Like the zombies that populate its universe, "The Walking Dead" franchise has slowly consumed all facets of our culture. From the original comic series to the hit AMC show and now video games, it's hard to escape the clutches of Robert Kirkman's creation.

            When Telltale set out to adapt the series into their adventure style format, they hoped to create a game that exemplified the franchise's character driven storytelling while providing a compelling gameplay experience. With intense scenes of action complemented by extensive levels of choice, "The Walking Dead" is a thrilling interactive drama.

            Players begin as Lee Everett, a former professor, as he rides in the back of a police car on his way to the local penitentiary. As you gradually answer the inquiries of the driver, players are introduced to the conversation system that is integral to the experience. Suddenly, a lone zombie saunters into the road and the collision drives the car off the side of the road.

            Lee comes to consciousness trapped in the back of the car and players must use the onscreen cursor to search for the proper way to escape. Lee escapes from the flood of zombies that rapidly appear in the forest and finds refuge in a nearby home. Once there, he finds Clementine, an abandoned little girl, and their dynamic together is a central focus for the remainder of the episode. 

            Gameplay typically consists of walking around various locations and searching for the items needed to proceed. Oftentimes these puzzles are fairly simplistic with obvious answers that require menial tasks to be completed in a specific order.

            Hopefully future episodes feature more challenging puzzles, however, this lackluster aspect is bolstered by the true highlights of the game: player choice and dramatic situations.

            Throughout the episode you will meet many characters who will inquire about your background. Little prompts let you know that these NPCs will remember what you've said or acknowledge that you have sided with them in an argument. I felt as if every conversation had real ramifications and one wrong choice may cause these strangers to snap at any moment.

            The dynamic of this group of strangers bandying together is executed extremely well. Every character seems realistic, even if some are obvious archetypes. Players will also encounter several life and death decisions that can radically alter the course of their playthrough. Once again, every one of these choices made me wonder whether I had made the right decision for the group and how it may affect my standing with the others.

            Combat is simplistic, but it works really well within the Telltale style of adventure games. It usually involves simply tapping a button over the zombie to trigger an attack with whatever dangerous object you may have at the time.

            However, the beauty of combat lies in the drama it creates. Whether it's fending off a zombie as it grabs hold of you or bludgeoning one clutching at the leg of a partner, every interaction elicits a sense of desperation few other zombie games capture.

            Episode one's story ends on a cliff-hanger of sorts, but still provides a satisfying ending to this group's first journey together. Although it has some references to the comics, I enjoyed the new characters, particularly Lee and the slow unfurling of his background throughout the episode. The story does tend to bog down in the middle though and players must perform trivial tasks that take away from what is otherwise a tension-filled episode.

            Players who go into "The Walking Dead" expecting a run and gun zombie shooter will be disappointed, but what it lacks in gameplay it more than makes up for in its storytelling and interactions between characters. The amount of player choice and consequences that go along with those options is staggering.

            Few games have ever made me stop and ponder the outcome of my choices like "The Walking Dead". Although this was only episode one of a five-part series, I am already hooked by the fantastic atmosphere and can't wait to see how my decisions will affect my playthrough in future episodes. 

As published by The Daily Cardinal