Tag Archives: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is a lot less game, but still fun

TWD Carver season 2 overall imps

I’m not really here to talk about the unfolding events of Telltale Games’ season two for The Walking Dead and what latest hole Clementine and company have dug for themselves this time. In short and without spoiling things, people get hurt, both by zombies and their fellow humans, and there’s traveling and dashed dreams and madman-inspired plans and–everyone’s favorite–many soul-crushing decisions, which you have to often make in a split second. Y’know, basically everything that was great from The Walking Dead‘s first season is back once more. Well…maybe not everything.

In this episodic adventure series’ first season, back when you controlled smart, encouraging Lee Everett, it was very much a traditional point-and-click experience, but on a console and with a focus for storytelling and action-heavy sequences. You still explored scenes, talked to people, collected clues and items for your inventory, and solved puzzles using those items on other things. However, over the first three episodes of season two, namely “All That Remains,” “A House Divided,” and “In Harm’s Way,” I’ve noticed the game losing most of those elements, turning into more of a linear product of pure interactive fiction than anything else. I still love it and have a blast deciding who is going to remember what, but it does kind of bum me out that there’s less to do creatively–and, for lack of a better word, videogamey–between big scenes. I mean, remember when you got to play detective with Duck and actually solve a mystery; those days are long gone, I’m afraid.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that The Walking Dead has now infected–yes, pun intended–every piece of technology capable of playing a videogame. Yup, talking about mobile devices like iPhones and iPads. You can clearly see the developers thinking about this subset of gamers, given how many more action scenes rely on “swiping” as a means of a quick time event instead of just button prompts. It’s a little weird using a controller to press down via the analog stick to have Clementine hide from an incoming zombie, but maybe it feels more effective on a touch-based device. That said, it’s now a game series of dialogue choices (good!) and QTEs (bad!) and backseat steering (very bad!), which probably works better on mobile devices than the places The Walking Dead was initially born.

Let me slightly spoil a section from the latest episode–“In Harm’s Way”–to get my point across about how stripped and, dare I say, dumbed down The Walking Dead is at this point. Gameplay-wise, people. Gameplay-wise. So, Clementine is sneaking into an office to turn on a PA system for…well, reasons. You get into the office via a cutscene, walk over to a desk and inspect the PA system with the press of a button. Upon a closer look, you can then press a switch to flip on the external speakers. You do that; there is no other way to try things, you only have one choice to move forward with the “puzzle.” Then you are told to turn on the mic, so you try, and it’s not working. A quick cutscene has Clem then following the power cords from the PA system over to the CD player, which you try to turn on, only to find out there is no CD in its tray. The camera then does this back and forth motion, as if searching, and you instantly see a CD right next to the CD player. Sigh. You click on the CD, and the puzzle, if you want to call it such a thing, is does. Your hand was held the entire time, and there weren’t even any options to try things differently or mess up. Like, all you had to do, Telltale Games, was hide the CD in the room, anywhere, and have Clem actually search for it.

Trust me when I say that I’m, without a doubt, finishing this second season of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. I’m too invested in the story at this point, but knowing how much has changed with the gameplay bums me out enough to wonder that, if I have a mobile device capable of playing the probable, but not yet announced third season when it does drop in late 2015 or early 2016, I might just experience it there. True, I’ll be losing all of my choices I’ve made up to that mark, but what do choices matter in a world where you are no longer in control? Yes, Paul will remember that.

Also, I’m deeply worried about what Telltale Games is going to do with Game of Thrones. We all remember how Jurassic Park: The Game turned out, right?

2014 Game Completed Comics, #27 – The Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 2 – “A House Divided”

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Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

To think of shadows is a serious thing in Deadlight

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Deadlight is all style, no substance, which results in a very cool-looking slice of perfunctory–and often clunky–2D action. A shame, really. Unfortunately, when it comes to playing videogames, looks only get you so far, and I found much of my so-far early goings with Deadlight frustrating and shrouded in obtuse darkness due to its shoddy controls, stilted voiceover work, and strange mix of gameplay styles. I’ll explain more shortly.

Deadlight is set in 1986, and a zombie plague has decimated the world. Or maybe it’s a shadow plague, since no one seems to like referring to them as anything other than shadows when clearly they are of the flesh-tearing, brain-munching zombie ilk. Just, y’know, wreathed in shadows. Anyways, you play as Randall Wayne, a grizzled survivor trying make his way through Seattle. Oh, and the way you know it’s the 1980s? Those cassette-tape loading animations and knockoff Tiger LCD handheld-game collectibles should clue you in. Otherwise, it’s just another dark, grim world. Your goal: reach the Safe Point.

