Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platform: XBLA, PSN (PS3, Vita), iOS, Android, PC (Steam)
Release Date: July 5, 2013
ESRB: M for Mature
This review is based on the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game.
In 2012, Telltale wowed gamers with The Walking Dead, an emotionally gripping episodic adventure game. Since the fifth and final episode was released, gamers were eagerly awaiting 'Season 2' of the series, and more well written zombie apocalyptic goodness. However, while we wait for Season 2 later this year, Telltale offers us The Walking Dead: 400 Days to hold us over. This special linking episode introduces us to five new characters, their stories taking place over various points in the first 400 days of the Walker outbreak.
Because Telltale is trying to introduce five new characters in the span of a typical episode from Season 1, their stories end up being quite short. None of the stories really last more than twenty minutes. However, despite that short time, you get a feel for each of the characters and their personalities. As with Season 1, the writing in 400 Days is superb, and certainly helps in giving each of the characters their own personalities in short a short time frame.
Each of the character's short stories accumulates into one major decision, the gravity of which depending on the character. It's unfortunately a bit unbalanced, with some decisions seeming far harder and more important than others, but they all make sense within the context of the characters' plots. Of course, these decisions don't quite pack the same punch as the decisions in Season 1, since there's little way you can be as emotionally invested in the characters in 400 Days due to short length of the stories, but it's nice to even see some difficult decisions to make in the first place.
These short stories all accumulate in a final scene, where you see the affects of your decisions in the characters' subsequent decisions with the situation posed to them. It's interesting to see how the big decision you made in each character's path affects how they react to the new situation, and who ends up deciding what. It's a satisfactory conclusion to the episode, and despite its short length it doesn't feel forced or rushed.
It's also interesting how Telltale has each character's story take place over different times within the 400 day time frame. For example, Vince's tale takes place only 2 days in, when few knew what was going on and were still figuring out exactly the Walkers were. Alternatively, Shei's tale takes place almost an entire year in, when survivors are practically used to this new, brutal way of life and are finding ways to even use the cataclysmic event to their advantage. It's a nice framing device to see how the world has changed, and how those that still live struggle and eventually become accustomed to their new way of life.
Unfortunately, I don't really see how your decisions in Season 1 affect your time with 400 Days. There's only a very small reference to anyone or anything in Season 1 in one of the character's story, but it seems unlikely that the reference had any impact on that plotline, or of any of the other stories. It's a tad disappointing, but it's also expected, seeing as 400 Days is supposed to introduce new survivors in a new area.
In short, if you liked the first season of The Walking Dead, definitely pick up 400 Days. It may be short, but it still carries the same quality and care that was put into the original games. If this episode is anything to go by, Season 2 is looking to be another great gaming experience!
+ Engaging story and great storytelling keep you engaged
+ Ending sequence allows you to see the effect of your decisions immediately
- Short length doesn't allow for an emotional connection with the characters
- Hard to see your decisions from Season 1, and this title may not affect anything in Season 2
Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10)
For only $5, 400 Days is a nice teaser for what Telltale has to come. However, it really is nothing more than a teaser, whose lasting impressions may quickly fade.