Even amid the vast expanse of zombie-themed games, films and television shows, The Walking Dead has managed to stand out. Ignoring Survival Instinct, the concept has been a success in multiple mediums, including Telltale Games’ critically acclaimed episodic title. Originally released in five parts (along with some recent DLC) on PSN, XBLA and Steam, The Walking Dead is now shambling over to the PlayStation Vita for some mobile mayhem. So, how does it translate to the handheld market? Let’s see.
In many ways, The Walking Dead‘s interface of clicking to interact with objects and selecting various dialogue options feels more natural with the touch screen. When the game switches to a first-person perspective, however, looking around seems to happen too fast when swiping the screen. Walking is a little spotty as well, but even with touch controls turned on you can still use the analog stick for that. The controller setup found in the console versions is available if you’d like, but I’d suggest at least giving the new method a chance.
Any concerns that the game’s most important feature — it’s emotional weight — would be diminished by the transition to a small screen are unfounded. Instead, The Walking Dead carries the same impact as you watch relationships strengthen and deteriorate, group members come and go, and backdrops change from drug stores to farms and so on. The art style holds up marvelously on the small screen, and I never found the decreased size to hinder any aspect of the game.
Unfortunately, all the same graphical hiccups and frame rate slowdowns made the transition as well, and in fact they seem even worse now. Many times lines of dialogue would accompany a stationary image on the screen, followed by silence and eventually the lip-synching animations that should have played initially. It never messed up the gameplay, but in a game when story trumps action at every turn getting pulled out of the moment hurts.
Nothing has changed on the audio side, and that’s a good thing as all of the game’s voice actors do a superb job from start to finish. This being my second playthrough, I consciously made a lot of different choices, and it was really impressive to hear so much new dialogue between characters. Both the effects (gun shots, screams, moans, etc.) and soundtrack do a great job as well.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story arc, The Walking Dead follows an evolving group of survivors with the primary focus on Lee (that’s you) and Clementine, a little girl you’re charged with protecting. The game changes dynamically based on your decisions, which range from big issues (who lives/dies) to smaller ones (who you side with during arguments). If you’re interested in reading about each of the episodes in more detail, our own Mike Chen covered them individually when they released: Episode #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5.
Beyond the primary story, the Vita version includes the recent 400 Days add-on, which is meant to bridge the gap between the original game and the upcoming sequel. As such, it’s much shorter, focusing on five separate stories, and less involved than the main game. Once again, for more details check out Mike’s full review of the DLC.
For me, being able to play the story’s entirety in one continuous experience was great, though it does lead to one minor complaint. Given that the Vita version of The Walking Dead is only available as a full series, it would’ve been nice if the presentation had been streamlined. By which I mean removing end-of-episode trailers as well as the recaps that open the next episode; between those two items, the credits and getting kicked back to the main menu you end up sitting through almost 10 minutes of stuff you don’t need to see or do.
Nitpicks and technical issues aside, this is a quality port of an excellent, story-driven game. Even if you already played it on consoles this is a great excuse to do it again and experiment with your choices. And if you’ve somehow never played The Walking Dead this is your chance to rectify that oversight.