Helplessness. To describe the world of The Walking Dead in one word, it would have to be, “helplessness”. Walkers have taken over and are a constant threat. Nobody knows how or why this modern plague happened, nor do they know if there is any hope for cure or salvation. Walkers may be the biggest threat, but not always the most immediate. In a certain homage to Lord of the Flies the most pressing dangers can often come in the form of infighting amongst the living. The struggle with group dynamics and the forced pairing of strong archetypes make the human drama just as high as the suspense. With an award-winning series of graphic novels and a hit TV show, The Walking Dead: Episode 1, entered the market with some high expectations. Backed with an original story, Telltale Games aimed to bring gamers into Robert Kirkman’s universe without needing to read the books or watch the show. These efforts, on the whole, are highly successful and make for one of the most riveting, interactive stories in gaming this year.

Most happy stories don’t start with the protagonist cuffed in the back of a cop car. The Walking Dead: Episode 1 is no different. As Lee, your first interaction is with the police officer hauling you to jail.

I suppose you didn’t do it.

From here you’re given several conversational options and, much like games like Alpha Protocol, you’ll only have a short time to pick your response. As the details of Lee’s life begin to come into contextual focus, you’ll begin to realize that dialogue options can allow you to be honest, vague, or downright lie to people. You can treat them nicely, harshly, or nonchalantly. You’re basically given the opportunity to play Lee as you want to play him. Such choices are not without consequences, though. All of the characters you interact with will remember the things you tell them and judge whether or not they like you, trust you, and/or believe you to be honest.

The majority of the gameplay boils down to walking around the various environments, talking to fellow survivors, interacting with set pieces, and picking up various story-related items. As the game progresses, you’ll find yourself forging alliances, backing certain characters and people, and building relationships of mutual trust. This trust affects the story as Episode 1 progresses and is likely to carry over into future episodes. Much like “point-and-click” adventure games, the most scenes can be taken at a leisurely pace… that is until the walkers (inevitably) arrive.

While most action scenes are played through with quick-time button presses (and completely serviceable as such), the biggest drawback to Episode 1 is that some action scenes require you to “click” on certain points within a specific time limit and those points are often hard to distinguish or spot. There were several points during my playthrough where I was forced to go through scenes multiple times in order to find those action spots.

The art style is excellent and reminiscent of a good blend between hand-drawn comic artistry and fluid motion. It truly feels like you’re playing a comic book.

The ambiance is further enhanced by excellent voice acting and sound design.

As an episodic experience, The Walking Dead: Episode 1 is a runaway success in same vein as Alan Wake.  With solid gameplay mechanics, a riveting story, and a “Next On”-style teaser, Telltale has gone above and beyond to give gamers a unique, highly-satisfying, experience in their interactive narrative.