Since its release in 2003, The Walking Dead has amassed a growing community and diverged from a comic into several other mediums, including video games and a television show. While the television show and comic book share certain similarities, the episodic adventure series have departed to form new identities. The first of five episodes, Walking Dead: The Game (by Telltale Games) was released on April 12, 2012. It gives you control of a new protagonist and interact with an original cast of characters in this beloved universe, maintaining the intense drama expected from this series. So far, the games have received largely positive reviews from both critics and consumers for its sharp character designs and strong writing. On August 9, The Walking Dead: Social Game was released on Facebook. Although it doesn’t have the same genuine appeal, it instead attempts to attract a larger audience of causal gamers seeking a bonding experience for their favorite show and friends. Both titles indeed carry The Walking Dead name, but make no mistake; they are absolutely different games.
Thanks to Telltale Games for this awesome artwork.
The Walking Dead is known for having inventive and disturbing characters, each with their own reasons for living and dying. Developers at Telltale Games were able to mimic these concepts and implement them within their game perfectly. Each person you interacted with had a specific personality and set of ideals that shift as events unfold. The protagonist Lee Everett, a convicted history professor given a second chance, has been praised for being having a malleable personality and having direct control over the people he talks to. Almost all the elements that make the Telltale version of The Walking Dead great was completely stripped in the Facebook version, leaving you with a husk of a game that can be easily mistaken for a mundane zombie experience, if The Walking Dead title was removed. It’s a universe where people are as dead as the walkers you fight.
Immediately after starting The Walking Dead Social Game, I realized this was dramatically different. Instead of you controlling someone as memorable as Lee Everett, you manipulate a series of mute characters within many bland environments. You do play and interact with characters from the television series such as Rick and Carl, but these moments are purely cosmetic since all of them offer no dialogue. This game is not meant to test your judgment with difficult choices, but provide you simple entertainment for you and your Facebook friends. You are constantly reminded to share your accomplishments, inform people that you killed a special zombie with a picture hovering overhead, and ask others to join in on the monotony. In that perspective, The Walking Dead: Social Game is a successful social game to encourage people to play together, but not as a Walking Dead game.
It’s hard to properly capture the atmosphere of The Walking Dead, because you have to create a world where the characters have some sense of hope while being overwhelmed by the horrors around them. Objectives and goals are constantly in flux, but survival always takes priority within The Walking Dead. This is something that is always present in Lee’s life, but absent in the social game. Both games have you take a series of missions that center on gathering supplies, doing favors, and killing walkers using point and click controls. Neither game offers stellar gameplay, but I appreciated that Telltale Games didn’t force me to watch pointless videos for more ammunition, coax me into a microtransaction scheme, or annoy me with pointless RPG elements. The Walking Dead: Social Game is free (should you decide avoid paying for stuff) and Telltale’s entire adventure will cost you $25, but Lee’s adventure is worth every penny for those seeking the best possible Walking Dead game to date.
Without a proper story the characters would be meaningless, though this is not the case with Telltale’s adventure. Lee and his group are continuously faced with difficult ordeals to overcome the undead, the living, and basic survival. New characters and old allies propel the narrative, setting new goals and new problems within each episode. In one episode, Lee is dealing with the initial outbreak. In another scenario, the group is attempting to find a new safe haven. Ultimately, it all comes down to one thing: Survival. And sadly, the social game doesn’t attempt to strive from that. Instead, your entire journey has you looking for supplies; you won’t find yourself deviating from this.
The Walking Dead has built itself as a respected and admirable series, and it isn’t strange that people are attempting to profit from that. Telltale Games successfully captures the atmosphere and drama that has made this take on the zombie apocalypse one that shouldn't be missed. On the other hand, The Walking Dead: The Social Game is a tedious flash game that does little to immerse you into the world and allows for some cheap thrills with your Facebook friends. One is certainly worthy of The Walking Dead title, and the other is merely for show.