And while the game does rely on that most hated of mechanics – the quick-time event – they’re carefully mapped so that they bring you closer to the character and what’s happening to them, rather than work as a simple shorthand for a sequence of acrobatic moves. When you’re hammering that button or waggling that stick, it’s because your protagonist needs to do something urgently or they will die. Similarly, the use of a time gauge when making dialogue choices is a masterstroke. You need to say something, even when the choices are so bleak that you’d rather say nothing.
The Walking Dead: 400 Days - Enough Drama?
In this respect, The Walking Dead and 400 Days are the successors of Quantic Dream’s Interactive Drama, Heavy Rain, but here the activities are more coherent and the quality of the storytelling is more consistent. 400 Days is incredibly gripping, but it does have one problem: length.
It doesn’t really matter that the episode is short, and will be pushed through by most players in around 90 minutes to two hours. At £3.99 on Steam and PSN or 400 MSPoints it’s not expensive, and you can wring out some extra value by playing again to see how different choices affect the outcome – and it appears the season to come. What does matter is that each episode only gives you twenty minutes to get to know that character, and that’s not really enough time to build up much of a rapport.
What’s more, not all the episodes are equally powerful. One, featuring a pair of stoners on the run from a survivor gang, feels comparatively lightweight, while another, set on a prison truck, falls into a number of clichés. You can’t help feeling that, had Telltale focused on the three strongest stories, you would have had more time with those characters and felt even more involved. That’s not to say that the storytelling is ever sloppy. Even its weakest parts are better written than most other games, and it’s great to see a game that doesn’t underestimate its audience, and that understands that what you don’t show can mean as much as what you do.
You do need to have invested in season one to play 400 Days, but if you haven’t already, then there’s no better time to sort that out. We’re talking about one of the best and most exciting games of the last twelve months, and one you really ought to play. And if you did buy season one, then 400 Days is damn near essential. It doesn’t reach the same heights as episodes 3,4 or 5, but it is still brilliant, and as a taster of what’s to come, very promising indeed.
You’ll wish you had more time to spend in specific episodes, but this anthology of tales from the world of The Walking Dead can still be gut-wrenching, nerve-wracking and powerful, thanks to Telltale’s excellent storytelling and atmospheric graphics that make the characters feel alive. If you’ve played The Walking Dead this is essential. If you haven’t, buy it now and then buy this.