Remember to check out Chamberlain's writings over at Infinite Backlog. He's good people.
After a long hiatus, Chamberlain & Chance returns to pretty much agree that The Walking Dead : 400 Days is a pleasant little aperitif, whetting one's appetite for season 2. I'm a bit ashamed to admit - Mogs and I tried to do one of these for Lollipop Chainsaw that just kinda' petered out and went nowhere, which was entirely my fault. Mogs? We have got to try again.
This one takes the form of a kind of post-mortem, so if you haven't yet played the game, you may wish to avert your eyes - for thar be spoilers - both for 400 Days and TWD season 1. I'll get a spoiler-free review up after I've done a second playthrough - tonight or tomorrow at the latest.
If you haven't played season 1 yet, read this review and then go play season 1, because it's awesome. You can get the first episode free, the whole first season for twenty bucks, and 400 Days for a fiver.
All good? Good. Let's rock.
CHAMBERLAIN : Have you played it yet?
I am not sure the game works without Clementine…
CHANCE : Every night I tell myself I'm gonna', and then I start playing Fury mode on Muramasa and forget about it >.< I've got to get over that game.
CHAMBERLAIN : It will take you about an hour and a half, surely you can do without your Vita for that long.
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f o u r d a y s l a t e r
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CHANCE : I dunno man, I really liked it. I thought Shel, Russel and Bonnie's stories were all excellent - really grabbing me by the emotions quickly, and effectively - and I enjoyed The Walking Dead's continued dedication to the mutilation of dudes' ankles.
In their own way Russel and Becca kind of fill Clem's void (though if we never see Clem again, I will be pissed), and I like how... varied and well-defined the characters are. I like how Shel (or my Shel, at least), is really driven by her need to maintain a sense of human decency, and you can see how troubled she is by Becca's quickly-eroding morals.
The only part that pissed me off was when I drew the gun on... whatever the baseball-cap wearin' prick's name was as Russel, but couldn't pull the trigger. As soon as the guy said "load that," I was thinkin' "well if I shoot him in the head now, the truck might crash..."
I'm totally doing it over so everyone joins. 'Cept maybe the bearded stoner. I moderately enjoyed his banter with the other stoner dude, but not enough.
|How these two survived this long is totally beyond me.|
CHAMBERLAIN : It was definitely good, I just missed the parental aspects of the first season. There was no one that I wanted to protect and the shifting viewpoints made me feel like an observer instead of a participant.
My Shel shot the traitor instead of driving away, so she and Becca did not go along to the camp. Russel didn’t go, either, but I am not sure what I could have done differently. The prisoner (whose name I have forgotten) looks to be the leader of the new group, which I am okay with.
And no dissing the stoner dude, he reminds me of people that we all went to college with.
CHANCE : I guess I'd be more attached to the parental aspect of Clem - protecting her, teaching her survival, et cetera - if Season 1 had a point where all the lessons Lee taught Clem actually paid off in a meaningful way (or if Clem dying was actually possible), but I can't recall that ever happening. That somehow worked really well in The Last of Us during the Winter sequence, where we see how much of Joel has ended up in Ellie - even though none of it was driven by player choice.
|The Walking Dead season 1 - Lee & Clem - I hope you took the spoiler warning seriously.|
CHAMBERLAIN : There were two points when it paid off. The first was in the shed on the tracks when she screwed up and almost got them both killed.
The second was when Clem had to shoot Lee in the head.
CHANCE : What happens if you didn't train her right? She misses and Lee gets gut-shot?
(I told her not to waste the bullet - the girl's been through enough, I reckon - and what if it's the bullet that ends up saving her life?)
CHAMBERLAIN : You are diverging into how player input has very little to do with what happens in Walking Dead. At the time, in the moment, it was a tragic triumph. In retrospect it was going to get there no matter what you did.
The new one is doing the same thing. It feels like you could have handled the stoners segment differently and not abandon his friend, but you can’t. There is a story that is going to be told here and we only have control of the window dressing. I don’t have a problem with this because I never play a game more than once anyway.
I had her shoot him. Got to play it safe.
|Shel and Becca.|
CHANCE : Right - in TWD and TLoU, player choice [as it relates to the narrative] matters less than the emotional resonance of what we're being put through, and how we as the audience react to it. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting 400 Days to be as... punchy as it was. Deciding if the thieves live or die, what I'm prepared to teach my little sister, the creeping fear of a hillbilly truck comin' up behind me on a highway, the terrible guilt of one awful mistake...
At least it proves that Telltale still really have a handle on the emotions of their audience. Going into it, knowing it was five mini-'sodes, I was expecting its choices and trials to have a lot less impact. I came away pretty impressed, and rather hyped for season 2 - as if I wasn't hyped already.
It kinda' says to me "psst - it's been almost a year, but remember how awesome TWD was? It'll be that awesome again!"
CHAMBERLAIN : They certainly weren’t pulling any punches. Blowing off a guy’s foot with a shotgun at close range and having to shoot him twice to get it done is not something that I want to see again.
CHANCE : I do. I'm totally replaying it tonight. I'm gonna' shoot the other guy's foot.
CHAMBERLAIN : I actually got a bit confused and shot the wrong guy. Wanted to shoot the scummy white collar criminal.
Oopps. Going to roll with it anyway.
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And lo, 400 Days is a pleasant, interesting introduction to the next season of Telltale's award-winning adventure series. We were told it "bridges" the two seasons, but that's patently untrue - there's only one reference to the first season that I caught, and it's largely meaningless.
One thing that, I'll admit, really surprised me? I never played a character who happened upon a little baseball cap, and decided to keep it.
...I think I'll go replay it now.