Confession time: I am ashamed to say that I have yet to play The Escapists.
Confession time, part two: aside from the first season of the television series (which I watched once years ago), I am entirely unfamiliar with The Walking Dead.
That being said, The Escapists: The Walking Dead has caught my attention. Let’s be real, zombies are awesome. They represent a loss of control for the human race while being bloody and brain-hungry. It doesn’t matter if they slowly stagger or run like gazelles, the idea of zombies can make us fear losing control of our minds, bodies, and souls. More importantly, the undead make for excellent fodder in video games.
Team17 is the publisher behind this most recent take on The Walking Dead. Originally a comic book, The Walking Dead found a new level of success when it was developed for television by AMC. It has also been the subject of a video game in the past in Telltale’s episodic game of the same name, which has expanded into multiple “seasons” (more commonly known as sequels). Team17 went back to the original comic books for inspiration, and combined that with the gameplay and graphics of its hit game The Escapists.
Rick Grimes is the game’s antagonist, and how each level plays out over several days is based on his actions and directions. The player controls him directly, but he can sometimes direct other familiar characters on what to do. In that case, a small viewing window pops up to show how the task is going. Mostly, though, Rick finds items and puts them to use. Items can be weapons, tools, or components; components can be used to craft weapons or tools. Weapons can be used to kill zombies. Tools can be used to do things or get to places previously off-limits.
The Escapists: The Walking Dead is comprised of five levels: Harrison Memorial Hospital, Greene Family Farm, Meriwether Correctional Facility, Woodbury, and Alexandria. Of which, for the purposes of this preview, I only got to play a couple of them. But the levels are presented in the order which coincides with the comic’s timeline, and the story follows that same timeline. The purpose of each level is the same: Rick and the others must find a safe escape route while having as few casualties as possible. As someone almost entirely blind to The Walking Dead as a whole, I found it difficult to have any emotion about characters dying; there is actually only very minute amounts of character development in the entire game.
Due to The Escapists: The Walking Dead’s other inspiration of the original Team17 game The Escapists, the zombies in the game aren’t quite as graphic as they have been portrayed in the past. The zombies in the game are somehow both adorable and gory (adoragory?) in their wonderful 8-bit form. The entire game has the same charming yet terrifying feel due to the graphics combined with the terrifying tale of the living being outnumbered by the undead.
The vintage-inspired graphics are only complimented by the music and sound effects. First and foremost, good headphones are a must to truly experience the sound properly. Zombies dying are perhaps the best sound effect, all gurgling and wet. The music itself has several points of familiarity as it does often resemble almost any arcade game music, but with a contemporary overlay that doesn’t lay on the nostalgia too thickly.
The replay appeal in The Walking Dead: The Escapists is almost infinite. To start, each level has comic books to find (and finding them all on the first try is not necessarily an easy task). But it is the online leaderboards that will add the most replay value as players can slay their way to the top by racking up the most points in a level.
This is perhaps the most polished game preview I’ve ever encountered, so hats off to the development team for their hard work to this point. For forgetful folks like myself, the game already seamlessly switches between keyboard/mouse and controllers. And not once did I encounter a single bug. I’m not psychic, but The Walking Dead: The Escapists may justifiably be Team 17’s biggest hit this side of Worms.
– Lindsay M.