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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.