Reviews are very personal pieces of writing. They are never meant to encapsulate the sum total of experiences, nor are they designed to tell the reader how he or she should feel. They are opinions and reactions seeded with relevant facts about features. Reviews typically contain statements that are responses to the tactile nature of the play session.

Telltale Games’ latest episodic adventure, The Walking Dead, is different. I could tell you that playing on a gamepad is less precise than using a mouse. I could tell you that I died a few times along the way because things aren’t always as precise as I’d like. I could tell you that there is an occasional glitch here and there. I will tell you that I don’t care. That doesn’t matter to me at all, because when I look back on this game in a month, six months or even a year, it won’t be the controls that I recall.

I will remember the final moments of this adventure, the culminations of decisions large and small. I will think back to Clementine, the little girl I first met in her house and carried with me through the terrible world no child should have to experience. I will recall that I hate this game for what it put me through. And that I love it for the exact same reasons.

I once cursed Stephen King out loud while reading The Dark Tower series. I had become so invested in the characters, the story and the world he had created that his treatment of the Gunslinger’s companions outraged me. I know that as the author that these personalities were his to mold and shape and deform, but through his sculpting, they were mine, too, just as Clementine was mine. I raged internally at the situations out of my control, wanting nothing more than to protect a little girl who might not be real, but who had a very tangible impact on my soul.

This final chapter, which reveals the true protagonist of the tale, is an example of what this medium should strive toward. Even if I hadn’t already known that the events would barrel forward to a crashing conclusion, I would have sensed it. The tension in the score, the writing and the finality of it all is thick in every step taken.

Even in a period that is significantly shorter than past episodes, there are decisions to be made. As always, those choices are presented at the end of the episode. More importantly though, you’ll get to see the tally of all of your major moves. Interestingly, the game seems to have recorded all of my choices properly, which continues to leave me wondering about how my relationship with one character became so strained. I rolled with it. Sometimes, people don’t make sense. In a zombie apocalypse, I expect that would be doubly so.

In this episode, there are far fewer puzzle solving moments. This helps keep the pace up and prevented me from ever catching my breath. It’s one thing after another, and at the end, I was emotionally exhausted.

The visual style throughout these five segments was continuously impeccable. The sound design, including voice acting, music and effects was masterful. The persistent gurgles and groans of the undead bearing down were subtle but omnipresent. I could never get away from them, but that is the point, isn’t it?

The score below represents my reaction at the conclusion of the story. It encompasses my feelings about “No Time Left” and the overall experience of the entire five-episode season. For those coming in late, whether you plan on downloading the season or purchasing it on disk, I recommend playing as intended. Take it one episode at a time. Let it sink in and then proceed. Don’t try to power through it in a weekend. You’ll accomplish your goal, but I expect that it won’t take the emotional toll on you in the same way.

Regardless of how you purchase it, on what platform you decide to play or how you decide to experience the journey, please do it. I won’t promise you that you will have fun in the same way you do with other games. I can’t even assure you that you won’t hate it. I will guarantee that if you see it through that it will have an emotional impact.  When we look back on 2012, The Walking Dead will be remembered as something truly special.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Emotional conclusion to the season
+ Wonderfully weaves in past decisions large and small
+ Fast-paced and tense
- Looming issue with interpretation of some choices not “feeling” right 

 

10 (TEN) represents a game that you would unequivocally recommend to all gamers. This score is reserved for games you consider to be not only the best of their genre, but to be one of the best games of the year.  A 10 does not have to be absolutey perfect — we do NOT hold games up to an impossible standard because that simply is not fair.  Ebert and Roeper did not give 1 and 9/10ths thumbs up.

The Walking Dead “No Time Left” was developed and published by Telltale Games. It was released on November 21, 2012, for 400msp. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.