'The Walking Dead: Michonne' features great character in a mediocre role

I was a big fan of “The Walking Dead” television show right up until it went in the dumpster, literally and figuratively. Like many fans, I really enjoyed the character of Michonne, and I loved the first two seasons of Telltale’s “The Walking Dead,” so theoretically, “The Walking Dead: Michonne” should be a match made in heaven.

Thus, it was with high hopes that I began the game’s first episode, “In Too Deep.” This story takes place before Michonne meets Andrea and the rest of the group, but after she’s suffered enough trauma to put a normal person in a padded room. Michonne is haunted by the loss of her daughters, and the scenes where she’s having hallucinations are some of the best in the episode.

The downside of having the player control an established character is that many choices feel like a right and a wrong answer. The first choice, whether to shoot yourself in the head, is a complete joke, because you know that Michonne survives for at least several more years. I picked that option just to see what would happen, and sure enough, someone slaps the gun out of the way at the last minute. This choice is totally pointless and takes all the weight off of the player, because they know exactly what’s going to happen.

That turns out to be the low point of the entire episode, though. Immediately after not committing suicide, Michonne joins a crew of characters on board a boat in the swamps of the American south, an interesting and unique location we haven’t seen before. The characters, however, feel recycled from the show or other games. The optimist, pessimist, scared guy and the rational one all make token appearances and have a few lines to summarize their character.

I never complained about the quick time events in previous “Walking Dead” games, because they were one of the only means of engaging in action scenes. Some of the quick time events in “Michonne,” however, are just terrible, requiring the player to move the mouse around rapidly, which is both finicky and annoying. If the developers implement this mechanic in action scenes in future episodes, I can guarantee that almost every player will die at least once.

The writing picks up as well, and the episode goes to appropriately dark places as Michonne discovers how far some people will go to survive. This episode features a massacre and a great interrogation scene, although the interrogation scene is made less interesting because the villains won’t accept the truth, so even if you’re a complete coward and give in immediately there’s almost no change in their reaction.

The ending to the episode also feels rushed and anti-climactic, as the game attempts to play on your heartstrings by killing off a minor character that you haven’t even had time to like yet. Better to cut down the cast of main characters now, I suppose, but I saw the ending coming from a mile away, so any emotional impact from the character’s death is lost.

Making story-heavy games about existing characters in fiction is often a losing proposition. “The Walking Dead: Michonne,” however, does just enough in its premiere episode to pique my interest, even if it doesn’t yet compare Telltale’s best games, including previous “Walking Dead” games.

My score: 7/10


Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.pankowski@uconn.edu.