Iâ€™m going to be blunt; Episode 4 - Around Every Corner is my least favourite chapter of Telltale's The Walking Dead episodic game - from a story perspective. With that said, the gameplay is more action-packed than previous episodes, and there are a few genuine scares to keep things somewhat exciting.
As always, you take control of Lee, one of a group of survivors continuing to scrape by in a zombie-filled world. Now theyâ€™ve turned up in Savannah, in search of a boat; at least, thatâ€™s the plan.
While on this mission, youâ€™ll meet a few new characters, but whether or not youâ€™ll ever see them again is left a bit up in the air. Your current group, meanwhile, are all in pretty bad shape - especially one guy, whoâ€™s falling apart at the seams. Everything is coming to a boiling point and yet... nothing of great significance happens.
Each of the previous episodes had a stand-alone story that also lead your group to the next part of the journey. The problem with this episode is that I didnâ€™t find its story all that interesting, and thought the ending was a little predictable (one thing in particular that happened seemed oddly convenient, and unexplained.)
Itâ€™s like a TV show with three episodes left until the season finale; the two episodes leading up to the final feel like filler, just setting everything up for the characters to be in place for the last exciting episode. Thatâ€™s what happened here, and Episode 5 looks like itâ€™s going to be a hell of a conclusion to what is otherwise an amazing series.
A bonus for the episode is that some of the emotional stuff, especially the surrogate father / daughter relationship between Lee and Clementine, is top notch. As a player, it is very difficult not to feel protective over her, and that feeling is definitely going to be the main string the developers try to tear at in the next episode. It would be interesting to see stats on which players try to shelter her from the horrible world they are in, versus those who are tough with her and try to prepare her for survival.
As I mentioned earlier, the gameplay was kicked up a notch in the action department this time around. While the majority of the action involves moving a cursor to target something and then clicking, it's handled very well during some tense zombie attacks. There are even a few sequences where the camera shifts to first person, so you can aim those crucial zombie-killing headshots.
The puzzles are a lot simpler than in previous episodes and mostly involve looking around the environment for a certain item you need. Then the rest of the gameplay involves making conversation decisions and again, this is one of The Walking Dead's greatest strengths. The writing and voice acting is amazing and really gets across the emotion and urgency of certain situations.
Most of the time, when you make a dialogue decision, you have a limited time to choose your response. This simulates real-life conversations, in which you donâ€™t get to stare at someone for five minutes while you think of how youâ€™d like to respond. With that said, saying nothing is an option, too.
So while this wasnâ€™t my favourite episode of The Walking Dead, it doesnâ€™t change the fact that this series is truly something special. If I had one wish, it would be that each episode was maybe 30 minutes shorter. There just comes this point in each episode where I am emotionally drained and ready for it to be over, but itâ€™s not done, and the last 30 minutes can be a struggle to get through.
One the technical side, it is a tragedy that my experience is becoming almost completely ruined by stupid bugs. For starters, Iâ€™m forced to play the game in Windowed Mode and I have to run the .exe file as admin - otherwise the game wonâ€™t even start. Additionally, the game was unable to see my previous saved game (this happened to me in episode 2 as well.)
The saved game problem is a major issue, since one of the best things about this series is that the choices you make in each episode carry over in order to customise your experience. Due to this bug I either have to play through each episode again (no thanks) or play the new episode with random decisions the game makes for me. The net result is that there were times that characters accused me of making choices that were the opposite of the ones I actually made, which is a total disaster in a character-driven drama such as this.
Ultimately, serious though they are, the bugs wonâ€™t stop me from playing. After the huge cliffhanger this episode ended on, I cannot wait for the next one to see how the series concludes. I said it in my last review and Iâ€™ll say it again here; Telltaleâ€™s The Walking Dead is one of 2012â€™s best surprises.