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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…