Lately, I’ve found myself more excited for a new episode in Telltale Games’ episodic game based on The Walking Dead than I am for most other games. I love a good story, especially when something like that is still so hard to come by in video games. After the intense and emotional roller coaster ride that was Episode 3, I couldn’t imagine it getting any better than that. Long Road Ahead was emotionally draining, and it built off of the terrifying events in the second episode brilliantly. Does Around Every Corner continue this series’ trend of getting better with each new episode? Let’s find out. (Oh, and there will be spoilers for episodes 3 in here. Sorry, this really can’t be helped)
As the penultimate installment in Telltale’s episodic series, it’s obvious the goal of this episode is to build up whatever’s going to happen in the fifth and final installment, No Time Left. Because of this, it feels like a bridge between Long Road Ahead and the end, which it is. I just wish it wouldn’t have felt like that.
This isn’t to say this episode is bad, because it isn’t, at all. That’s impressive actually, that even when this series isn’t at its best, it’s story is still far more engaging than most other games.
Around Every Corner picks up where the last one left off. After Kenny’s loss of both his wife and son, in the same episode no less, the only thing that’s keeping him going at this point is the team’s goal of finding a boat so they can get out of there. Of course, it’s not going to be that easy, as Lee and Kenny stumble across a wall of bodies while searching for a boat that marks the border separating Savannah from a new establishment called Crawford. They soon realize that the people of Crawford have taken it upon themselves to weed out the weak, including children, so the only people who are allowed inside the “safety” of their walls are those who can carry their own weight.
Naturally, a reason to visit this place comes up, forcing the group to go in on a mission to retrieve some items.
For the most part, Around Every Corner doesn’t add much in terms of new gameplay mechanics. You’ll be searching various environments for clues or items required to solve puzzles, conversations will be had, and zombies will be mowed down. The only difference in this episode is it tends to throw you into the thick of things a little more often. There are multiple times where you’ll be forced to put your shooter skills to the test against a horde of the undead. I didn’t mind this, because these moments tend to be some of the more intense ones in the episode — the only problem is aiming the gun can be a little floaty, and that’s the last thing you want to have to deal with when a group of zombies are shambling toward you.
I’m also not a fan of not being able to move while shooting. There’s one section later in the episode where I had to clear a door of zombies, and I had to shoot every last one of them before they reached me. I couldn’t back up, strafe, nothing. I got it on the second try, so it’s not a big deal, I just would’ve liked to be able to move around a bit, rather than be forced to remain stationary.
Telltale has become exceptionally good at making me feel insanely paranoid at all times. I’ll watch a group of survivors I just met look at each other as they make a decision on whether or not to help me and I find myself imagining a silent conversation going on between them. I’ll immediately think they want to rob me, kill me, or possibly even eat me, because episode 2 burned that delicious bit of paranoia into my brain forever. Basically, I’ve decided that no one other than Clementine can be trusted at this point, because as this series has proven: people suck.
It doesn’t help having all these shadowy figures stalking the group, including a mysterious man on the radio who has a creepy interest in Clementine.
Speaking of Clementine — this girl may very well be my favorite video game character ever. She’s a sweet girl, but watching her grow up in such a short amount of time and become this smarter, more capable person has been really incredible. Before, I tended to lie to her when things got bad, or at the very least, sprinkle a little sugar onto the truth so as to make it easier to swallow. Now, I’m honest with her, because I know she can (usually) handle it.
Like the rest of The Walking Dead games, this one’s a little rough around the edges. In a weird way, this makes the game feel more charming, but sometimes the lack of polish can make things more frustrating. Outside of the occasionally floaty gunplay I already mentioned, I noticed some awkward animations, stuttering (where the game seems to hiccup for a second or two), various audio issues, and worst of all, incredibly annoying loading screen placement.
It seems that every time the shit has or is about to hit the fan, there’s a loading screen slapped between “Oh,” and “Shit!” and this gets bothersome. It’s probably a little late to do anything about it, so I just wanted to warn you that it’s there, and it’s a problem.
Around Every Corner isn’t as good as the last two episodes, but it does successfully manage to set up what will very likely be an amazing finale. The story, characters, and music are all top notch, and they’re used in some fantastic ways. I can’t remember the last time a game had me so invested in the character I control or interact with. It’s amazing, and I cannot wait to see how it all ends.
The Final Word: If you’ve stuck with the series this far, there’s no reason not to keep going. Around Every Corner isn’t the best episode in the series, but it’s still pretty damn good.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of The Walking Dead.