Clearly inspired by literature works like Stephen King’s Cell, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, as well as taking cues from other side-scrolling games like Limbo and Out of This WorldDeadlight, early on, feels really good. Like, really good. I still don’t mean control-wise, but Tequila Works really nails the atmosphere of a world gone to shit, especially in the first act, where all the focus is getting through one scenario to another in a single piece, which often meant avoiding fighting shadows and using other methods to get around. Mr. Wayne is no supersoldier, just a guy taking advantage of everything around him to stay alive, and whistling at a zombie so it walks towards you and right into the pool of electrified water is hilariously satisfying.

There’s a little bit of everything in Deadlight. From the beginning, it’s mostly about running, jumping, climbing, crawling, and moving through the environments while avoiding enemies. This is all well and good, except the jumping feels sluggish, and when you let go of the analog stick Mr. Wayne continues to run a step or two further, which inevitably leads to messed-up jumps and other problems. Limbo‘s jumping never felt amazing, but that game moved at a much slower pace, even when a giant spider was chasing you. Combat comes in two forms: your ax or your gun. Ammo is limited, and I think I’ve used the gun more for solving puzzles than popping the heads of shadows off. You can swing your ax pretty well, but you’re limited by a stamina meter; all in all, the vibe is constantly avoid combat, and so that’s what I did. Lastly, there’s puzzle-solving, and a lot of what I’ve seen involves hitting switches/pulling levers and hightailing it somewhere else; alas, because of the previously mentioned problematic running, this can be a challenge, and Mr. Wayne suffered many deaths before the timing of it all could be determined. Trial and error is okay when implemented sporadically, but it really feels like every room you go into in Deadlight is designed to kill you first, then teach you how to live.

Again, it’s a shame the game plays so poorly and is unfocused, as visually, it’s astounding. Shadow Complex helped bridge the gap between 2D planes and 2D.5, and Deadlight uses this trick to create some stunning images of shadows appearing in the background and walking towards you from the distance. There’s a good amount of zooming in and out, highlighting different parts of the area, and a lot of it is well detailed despite the fact that Mr. Wayne is going to run past it all in a few minutes. While I found a lot of the voicework to be hammy, the art used in the cutscenes is what you’d expect if The Walking Dead comics were colored and a webcomic, and while they are a stark contrast to the actual gameplay graphics, they help build a consistency nonetheless.

I don’t know how much more is left to see in Deadlight. Currently, I’m still inside the Rat’s test chamber of terrible ways to kill one’s self. It’s not very clear how I’m supposed to get Mr. Wayne from one side of the room to the other, and all it takes is a misplaced jump to die and give me enough pause to reconsidering how I’m spending my gaming time. Might have to end up looking for an online walkthrough as my Xbox 360’s hard-drive is nearly filled, and I want to download and play Dust: An Elysian Tale, but in order to do that, I need to beat Deadlight and feel done enough with it to hit “uninstall.” It seems like it’s a pretty straightforward experience from beginning to end, though I can guarantee I won’t 100% it as I’m positive I’ve missed a secret or two along the way.

There will bee honey in Fright of the Bumblebees

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I’ve been badly struggling with the cold weather this winter, and there are a lot of stupidly small and stupid–yes, stupidly stupid–details that I won’t go into, but to make a long story short, I’ve been spending a lot of nights getting into bed early beneath the heated blanket. While this warms me up and keeps me warm, it does take a toll on my gaming schedule, as I’ve had to let Tomb Raider and Spelunky and basically anything sitting on a console’s hard-drive in the frigid downstairs area sit idle until I can stomach the weather long enough to play ’em properly. Heck, even playing my 3DS can be tricky, what with my arms unmoving beneath a burning blanket. I know, I know…woe is me.

And so I thought, “What videogames can I play in bed on my laptop that don’t require a lot of quick reflexes and constant attention?” Certainly not a first-person shooter. Or an RPG with time-driven combat. Ah, yes. Yes. Point-and-click adventure games. Though not all of them. If I remember rightly, the ending puzzles of Telltale’s Back to the Future‘s first episode demanded fast fingers, but not to worry–I’ve got plenty of adventure games in my backlog to devour. Slowly devour, that is. In my Steam library, I have oodles, and I honestly don’t even remember when I got them, but the entire complete episodic series of Tales of Monkey Island, Sam & Max, and Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures are there, installed, just waiting for me to get into bed.

