The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season – PlayStation Vita
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: Aug 20, 2013
Genre: Action, Adventure
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 5 of 5

Those pesky zombies are everywhere, and how they’ve come home to strike terror on your PlayStation Vita with Telltale’s release of The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season, now available retail or on the digital store. This marks my fourth playthrough of the series, so I was eager to try things a bit differently, make alliances with new characters, and go down some different critical paths.

I’ve played the game on PS3, Xbox 360, PC, and the iPad but I honestly have to say that the graphics have never looked as good as they do on the PS Vita. The colors come to life, the framerate seems slightly smoother than the big consoles, and the whole episodic nature of the series and pick-up-and-play accessibility of the game just makes the Vita the perfect home for The Walking Dead.

To recap the story for those still hiding out in their zombie-shelter, the game picks up prior to the events of the TV show. We are introduced to the main character, Lee, who escapes the zombie breakout in Atlanta and becomes the unlikely protector of Clementine; a precocious young girl whose parents are out of town – shhh…don’t tell mom the babysitter’s undead. Over the course of five episodes and 10-12 hours (plus two more for the DLC) of intense emotional gaming, you will engage in conversation, puzzle-solving, combat, and even some basic parenting, as you meet up with an eclectic cast of characters whose survival (and demise) often depend on you and the tough choices you are asked to make.

The Vita offers up two control schemes, one using the buttons and analog sticks, so it plays pretty much like the console version, and then the touchscreen mode, which is like the iPad version only much better. Traditional button controls allows you to choose a harder skill mode where hotspots are not called out visually, but if you go with the touch controls you will always see interactive points on the screen. Walking can still be controlled with the analog stick in touch mode, but there are a few instances where you actually have to click a spot then click the legs icon to go there.

The only real negative thing I have to say about the entire game is that the load times can be a bit annoying at times. Don’t get me wrong; the game is pretty snappy going between scenes and stuff, but when using the touch controls there is this awkward 2-3 second hiccup before the touch icon overlay appears. This was really apparent near the end of Episode One where you are saving Glen from the motel, since most of that entire scene was played out using touch destinations. There is no noticeable delay when using standard controls.

Other than that, the game is fairly flawless. As previously mentioned, the graphics are incredible – sadly they lose much of their richness and luster in my screen caps. The cutscenes and gameplay seamlessly flow together, and a nice panel border appears during the non-interactive moments. The sound effects, music, and voice acting will have you scrambling to find a quality set of headphones. The menus and interface work great whether you go with buttons or the touch screen controls. The analog stick was a little swimmy in some of the action moments like trying to line-up a hammer on a babysitter or the shootout sequence at the motel. The touch screen just made the experience feel very “Vita”, and that was a nice feeling since not many games make “good use” of those features.

Chances are unless the only game system you own is a PS Vita then you’ve probably already played The Walking Dead game…assuming you had any interest in playing it in the first place. This critically acclaimed adventure game miniseries has been released on just about every platform there is, and now Telltale can add Sony’s handheld to the lineup. But rather than just releasing a down and dirty port, the designers actually put some work into this game, adding some unique touch and swipe controls and even throwing in their season-bridging DLC, 400 Days.

So if you’ve never played The Walking Dead games or have been considering playing through them again or possibly even considering buying a PS Vita; you now have a pretty awesome reason. Sony is even offering a Walking Dead Vita Limited Edition Bundle for only $199 that includes the game and a 4GB memory card. With Season Two just around the corner there has never been a better time to play (or replay) The Walking Dead and this new PS Vita version may just be the best way to do that.