I am going to come right out and say it, I think that mobile games on the whole are no way near as good as their console and computer counterparts. This is mostly because they are designed for different audiences. The mobile gamer is usually a far more casual player, not wanting to spend either the same amount of time or money on gaming. Which is fair enough, but because of this most I find most mobile games to be shallow and vapid. However with all rules there are exceptions and The Walking Dead on the iPhone breaks all the rules I had for mobile games.
Ok, before I go any further I know that The Walking Dead isn’t only an iPhone game. It has been released on a several formats, iOS, Mac, PC, xBox and PS3 which goes most of the way into explaining why this game is more like a standard game than a mobile game. The first episode is free and can be downloaded here, and the other episodes are £2.99 each. A little more pricey for an iPhone app but as I’ll go on to explain these aren’t ordinary iPhone apps.
The Walking Dead game is based on the same world as The Walking Dead TV series. A virus has turned most of the world’s inhabitants into blood-hungry shambling zombies. Although rather than being a simple horror where the purpose is just to escape from the zombies, The Walking Dead is more about the people, how they survive, and how they react and deal with the dangers of their new world. The game follows the same vein with zombies being not the only things to avoid, there are bandits, cannibals and even good ol’ starvation to worry about.
You play Lee Everett who was on his way to prison for killing his wife’s lover when the game begins. So no golden-child hero as the protagonist in The Walking Dead the lines between good and bad remain blurred. As Lee progresses through the game he meets a number of other survivors, just as keen on living as he is. The most predominant of these is a girl called Clementine, a child apparently orphaned by a zombie attack. Lee develops a father-daughter relationship and cares for a great deal. As the game progresses you meet more people, each with their own stories, their own skeletons in their closets and reasons for survival, though just like the TV program The Walking Dead game is not going to let them all walkout alive.
Playing the game is simple. You control your character by swiping the screen, things that can be interacted with appear as dots on the screen, while conversational options are chosen by pressing the one you want. The easy control method belies the complexity lying behind the story.
The best part of The Walking Dead game is how the game will shift and change depending on your decisions within the game. Decisions have to be made and the consequences lived with. Sometimes these are as seemingly mundane as a conversational option that makes another character start to like you, or distrust you. In the more extreme cases you are given an agonising choice of who you want to save from the hungry rotten jaws of zombies. There is no clemency in The Walking Dead, the one you choose not to save is torn apart and eaten and your choice then has ripples among the rest of the group.
These choices are often pretty brutal yet realistic within the context. Do you leave the person with his leg stuck in a trap to be eaten by oncoming zombies or do you risk your life to hack his leg off with an axe? Do you kill the man who may be dying from a heart attack before he can rise, or do you risk that he will be ok? The choice is yours, but you cannot take as long as you want to make a decision, you have around 5 seconds to make your choice. Indecision may be worse than making the wrong decision, then again it may not be…
The Walking Dead Game is a game of choices and consequences, yet despite its low price tag and simple game mechanics I would rate the storyline equal to that of any number of the bigger storylined rpgs.
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Jim Franklin is a freelance writer, living in Derby UK with his wife and his player 3. When time allows he likes nothing more than losing himself in a multi-hour gaming session. He likes most games and will play anything but prefers MMO's, and sandbox RPG's.