I figured the safest–and less demanding of them all–were whatever Wallace and Gromit were up to, and so I loaded up the first episode “Fright of the Bumblebees” and tilted the laptop balancing on my chest enough that my fingers could creep out from the stashed warmth and click around. Well, Wallace has a new business called “From Bee to You,” which specializes in delivering fresh honey to customers. After some less-than-stellar results with Wallace’s prior inventions, one customer demands that he provide fifty gallons of honey in repayment. Unfortunately, Wallace has used up all the flowers in his garden and is now forced to improvise an enhanced growth formula to turn regular daisy seeds provided by his neighbor into giant bee-feeding flowers. Alas, while the formula is successful at creating giant flowers for the bees, it also turns the them into dog-size monsters able to terrorize everyone.

It’s a very cute story so far, and Gromit makes some of the best faces at the camera since Jim from The Office. I’m not too familiar with the stop motion animation movies and previous videogames–though I did lightly dip my big toe into Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit–but it is a lot of puns and kid-friendly antics and consequences, with goofy-looking characters and colorful, charming locales. Oh–and cheese. And incompetent coppers. Anyways, the graphics are nothing to write home about, and either are the puzzles, but they are fun and logical enough to solve nonetheless, and the story moves along at a good clip, not wasting your time with too many pointless objects and unnecessary observations.

A couple complaints. While not as bad as in other Telltale products like Poker Night at the Inventory and The Walking Dead, the engine hitches for a second or two when transitioning from section to section. I also had the entire game freeze when I attempted to use the fast-travel map as Wallace. Also, while not terribly game-ruining, I wish you could have Wallace or Gromit walk to wherever you click, instead of relying on WASD or the arrow keys to get them investigating a room fully. Lastly, when you use an object on another object, if it doesn’t complete a puzzle, the item disappears from your mouse cursor, meaning you have to select it all over again if you want to use it on the thing right next to the thing you just checked. That might sound like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but it can be really tedious to have to keep selecting an item over and over just to see if it works or not.

So far, I’ve looked up a single puzzle solution–it had to do with cheese, so shame on me–and from the size of the walkthrough, it seems like these episodes are actually rather lengthy. Which is fine by me. I’ll keep nibbling away at Fright of the Bumblebees until I can come out from under the covers though I worry that the story is maybe too light and inconsequential to keep its stingers hooked in me for the other three episodes. Unless they are standalone-ish and all something else entirely. Only time–and the weather gods–will tell.

Telltale’s season 2 of The Walking Dead bites off a new adventure

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Despite there only being a couple days gap, it feels a little weird writing about a 2013 game in 2014, especially now that I’m doing comics for each one that I complete. Sorry, episode 1 of Telltale’s The Walking Dead; all you got was a stinky ol’ haiku. But I’m sure you’ll get at least four comics out of me this year, since I bought the season pass and am already hungry for more since the beginning of the second season, much like the appetizer that 400 Days turned out to be, doesn’t really satisfy one’s hunger, only starts to fill you up with characters and places and problems to be. Y’know, for down the line.

Some quick catch-up, and I’ll do my best to be as unspoilery as possible for those that have not yet experienced the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. But really now, shame on you. Just do it. I think the first episode is constantly being thrown out there for no cost, so snatch it up, love it, and burn through the remainder eps one after the other like I did, without having to wait months between story breaks. Anyways, by the very end of the Savannah storyline, Clementine is all by herself in the zombie-infested wild, eventually taking notice of two people in the distance. Flash-forward several months, and Clem is now travelling with Omid and a visibly pregnant Christa in search of…well, somewhere safe. We pick up as the three reach a gas station to scavenge for supplies and rest before getting back on the road.

Naturally, as things tend to do in zombie anything–films, books, TV shows, games–things quickly take a turn for the worse, but thanks to everything that Lee taught Clementine in the previous season–well, my Lee taught her, but your mileage may vary–she can mostly handle herself just fine. Alas, there’s a tragic encounter with a stray dog that really puts Clem in a dangerous spot, and a big portion of episode 1’s latter half is righting this error. Medically speaking, that is. She eventually becomes part of a new group, though they don’t trust her, and the best sequence has Clem sneaking into their safehouse to steal enough vital supplies to heal her own wounds, since the others are waiting for her to turn into a walking dead girl. This shows off just how brave and independent she’s become over the past several months, now a young woman of action and not hesitation. So far, there’s no real clear objective like season one’s “find a boat,” but I guess staying alive–and keeping those we like alive, too–is game enough for some, though I’d like to see Clem eventually have some kind of concrete plan.

