I have wanted to write this review ever since I first played episode one of The Walking Dead by Telltale Games. Now that Episode 5 has come and gone, I am excited to finally start hitting the keyboard but at the same time I am sad to have seen the end of this series. It truly is a mixed bag of emotions, just like the story we are presented with in this masterpiece of episodic gaming.

Before I discuss the gameplay mechanics of the game, it must be understood that these are not the focus of the game. Controls are kept relatively simple and serve only as a catalyst for the story that every player makes on their own. In most situations, controls are kept extremely simple, simply presenting the player with four choices of how to react to a situation or conversation. These controls become somewhat more complicated during confrontations with walkers or other characters in the story.

Most of the game revolves around making snap decisions in conversations or quickly eliminating walkers or bandits to save yourself or members of your party. Sometimes, these sequences lead to your death and a restart or a dead friend with decisions you have to live with. Occasionally, the game presents the player with some minor puzzle solving, but nothing overly complicated like some of the adventure games I grew up with like Space Quest, Quest for Glory, or any other early Sierra title.

But, again, gameplay is not the focus of The Walking Dead and there is a really good reason for that.

Telltale Games focused on crafting a solid and emotional story and it shows in every detail of this game. From the very beginnings of episode one all the way through the end of episode five, the player is presented with some very difficult decisions with some very lasting effects. Some may say this is a concept present in many of this generation's games, but few force the player to make these decisions in a very short timeframe.

During conversations and actions, the player has a short bit of time to make a decision on how to act or respond. In some situations, this time is extended, but the relative amount of time makes sense in each situation and no matter how long or short the players takes, the game will make them agonize over the decision they made and if it was the best route to take. Because, as Telltale has said, this game is all about choice. The choices you make affect personal relationships in the short run and have very lasting effects in the long run. Cross a character early in the story and you can expect to pay for it later on down the road. Even the end of episode five will make you question choices you made episodes earlier.

In the end, this game is filled with some of the most disgusting, gut-wrenching, heartfelt, tragic, and horrifying moments in gaming this year. The end will leave even the most steel-hearted person on the verge of tears. If you leave this game unaffected emotionally, you either didn't pay attention or you may have no soul left in you.

Telltale did a wonderful job keeping the feeling of the original comic book series in mind with this game and executed it brilliantly. I cannot remember running into any clipping or cut scene problems that drew me away from the story. The execution of the art style, in my opinion, is nearly flawless and capitalizes on the feeling of the story.

Music can be well-timed in games to queue and evoke emotions that would otherwise not be present. This game executes these moment brilliantly, drawing players into the emotional moments and placing exclamation points on the difficult choices players have to make as well as adding a sense of dread and urgency when necessary.

Sound effects are handled well, helping to add a sense of the player actually being in the environment, adding another dimension to the decision making process the player experiences. Couple this with solid voice acting from every cast member and you are handed a wonderfully crafted and immersive environment to experience this wonderful story.

The Walking Dead could be described simply as a choose-your-own-adventure story, but only on its surface. The solid story is backed with excellent audio and visual imagery, leaving the player with a wonderfully immersive experience. This game should not be missed by any mature gamer out there and deserves my choice for the best game of 2012.