More poignant moments from Telltale Games' killer Walking Dead series---
The Gist (warning: spoilers below!)
Though the concept of a well-told story seems to be all the rage within the gaming industry these days, the hard truth is that plenty of titles are lacking in the well-written department. Oh sure, lots of games have lots of missions and lots to do, but when it comes to the actual crafting of the story through in-game events and dialogue, plenty boil down to "run through here and shoot through that just because they're bad!" and little more . Enter Telltale Games' Walking Dead series, one of the most incredibly well-written and well-paced series in game-dom. Cut up into 5 episodical installments, the series has been coming out piecemeal for the past several months and now, after a painfully and nigh-unbearable waiting period following episode 3, Around Every Corner is here!
Players once again step into the shoes of Lee Everett, the ex-professor from Macon charged with caring for the young girl Clementine who is anxious to find her parents. The convicted murderer who's doing his best to keep his group together in the face of insurmountable odds and soul-crushing tragedy. The man who is trying to survive like anyone else. When last we left Lee and company, they'd commandeered an abandoned train, welcomed new survivors to their team and discovered that a mysterious man from Savannah had been communicating with Clementine through her walkie-talkie. With group-member Kenny dead-set on finding and riding a boat to safety (not to mention enduring the death of his entire family), young teen Ben toiling with guilt over the blood on his hands and the injured Omid slowing the party down, the terrible zombie outbreak taking over America—and possibly the world—has never seemed more daunting.
Within the first few minutes, Telltale presents us with one of the most memorable and gut-wrenchingly sad scenes found in any game or movie in recent memory. Without announcing this little tidbit to the world, I'll simply say that it's important for you to know that this, uh, thing that happens is beyond hard to handle, especially in the wake of the previous episode's many hard decisions. This is exactly the kind of moment we've come to expect from this series; terrible and fascinating...a decision that makes us ask ourselves what we might be capable of were we in the same position.
Light puzzle elements and tough decisions make a comeback in the latest episode, and a few brief shooting sections prove that blowing off a zombie head or two is always super-fun. Yes, these elements are every bit as enjoyable as they've been in previous installments, but the true draw of Around Every Corner is in its obviously building tempo. We've long known the series will be 5 episodes, and as we travel further toward the conclusion, everything seems far more desperate now. Or, as new character Molly puts it, "Sooner or later, the dead always win." More than ever in the series the gnawing feeling of hopelessness pops up, well, around every corner. Hey...maybe that's why they called it that? You Telltale guys are smart!
I won't lie—I hate new-ish character Christa. She seems just a little too bitchy, and without even the slightest provocation. When Lee makes simple queries (how she might be holding up in the face of her injured partner Omid or if she needs any help getting someplace), he is usually met with unwarranted hostility. Look, lady, we get that this apocalypse thing is immensely trying, but we're in the same situation you are, and we're simply trying to help. Soooooorrrrrrry! Brand new character Molly has a similar chip on her shoulder and would've been far more likable if she hadn't been so sarcastic and patronizing. The character Ben comes off as a bit of a whiner at times, and almost seems to serve little purpose other than to make Lee angry every so often.OK OK OK, I suppose we can forgive them all as the constant threat of being eaten alive would probably make the best of us feel a little tense.
There aren't quite as many shocking and intense moments as previous episodes, but that one thing I was talking about before (Y'know..further up there? That one thing I didn't want to spoil for you?) has been on my mind since it happened. Did I mention it's intense?
I tried hard to think of another thing, but I can't—the game is just too damn good!
The Bottom Line
Around Every Corner was penned by The Book of Eli screenwriter Gary Whitta, and his experience in film is apparent every step of the way. While they aren't as gasp-inducing as past events, some of the most heartbreaking moments in the series arise in this installment, and the cliffhanger ending will surely go down in history as one of the greatest tests of patience for any gamer. Telltale Games has proven, once again, that the storytelling aspects of game development can transcend even the most skeptical of haters. If games are art (and I think they are), then The Walking Dead series is the high-brow, well-written novel. I'll make it plain and simple for you—start playing this series as soon as you possibly can!
8.5 (this is out of 10...which is the new standard given how stupid my 5 stars plan was)