Not much has changed in terms of how The Walking Dead plays from the previous episodes, and that’s fine. Always a mix of adventuring and stay alive moments, with enough of both to keep me satisfied. You still look around for items, talk to people and make choices, and explore confined locations for clues or bits that flesh out the story. I did notice that Clem now has an inventory sub-menu, where she can grab items to use on other items, making this a bit more like a point-and-click adventure game than it probably wanted to be at the beginning of its creation. Action scenes are still, more or less, dominated by quick time button prompts, but now with the added innovation of swiping left or right, using the analog stick on the controller, which leads me to think that some of these scenarios were designed with tablet and iPhone users in mind.

For “All That Remains,” there’s a couple of somewhat minor decisions to make along the way, as well as a number of unavoidable deaths. That’s right. Try as you all might, you can’t save that certain four-legged critter from its depressingly authentic conclusion. I only know this because Tara checked online. She had to. Come the very end of the episode, like it’s last two minutes, you do get to save someone’s life over another’s, and that decision will most certainly play a part in the events to come, but again, this is only the beginning, a nibble, and I’m hoping we get the second episode sometime early in February. Still also waiting for a connection, big or small, to 400 Days; that better not had been all for naught.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #63 – The Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 1 – “All That Remains”

2013 games completed twd S2 all that remains

Clem finds herself out
In the wild, a new group
Awaits, curse that dog

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

The Half-hour Hitbox: December 2013

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Some inside baseball: I put this post together piecemeal across the whole month. That means that when I play a game and find myself not interested in writing a large post about it–or suspect that I won’t down the line–I add it here, find a picture, and write a quick sentence or two about it. Alas, sometimes I don’t do that last part though, as I’m just not in the mood at that exact moment, and so I’ll have to come back to it, which can be hard, especially for smaller experiences, such as Isaac’s Odyssey, a game I am finding it hard to remember what happened, save for the atrocious grammar I had to read.

Truthfully, I’d rather put this all together in one go, to keep the writing thematic and consistent, but that seems like an impossible task. I get exhausted just searching for Google for decent screenshots. And then there’s too much to juggle in terms of what each game is and does, and I’d be super worried I’d forget something. I want to be able to give everything its due, y’know.

Maybe I will rethink how The Half-hour Hitbox looks for 2014, but for now, let’s end the last month of the year as we have with all the months that came before it since this feature began. To the games!

Oíche Mhaith

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What a horrifying experience. I’m not even sure how it qualifies as a game because all you basically do, as a young girl, is walk around your house, get berated by everyone, watch your father go on a murdering spree, and then play with some strange device that allows you to swap personalities between your father, mother, and dog in hopes of making everything right. We’ve already seen the darker side of Terry Cavanagh’s mind in Hero’s Adventure, but this goes nineteen levels deeper, and I’m very put off. You might get more out of this than I did, but if you do, well…I’m now concerned for your state of being.

Annie Android: Automated Affection

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Evidently, one of the first little games Ben Chandler ever made, and it certainly is little. I mean, like a resolution size of 320X200. I had to tinker with my computer to make it larger so I could actually read the text and find items, but it still looked good to me. It’s about an android called Annie and the love she wants, which is a fella called Mailbot. Unfortunately, RoboHQ has assigned her someone else as a partner, and off she goes, to control her destiny. It’s pretty fun with some silly characters, like the robot pretending to walk the dog in the park, and the puzzles aren’t too tough, though one required precise timing, and sometimes my clicks missed the mark. An 80s-esque soundtrack full of bumps and thumps plays in the background, and there’s even vocals for the title screen song. You can download the game right now.

Gears of War

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Well, I played the first Gears of War game, and I hunkered down and ran through it on the easiest of difficulty settings. Whatever, don’t judge me. Or you totally can. I don’t care, because I don’t really care about Gears of Wars. It’s macho shoot alien monsters in the face tough guy stuff, and all the dialogue is trite and predictable, and every male character is this unshapely mass of muscle and armor. Same goes for the Locust. In fact, on a few occasions, I mixed up one of my allies with an enemy because they look almost identical, and it’s hard to keep track of everyone when they are so drab looking and moving around an even drabber scene of ruined rubble. I was able to play a single online match–surprisingly, not many people are still playing this game despite it being a freebie for December for Gold members–and that was simply okay. Just like with Battlefield 3 over the summer, I can now confidently say that this is not my thing.

