DID YOU READ

“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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.