Here’s the straight dope: I bought “400 Days,” the latest episode of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, the day it dropped on July 5. However, I did not play it immediately, and there are a couple of reasons for this. One, I was reeling–and still am–over the loss of Ryan Davis a few days prior, and two, I knew in my heart of hearts that this was no new full season, brimming with story and content that would linger with me just like Lee and Clem and Kenny have ever since the first season ended. It was created to whet one’s appetite, not sate it.
Two months later, I started up “400 Days” and played through it in a single sitting. Tara watched, too, as well as made a key decision during Vince’s slice. More on that later. Anyways, it’s not very long, but it’s fairly enjoyable, with two of the five character storylines really exciting and engaging. In the end, it does feel like a big tease for what’s yet to come; however, even a carrot on a string from Telltale Games is better than nothing, and certainly more enjoyable than some games I’ve played this year (see Fable III and The Cave).
“400 Days” takes place around Gil’s Pitstop, a truck stop set against a Georgia highway. You play through the point of views of five different survivors, with each story set at a different time since the dead began to walk. Some are right there at the beginning of the outbreak, and others have been at this game of live or don’t live for some time now. There’s Vince, an arrested criminal; Shel, a young woman taking refuge at the truck stop with her younger sister; Bonnie, a coming-clean junkie; Wyatt, along with his druggie friend, are trying to escape a man in a truck; and Russell, a young boy hitchhiking down the road. You can please these stories in any order, but that’s how I did ’em: Vince, Shel, Bonnie, Wyatt, and Russell. After you play all the individual stories, there’s an epilogue to experience, which hints at what will be happening in the next season of The Walking Dead, and who from “400 Days” will be there to live the tale.
I urge anyone that hasn’t played “400 Days” yet to begin with Vince’s story. It packs the most punch and feels the most chaotic, with some hard and harsh decisions to make. I left one of those to Tara, and we both now have to live with that choice, while someone else has to live without a certain appendage. It’s mostly set in a bus on its way to prison. Next, I’d suggest Bonnie, which features some fun conversation bits and a nifty stealth sequence set in a cornfield. The others you can kind of do in any order and are much tamer in terms of action, though all are consistent with the quality writing and gray characterization previously found in characters like Lee and Kenny. I particularly found myself hating Nate in the same way that one hates a villain in Game of Thrones.
You’ll notice that I have not delved too deeply into the details about each of the survivors and their respective stories. It’s not that there isn’t much to share, but rather you should really experience it for yourself, in your own way. Though I wouldn’t blame you if you waited until the night before The Walking Dead‘s season two dropped to do it. Otherwise, you’ll be hungrier than some of the zombies you cross in this short, but sweet tease. And now I wait, stomach all a-grumble.