The Walking Dead: Michonne Review | Short Dose of Despair

At only 3.5 hours long, The Walking Dead: Michonne is a much shorter experience when compared to the 10 to 12 hour seasons of the main Telltale Games series, and the game is all the better for it. This mini-series follows Michonne, a character that players will recognize from The Walking Dead comics and series on AMC. This storyline has been hinted at in the source material as a backstory for Michonne and it's cool to see it flushed out here for the first time. Michonne is part of a small boat crew surviving the apocalypse when they receive a possible distress signal. They go over to check it out and what follows is enough drama and button prompts to fill three (mostly) well-paced episodes.

Episode 1, titled In Too Deep, is the longest episode in the game and takes its time setting up the various characters at play. Due to this, the episode feels long-winded and although there are a few intense sequences, feels mostly uneventful. Episode 2, Give No Shelter, picks up the pace drastically and keeps the stakes high throughout. Other than one key moment, which I won't spoil, this otherwise grounded story keeps ramping up in momentum with the characters being put into interesting conflicts with both other people and the walking dead. Episode 3, What We Deserve, succeeds at putting the player in the shoes of Michonne like none of the episodes before it. As a new threat approaches the group, it's up to Michonne to either lead them into battle or away from danger. These minute by minute decisions feel urgent and the pace at which decisions have to be made makes it hard to linger on a choice for too long.

The only major story related problem I have with the game has to do with Michonne's visions. It is established from the opening minutes of the game that Michonne has lost her two daughters at the start of the zombie outbreak. Throughout the series, the two girls reappear in the form of jump scares to remind Michonne of her loss. I understand the purpose of reminding the audience about the two girls but in the last few sequences of the game, I found them to be more frustrating than emotional. They appear so often that the final conversation in Episode 3 loses some of the emotional impact that their first few appearances had. This doesn't take away from Michonne's character as a whole and she remains the most well-realized character in the mini-series. It's just a shame that a good chunk of the final moments players spend with her feel drawn out when compared to the rest of the finely tuned conclusion.

Where The Walking Dead: Michonne really shines is in its presentation and performances. This shouldn't be a surprise by now but every frame of the game perfectly mimics the comics from which it takes its inspiration. And despite the cell-shaded aesthetic, the violence on display in Michonne is still as brutal as ever. The character designs coupled with excellent performances from the voice cast, mainly Samira Wiley as Michonne, Malik Yoba as Pete, and Derek Phillips as Randall, make the characters feel real and three dimensional. This is due in large part to writing as well. Conversation feel believable and the game offers some genuine moments of levity if the player decides to go on that path via dialogue options.

The technical shortcomings of the mini-series are to be expected for anyone who has played Telltale Games in the past. While the gameplay was always limited to quick-time events and linear exploration sections, Michonne has perhaps the least amount of either. It's never long enough for you to want to put the controller down and risk missing a button prompt, but Michonne feels more like playing a visual novel or watching an animated comic book than a full-fledged game.

Then there are the rough edges. Running characters look like they're floating in wide shots and fingers and hands often phase in and out of objects. This byproduct of using an outdated engine no doubt adds to the charm of Telltale's games, but the lack of gameplay throughout makes it easier to notice them here than in The Wolf Among Us or Batman: The Telltale Series.

In the end, The Walking Dead: Michonne is an interactive tale that brings to light the backstory of one of the series' most popular characters. Despite not having a solid gameplay loop, the game's length ensures it never overstays its welcome. On its own, it remains a small taste of The Walking Dead universe in the iconic Telltale Games formula. But as a supplement to the AMC series or the comic books, it's a must-play for fans.

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