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Zombie adventure game? Is the puzzle solution 'use shotgun'?

TranscriptEdit

You know, before I made a living doing this job (with "job" in quotation marks the size and shape of a pair of giant drooping labial flaps), I designed a few point-and-click adventure games. If you're thinking of having a go at making your own, here's my hot tip:

  • First think of a problem that the player has to get around like, say, helping a cat get down from a tree,
  • Then think of how a normal sensible person would solve the issue with the objects that would be close to hand,
  • Then seal your head inside a half-full vat of boiling chlorine for about twenty minutes
  • Then write down another way to solve the problem that at that moment makes perfect sense to your probably fatally poisoned mind.
  • Repeat this process until you've discovered the most circuitous possible solution, maybe hiding a spider under the sunshade of Old Man Witherstein's car so that he crashes into the treetrunk, dislodging the cat and allowing you to catch it in a bucket of rose petals you found on the moon.

Why? Because adventure game developers can't cum unless they're picturing the frustated tears of people who used to trust them. Actually that could just be me.

I bring this up because the second Walking Dead episode came out recently from Telltale Games who you may remember from episodic adventure game series insert one of about fifteen different names here. Telltale Games is a fucking one-company conservation effort. They're simultaneously trying to keep alive the point-and-click adventure games, the concept of episodic gameplay, every conceivable franchise that the original developer doesn't care about and which could always bleed out a few more pennies, and presumably also themselves if there's time left in the day.

But The Walking Dead gets away from Telltale's "scavenge from the dustbins" business model by adapting the current comic and TV series of the same name. I'm not familiar with either, but you know, it's zombie apocalypse, we all know how this goes: 99% of everyone dies and the rest just shout at each other a lot. Although an adventure game with zombies is kinda new. It's traditionally an action setting because if you're not blowing their heads off with a shotgun, then what the hell else is there? You're not going to do a lot of water-skiing.

Walking Dead is based more around the relationships between characters in a survival situation that get along like six velociraptors in a tent with only one sleeping bag. It makes the claim that all your decisions will have an impact and when a game says that, it usually just means that one bloke will say a different line or have a screwdriver jutting out of his temple two scenes from now, but by keeping the episodes short and the enviroments tight, Walking Dead can make your decisions seem to have greater impact than a piss in the wind.

Although having said that, I spoke to a couple of friends and in the first episode at least, we all made exactly the same choices. There was let a kid die or let a dude die. Obviously you save the kid, don't you? He's got more life to live, the parents will like you, and worst comes to it, his flesh will be a lot more tender and palettable. *lip smacking noises* Later on, it's rush to help a dude being grabbed by several zombie arms or rush to help a lady who's being grabbed around the ankles by one solitary dead bugger she could probably send packing with a harsh reprimand. The binary moral choice thing games like InFamous do is kind of stupid but it's not much better when the choices are presented as equally sensible but really aren't, not so much picking the good path over the evil path as it is the sensible path over the adventure game developer path.

There are puzzles in the adventure game sense in that there are things you can pick up and rub on other things in the hope that they'll mate and give birth to progress, but it never reaches the spider in Old Man Witherstein's car kind of level. Mostly it's pretty sensible: something is screwed on so you undo it with a screwdriver that is practically being thrown at your face by a helper monkey, but it's so obviously straight forward that it seems kind of token. You can't call it a puzzle any more than writing your name on the answer sheet will count towards your test results. It's more like a device to make sure you're still paying attention as you're railroaded from scene to scene.

So what is the core mechanic? Well, it's not the actions scenes, that for fucking certain. The standard controls for getting around are WASD to mooch along the floor like a mallrat on a dull Sunday afternoon and left-click to winge at things. So when a zombie suddenly pops up like a Whac-a-Mole, it's time for the quick-time events! Even if they weren't the absolute nadir of game design, my laptop only has one built-in keyboard. I don't want to break the Q key. I'll never be able to write about John de Lancie's career again.

No, the core mechanic of Walking Dead is setting you up to make really hard decisions and that's something it does very, very well, more so in the second episode than the first. Right off the bat: "Dum de dum, lovely walk through the forest, AH! A MAN WITH LEG TRAPPED, ZOMBIES COMING, SAVE HIM!" Unfortunately for him, I was carrying a massive fuck-off axe at the time and what with everyone shouting at me, I made a snap decision, a choice of words that the poor bastard's leg might have found appropriate. It took four or five chops, and by the end of it I was almost in the fetal postition in my chair and my legs were crossed like an Amish virgin watching an MMA: First Blood crotch-kicks only match. Then the bloke had the poor manners to die anyway. "Shit," said I. "Maybe that's why the game gave me like six chances to back out. Perhaps someone should take this massive fuck-off axe away from me."

But even the slow decisions can be tough, like immediately afterwards when I had to somehow distribute four food items around ten people while keeping getting yelled at to a minimum, so I just knew I wasn't going to feed the guy who always yells at me anyway because that's what happens when you flood the yelling-at-me based economy.

At its worst, Walking Dead is a bit aggressively railroady and the characters can grate a bit. One bloke had been perfectly happy with all my decisions right from the word go, but one time I refused to help him bludgeon a helpless pensioner to death and he never let me hear the end of it! "I thought you had my back, man!" Ugh, I know someone who's not gonna have a go at my massive fuck-off axe anytime soon. But at its best, Walking Dead is quite absorbing and quite intensivley tense when you know acting fast will mean the difference between characters surviving and the yelling-at-me based economy getting another bail-out. I was going to say I'd be interested in seeing how it all turns out but then I thought about it and I'm actually kind of not.

This is the risk when you go with a setting like a zombie apocalypse which isn't so much tired as about to be taken off life support. I mean, we know how this is going to end, don't we? Either evil military show up or best case scenario, two to four of the least asshole-y survivors go to live on an island somewhere. What do you think they're going to do, find a cure? Rebuild society? Then everyone gets lemonade?

AddendaEdit

A man of no consequence: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

Why is the lower jaw the first thing zombies lose, is it from trying to eat really, really tall sandwiches

A fight, a bite and a website, aight

Extra: JamEdit

So the Escapist Expo is still in September and you should still totally come, but also in October, I've got a second novel coming out! It's called Jam, and you should preorder it from Amazon and tfaw.com . It's about an apocalypse, with jam in it!

ScreenshotsEdit

Walking Dead 1

Here's my hot tip

Walking Dead 2

I made a snap decision

Walking Dead 3

That's what happens when you flood the yelling-at-me based economy

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart

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