The Walking Dead: 400 Days

The Walking Dead: 400 Days Eric Layman

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Written by Eric Layman     July 03, 2013    
 
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Release Date
July 02, 2013
Storage Size
533 MB
MSRP $
4.99
ESRB
Players

We'll get there, or somewhere, eventually. 

For being spread over such a large span of time, The Walking Dead: 400 Days doesn't have much to waste. Purchased as downloadable content for Season 1 and serving as a bridge to Season 2, 400 Days tells five different stories from five new survivors over the course of about ninety minutes. Each tale is playable in any order, and while 400 Days doesn't explicitly Tarantino-twist its narratives together, there's enough connective tissue for both observation and speculation.

Without five episodes and a core cast of characters, 400 Days was expected to condense and contain the macabre sentiment found in The Walking Dead. Quick decisions forged through moral ambiguity require endearing, but not necessarily enduring, personalities. 400 Days obliges its ethos behind characters that aren't supernatural or exaggerated to the point of disbelief, but rather quirky, damaged, or provocative enough to identify with and root for until their sharp conclusion.

In other words, 400 Days is happy to provide just the player enough rope to hang himself or herself with. Anyone who played The Walking Dead knows that its decisions were less like diving into a bed full of puffalumps versus a tank full of angry badgers and more like choosing to rescue your best friend or your grandmother. No choice was clear cut and 400 Days runs that same play through each of its five stories - and it works almost every time because of the unique context presented to each character's situation.

Shel's story, in particular, drove me nuts looking for the "right" answer. She's protective of her younger sister Becca and wants to shield her from the dangers of the outside world. When conflict arose my instinct was to lie to Becca regarding the dire circumstances of the situation, but I instantly regretted it because said outside world was filled with the titular walking dead and there's precisely zero room for sunshine and lollipops. It's not clear how 400 Days will filter into Season 2 (or what exactly it incorporates from Season 1), but I didn't want to make a decision that might leave Becca in a compromised position somewhere down the road. No answer seemed entirely safe, so I made a choice and had to live with it - hopefully along with Becca.

Wyatt's tale also went past the game and straight to my head. Without getting into specifics, my need for self preservation superseded the mission at hand, and in an effort to get the hell out of dodge I, well, got the hell out of dodge. I'm not only talking about Wyatt, but also myself playing Wyatt. I completely forgot what I was doing and only realized the consequences of Wyatt’s escape when it was too late. I, and by extension Wyatt, screwed up even though I was trying to do right.

There's no right answer. There's never a right answer, and that's what both The Walking Dead and 400 Days get so right. The zombie apocalypse affords rationality to either kill or be killed or the sanctity of human life, though Telltale's take on it consistently makes it a thoroughly human story. It's not about the zombies, but rather what lengths people go do because of them.

400 Days also recorded a record number of involuntary expletives issued throughout its brief tenure. There’s some gnarly stuff in here; one particular situation involving head injury is the most dispassionately devastating sequences in any episode and possibly any game. Actions have consequences, which is expected, but 400 Days makes you think you're removing a band aid but instead the whole arm comes off. It’s unsettling, effective, and probably the kind of damage close range gunfire or blunt force trauma would do in real life.

If there's any negative, 400 Days could have done without its brief epilogue. There was enough minutia in each of the five stories to connect them together, and the tie that bound them at the end felt like a whimper rather than a bang. Worse, it wrapped up a few lingering cliffhangers with some throwaway dialogue, and built toward a conclusion that would have made just as much sense in an eventual future installment. Or maybe not considering I'm completely ignorant of Telltale's plans, but in its moment that closing felt ineffective and unnecessary.

With Season 1 of The Walking Dead, I eventually got into a rut where I felt like I knew the rules. A wrong move might result in a restart at worst and nothing at best, and I had faith that the long term was ultimately a carefully controlled and neatly concealed path. I don’t know what 400 Days is leading to, which returns the threat of the unknown. Is the surviving cast going to be part of Season 2 proper? Are they all going to be main characters each with their own episode? Do the choices I made really matter in the grand scheme of the story? I have no idea, and that's precisely what makes it so attractive and potentially valuable.

Previous The Walking Dead reviews: Episode 1: A New Day | Episode 2: Starved for Help | Episode 3: Long Road Ahead | Episode 4: Around Every Corner | Episode 5: No Time Left

 

Editor reviews

400 Days is a neatly constructed collection of short stories that follow the macabre sentiment established by The Walking Dead. Will its cast be part of the eventual second season? Or is 400 Days merely intended to establish a mood and setting? Do the choices I made really matter in the grand scheme of Telltale’s story? I have no idea, and that's precisely what makes it so attractive and potentially valuable.
Overall rating 
 
8.4
Gameplay 
 
8.0
Presentation 
 
9.0
Value  
 
9.0
Fun Factor 
 
8.0
Tilt 
 
8.0
Eric Layman Reviewed by Eric Layman July 03, 2013
Last updated: July 04, 2013
Top 10 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (268)

The Walking Dead: 400 Days

400 Days is a neatly constructed collection of short stories that follow the macabre sentiment established by The Walking Dead. Will its cast be part of the eventual second season? Or is 400 Days merely intended to establish a mood and setting? Do the choices I made really matter in the grand scheme of Telltale’s story? I have no idea, and that's precisely what makes it so attractive and potentially valuable.

Videogames

Gameplay
There’s not much of a traditional game to speak of, but few games are as capable of producing tension and forcing the player to deal with it – even if it is just multiple choice.
Presentation
400 Days excels through fresh characters that aren't supernatural or exaggerated to the point of disbelief, but rather quirky, damaged, or provocative enough to identify with and root for until their sharp conclusion.
Value
Five dollars isn’t an unreasonable asking price. 400 Days’ deliberate decision to leave Season 1’s plot alone was a smart choice, but those seeking additional resolution might be disappointed.
Fun Factor
400 Days obliges The Walking Dead’s ethos through characters that aren't supernatural or exaggerated, but quirky, damaged, or provocative enough to identify with and root for until their sharp conclusion. “Fun” is sort of a misnomer in that regard but it remains a fascinating look at interactive storytelling.
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