Samsara Room

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A strange, otherworldly point-and-click game that sees you traveling from one dimension to another all while still being stuck in the same room. The puzzles are intuitive enough to keep you at it, and I enjoyed how the perspective changed each time. Samsara Room‘s ending is abrupt and completely unsatisfying, but getting there is intriguing enough for me to make up my own conclusion. Plus, music by Kevin MacLeod, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite indie game composers. It’s just so relaxing.

Isaac’s Odyssey

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You are a guy trying to escape your dorm room to go to a late-night Comic-Con party. Maybe there’s some Game of Thrones actors boozing it up there or something. Isaac’s Odyssey consists of only two screens and a lot of tiny objects to find and use. It’s not bad in the gameplay department–if a bit old-school–but the writing is simply unbearable. Every sentence either contains a spelling error or strange turn of phrase, and eventually all this overtook my like for clicking on items and using them to solve puzzles. I did eventually escape the dorm room, but that’s the end of the game. Yup, you don’t even get to go to the fancy party. What a dud.

Calm Time

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Chances are, if I had known what Calm Time was ultimately going to be about before I clicked “play,” I probably would’ve skipped it. Instead, I watched in horror as a party went to shambles, and I was the driving force behind the chaos. There’s some direct storytelling here, as well as a basement full of indirect–and all of it is creepy. There’s minimal music throughout save for a creepy piano tingle and some jarring TV-like static, but less is more here, and I can honestly say that the whole experience gave me the shivers. The uncomfortable, I’m-a-monster shivers. Whether that makes Calm Time a good game or a bad game, I really don’t know.

Shoot Many Robots

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I think the name Shoot Many Robots is awesome and does a fun job of explaining exactly what you do in this wee downloadable freebie for the Xbox 360. Some levels have you going left to right, and other levels are a single room where you have to survive wave after wave of attacking robots. In short, you shoot robots. Sometimes you punch bullets, too. There’s two main weapons and different kind of backpacks to equip for your dude, which grant various bonuses, and it’s all well and good, but there isn’t much else to do otherwise. I do however enjoy the cartoony graphics and honky-tonk slash metal soundtrack.

Hero in the Ocean

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A really cute puzzler set underwater. You control a tiny, yellow submarine in search of stars–three per level–and a helpless sea-diver. Each level adds a new puzzle element, such as lasers and unlockable doors, but it’s never overwhelming. By the end, you’ll be a pro at each thing, able to swim swiftly past all the dangers and pick up those shiny trinkets. I found all 45 stars and saved everybody, so go me. Alas, there’s some clunky writing like “you found secret area,” but that can be overlooked for a solid little game that never becomes too much to handle. Plus, the single music track that keeps looping is awesome, starting off slow and somber and building into something bigger than that. In fact, I’ve been listening to it on repeat as I put this paragraph together. I also hope this isn’t taken as an insult to those that made it, but Hero in the Ocean would make a perfect mobile game, too.

Temple Run 2

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Speaking of mobile games…this kind of came out of nowhere. The day before Christmas–or was it actually on Christmas day?–Temple Run 2 was released for free on the Windows 8 phone. Mmm. I love free games, especially ones with relatively easy Achievements. And that’s what Temple Run 2 is–a fun, easy-to-pick-up endless runner with a handful of poppable Achievements and enough challenge to keep you going and try for one more run. I played this a lot during my Christmas vacation, mostly because my sister was squeezing the most out of her time with my Nintendo 3DS. It’s pretty good, though I probably couldn’t tell you the differences between this one and the original. I’ll probably end up removing both from my phone soon enough, once I’ve had my fill of running, jumping, sliding, and tilting.

The Walking Dead, Episode 1 – “All That Remains” (season 2)

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I just finished this up on Sunday and haven’t even gotten around to writing a haiku for it, but I will soon and will probably write a bigger post about the newest season and how brutal it has already started, but for recording’s sake, it’s here. I also bought the The Walking Dead‘s season 2 pass and am excited for more, if that gives you an early indication of my impressions.

The Half-hour Hitbox is a new monthly feature for Grinding Down, covering a handful of videogames that I’ve only gotten to play for less than an hour so far. My hopes in doing this is to remind myself that I played a wee bit of these games at one time or another, and I should hop back into them, if I liked that first bite.