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Adventure game provides engaging story

About three hours into The Walking Dead, a video game based on the comic book series of the same name, a character tells the player that, “The best choice is never the easiest one.” For a game that tends to be fairly ambiguous about its themes, that line was shockingly direct to me. However, in the context of the game, that piece of dialogue really hits the nail on the head.

As opposed to being yet another game about mowing down hoards of zombies, The Walking Dead takes the most interesting parts of its source material, human drama and difficult choices and also fashions an extremely compelling game that will keep you hooked for the 10-12 hours that it lasts.

You play as Lee Everett, a man who, at the start of the game, is on his way to a death-row prison in Atlanta for reasons that are initially unknown, but needless to say, it’s bad news. However, after a series of terrifying and shocking events, Lee wakes up in a wrecked car in the woods, leg injured, handcuffs locked to his wrists, surrounded by zombies.

He eventually makes his way out of these woods and into a suburban backyard, where he finds Clementine, an eight-year old girl who is all on her own, trying to survive by hiding in her treehouse.

Once Lee realizes that Clem has no one looking after her, Lee takes her under his wing. Eventually, he starts forming a group, which, by the end of the first of the game’s five episodes, consists of seven people; Kenny, a man who was on his way to Florida when the outbreak hit, his son Doug, his wife Kat, a reporter named Carley, her probably-boyfriend (it’s not entirely clear) Doug, an old racist named Larry, and his unstable daughter Lilly.

Throughout the game, your group gains and loses members. The amazing thing is that there are moments where whether or not someone from your group dies is entirely up to you.

However, despite being kind of soul-crushing, the life-or-death situations are not the hardest type of choices that the game will ask you to make. Almost every choice you make in the game will affect how characters think of you over the course of the game. For instance, at the start, I was making choices that Kenny seemed to really appreciate. As the game went on, though, I sided with him less and less, and by the time I got to Episode 3, my interactions with Kenny started becoming more and more cold.

The Walking Dead is an extremely compelling game about relationships. When I put it that away, it sounds like a shoe-in for my personal favorite game of 2012 (and believe me, it’s pretty close). However, as much I love almost every aspect of the game, from its gripping story to its striking art style to its phenomenal voice acting, I keep coming back to the games weakest link: The part where you play it.

Don’t get me wrong here, I love adventure games. Some of my favorite games fall into that genre. The Walking Dead, however, is not a good adventure game. Sure, it’s not bad, but it fails a bit due to its muddled level design and convoluted puzzles.

However, even as I am writing this review, I keep coming back to a case that proves that this game is so much more than just a half-good adventure game with interesting ideas. That case is my dad.

You see, my dad does not play video games. In fact, most games make him sick if he looks at them for too long. However, while I played The Walking Dead, my father was completely, 100 percent engaged in everything that went on. It even got to the point where I would look at him for advice on what to do.

That is proof to me that The Walking Dead has done something with this medium that was at first thought to be impossible; make a game with a genuinely engaging story.

That alone, is enough reason to pick up The Walking Dead. As always, however, I would recommend you get parental consent before buying it.

The Walking Dead is rated M for mature audiences and is available at most local stores.

For more game reviews, read the Nov. 15 article, ‘Slender’ game produces creepy atmosphere.

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