the story’s conclusion? Over the long-term: yes. I haven’t returned to the Xbox Online Marketplace yet, nor have I brandished my debit card for further purchase of online credits. But suffice it to say the thought has already crossed my mind numerous times. And this from someone who hasn’t watched the network TV show based on the franchise; in fact, I reserve will hold off viewing any episodes of the show until I’ve had a chance to locate and catch up on the graphic novels first.