A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know The Walking Dead: A Telltale Series Collection is an anthology of previously released episodes in Telltale Games' Walking Dead adventure game series. These games put players in control of characters living through a zombie apocalypse. They must defend themselves against the living dead with guns, knives, and blunt objects employed as bludgeons. Combat is often gory, with heads smashed in, limbs chopped off, and bodies torn apart, often with lots of blood splashing and pooling on the ground. Players also see humans fighting, torturing, and killing each other, with villains sometimes clearly enjoying the violence. Players step into a number of characters through the series, controlling their behavior by choosing actions and responses in dialogue, which means they can come off as kind and helpful, mean and selfish, or a mix of good and bad qualities. The narrative explores situations in which there's often no right answer, but rather only moral gray zones in which the player is forced to choose who lives and who dies, who to help and who to abandon, and must be prepared to live with the consequences. Parents should also note that the series contains plenty of strong profanity, drinking and smoking, and occasional references to sex.
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What's it about?
THE WALKING DEAD: A TELLTALE SERIES COLLECTION anthologizes the first three seasons (plus bonus content and mini-series) of the adventure game series based on the popular zombie comic book written by Robert Kirkman, allowing players to experience every episode back-to-back from within a streamlined hub. It also features visual enhancements designed to bring earlier seasons into alignment with later episodes by tweaking character and object models, textures, and lighting effects. But the narrative -- and the choices players can make within it -- remains unchanged. Players take control of several different characters throughout the three seasons and mini-series, from Clementine -- a charming kid forced to grow up in a hurry to survive in a zombie wasteland -- to Michonne, one of the most popular characters from both the books and companion TV show. There's a good deal of gruesome zombie action that requires players to tap buttons on command to attack and defend themselves, but the bulk of the experience involves listening to non-player characters talk and then deciding how your character ought to respond or act. These choices can drastically change events within the game, affecting not just whether others like or trust your character, but even whether they live or die. As in the books, the drama and intensity stem more from interactions with other humans than from the constant threat of the raised dead.
Is it any good?
This collection of action games features play that appeals from chapter to chapter to the mature players who loves this franchise's brutal and morally ambiguous content. And since The Walking Dead: A Telltale Series Collection simply puts all existing seasons together while spiffing up the earlier episodes' graphics to take advantage of modern hardware, little has changed. These are still good games -- especially the emotionally charged first-season, which is likely to leave players both new and returning players struggling to hold back sobs. They've helped establish games as a medium in which storytelling and characters matter, and have convinced many that interactive entertainment can go beyond winning and losing to become true art that digs into the human experience. Later seasons don't quite manage to match the intensity of the first series of five episodes, but they still provide reason for players to care about and remain invested in several characters, particularly young Clementine, who's had to grow up in a world of living dead.
So, folks who've never played these games before are in for a treat. But should existing fans pay again to play the same games? While side-by-side video comparisons nicely illustrate the visual upgrades given to the first couple of seasons, it's unlikely most people will really notice them while playing. And while it's handy to have all episodes contained and easily accessible within a single hub menu, that's not really a reason to spend a second time. Maybe the best reason to play again is simply to see how the series has evolved over the years, becoming more streamlined and intuitive in its world interactions, with less focus on finding items and figuring out little contextual puzzles, and more on characters and world-building. But you can experience this by simply playing the seasons you already own. So, while The Walking Dead: A Telltale Series Collection earns an enthusiastic thumb up for anyone yet to play, those who've already experienced this terrific adventure game series can save their money for the soon-to-be-released fourth and final season.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in the media. The Walking Dead's intense violence is often meant to stir an emotional reaction, but could the game achieve a similar audience response without resorting to blood and gore?
Talk about morality. How do you go about resolving a moral dilemma without an easy or obviously "right" course of action?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Price: $49.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Telltale Games
- Release date: December 5, 2017
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Suggestive Themes
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.