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“The Walking Dead” game review: A fresh approach to life with the living dead

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It’s no secret that “The Walking Dead” bucked the norm by offering up a television series based on Robert Kirkman’s award-winning comic that was actually, well… really, really good. So how does one follow up on that kind of unexpected success? By taking the comic’s post-apocalyptic, zombie saga to the gaming world, apparently.

The first episode of “The Walking Dead” game was released this weekend on various platforms, and the project’s arrival is worth noting for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is the fact that it’s a very good game. However, at a time when a new zombie-killing game seems to hit shelves every month, the most impressive element of “The Walking Dead” might not be how good it is, but rather the way it manages to be completely different from every other living-dead game out there.

Developed by Telltale Games, “The Walking Dead” is the latest in a line of successful, episodic games created by the company that feature a style of gameplay more akin to choose-your-own-adventure stories than traditional console games. In the game, you take on the role of Lee Everett, a convicted criminal on his way to prison when the police car transporting him overturns on the highway. Freed from his shackles and on the run from flesh-hungry “walkers” (as they’re called in “The Walking Dead” universe), he eventually crosses paths with a young girl named Clementine. He agrees to help the girl find her family, and the pair fall in with a group of survivors trying to find safe haven in a world filled with shambling monsters.

As with their previous licensed titles like “Back to the Future” and “Jurassic Park,” the game progresses in a fairly linear narrative that periodically requires the player to make choices that will determine how events unfold in subsequent chapters of the story. These choices frequently take the form of conversations the player-controlled character has with other survivors, or timing-based actions (i.e., quickly hit the “A” button to kick the zombie away!) and occasional detective work (looking for clues around the screen).

In fact, when it comes down to it, there’s very little zombie-killing that goes on in the first episode of “The Walking Dead” game – and it’s a trait the game shares with both the original comic book and its television counterpart. Like all of the various iterations of “The Walking Dead,” the focus is on character development and the emotions that develop when people are caught up in such a massive, grim, and catastrophic event.

That’s not to say the game doesn’t offer a few impressively gruesome skirmishes, though. In addition to the sequences that have you lopping off, stabbing, or otherwise destroying zombies’ heads, there are more than a few brawls with other survivors that can either be provoked or avoided entirely with the right exchange of dialogue (or a well-timed punch). Despite the linear nature of the story, there’s a feeling that anything can happen among the survivors, and you’d do well to keep tabs on all of your companions.

For fans of the comic book and television series, there are also quite a few cameos by popular characters and set pieces, including Hershel (and his farm) and Glenn. It’s made clear that the events in the game occur well before Rick Grimes encounters the characters in the comic and TV show, so there’s a nice bit of back story that the game adds to the world of “The Walking Dead.”

In many ways, the episodic style of Telltale’s game seems like a natural fit for the universe of “The Walking Dead,” as all of the projects based on the series feature long periods of slow, emotional character development punctuated by sudden bursts of violence and gory action. When you’re forced to deal with a zombie (or the occasional human enemy) in the game, you have precious little time to ponder the appropriate response. What’s more, it’s made clear early on that your fate – and the fate of Clementine – will depend just as much on your decisions during these hectic moments as the choices you make when things are calm.

If there’s any negative to be found in the first installment of “The Walking Dead,” it’s that the episode reaches its conclusion far too soon. It took less than two hours to play through the first episode, and that was with one or two “deaths” along the way. Still, at $5 an episode (or 400 Microsoft Points), there’s an argument to be made that the game offers a more fulfilling experience than a $4 comic book with 24 pages of story.

For fans of “The Walking Dead,” the game certainly makes a case for being must-have material, as there’s a genuine feeling that what you do in the game plays a role in shaping the canon of the series – or at the very least, your perception of the series’ canon. More than anything else, however, the game provides an exceptionally good way to wait out the time between issues of the comic and seasons of “The Walking Dead” TV series — and hey, you can always replay the first episode of the game and rethink your decisions while waiting for the next episode to be released.

”The Walking Dead” is available for PC and Mac computers via the Telltale Game Store, and for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 via Xbox Live and the Playstation Network, respectively.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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