The Walking Dead game for iOS is lurching towards parity with its PC counterpart, having recently launched episode three of its zombie-filled storyline. The survival-horror game puts you in the shoes of Lee, who has been thrust into protecting a small girl from the horrors of a ravaged world while running from his own checkered past. The cel-shaded art style mimics the original comic series, but still maintains its own independent plotline that grows every episode.
Graphics and audio
Telltale has done a great job of expressing convincing human emotion through the slightly-exaggerated art style and the superb voice acting. The soundtrack ranges from frantic to foreboding, and sets an excellent mood no matter which situation you find yourself in. I occasionally experienced user interface glitches when conducting dialog, where completely different options would be selected from what I tapped. The framerate on the iPad 2 would also drop during the odd fast-paced section and lip syncing wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping it would be, but still close enough to its PC version.
Though this might go without saying, The Walking Dead, as a game about zombies, is full of gore, violence, and swearing. It’s not senseless mind you, but it might be a little too much for sensitive players, and definitely not appropriate for kids. On the other hand, the graphics are outstanding if you're a fan of horror; the action sequences when you're being ambushed by the undead can really get the heart pumping.
Gameplay and controls
The Walking Dead Game is busted up into three major gameplay types. One is picking dialog options with lasting effects throughout the rest of the series, sometimes on a timer. Another type is combat, whichvinvolves fending off zombie attacks with rapid-fire taps on target areas and appropriate swipes. Lastly, there are puzzle sections that involve finding items and using them with others to accomplish certain tasks. These are slightly less frustrating than those in old-school point-and-click adventure games, since every object you can interact with has a target icon over it. The only time the puzzles get really challenging is when you don’t have a lot of time to make your decisions.
The Walking Dead occasionally errs on the side of dramatic camera angles instead of practical ones, though by and large it’s easy enough to get by. Dragging your finger across the screen will dictate where Lee walks when in a free-movement sequence, while the more fast-paced action scenes involve precise, rapid taps and swipes. Let it be known that facing off against zombies is just as scary and time-sensitive as the dialog-based encounters that will often put you in the position of making life-or-death decisions. Even the more subtle dialog can have lasting repercussions throughout future episodes. Though there's some replay value in exploring the different plot branches, they're a bit limited once you know the eventual outcome and major progression points, kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.
One particularly interesting thing The Walking Dead Game does is compare the major decisions you make against those of other players at the end of every chapter. Some of the stats that they've generated about certain decision points can be fairly surprising.
Rich, varied storyline
Expressive voice acting
Appropriately disgusting zombies
Excessive gore and swearing may turn off more sensitive players
Some performance lag on older iOS devices
Limited replay value, despite branches
The bottom line
The Walking Dead is a little pricey at $4.99 per episode, even if you get the whole set for $14.99, but the writing and story are so excellent that you may be willing to drop the extra dough on such a high-quality experience. Though there is a fair bit of replay value available as you discover the various paths and turns the plotline can take, you probably only have two or three play-throughs before most of the major options have been explored.
If you’re looking for something to get you into the Hallowe’en spirit, be sure to give at least the first episode a shot. The Walking Dead is a unique, thrilling experience that's rich with drama.