OK let’s start with the elephant in the room. Yes, the game I’m about to review was released back in Spring 2016 – an almost unrecognisable world where Cap and Iron Man were yet to even fall out and I, along with many others, still actually enjoyed The Walking Dead TV series. UK readers, if you want to know just how long ago that was, it was before the Brexit vote took place which feels like a lifetime ago doesn’t it? Good times.
So, The Walking Dead: Michonne is not a new game by any stretch, but it is new to Xbox’s Game Pass – where it just might have found its perfect home. Available as part of a monthly subscription, considerations like value for money seems less important than they might have been for gamers shelling out around £10/$15 for the game’s three, relatively short episodes.
The sheer volume and variety of games available through Game Pass also position the game in a new and most positive light. With its shorter length and Telltale’s brand of interactive storytelling, The Walking Dead: Michonne was exactly what I was looking for – an engaging and refreshing palette-cleanser between larger, more demanding gaming feasts.
Pitched as a miniseries and intended to act as a companion piece to the comics, the game takes place between issues 126 and 139 and aims to show us what the eponymous fan-favourite was doing in the interim period. And, like all of the modern Telltale titles, it is as much a question of “showing” as “doing” during its five or so hours of narrative and character-focussed gameplay.
It’s certainly not a title that’s going to test your gaming skill beyond some pretty basic reaction tests. Interactivity is still limited to a drag of the thumbstick here, a few button presses there and a very small number of semi-explorable environments. But, compared to the previous games at least, the game does have a higher emphasis on action. Those prompted button presses come both thicker and faster than I recall from the earlier full series and they make up a good number of satisfyingly gory set pieces.
And it’s not just gore that makes these sequences come alive, with a great sense of movement and urgency really getting across just how much of a bad-ass Michonne is at this stage. These moments also feel extremely cinematic, helped by the screen transitioning to a wider aspect ratio and some excellent direction that made me reach for my screenshot button more regularly than is probably healthy (and particularly as I often missed the moment!).
But there’s also plenty I found to enjoy outside of the set pieces and that I think other fans of cinematic storytelling would too. It certainly looks great, particularly when it’s not in motion and there is some fantastic character work on display too. The game opens with a powerful scene set in the not-quite-present day and spends a fair amount of time then cutting between present day and flashback as we proceed. This device, and the flashbacks in particular, brilliantly conveyed a sense of guilt that hangs over Michonne whenever she stops fighting. So why stop?
There are issues, for sure. The short length was not a problem for me (it was as much a plus as a minus) and shouldn’t be for anyone playing via Game Pass. However, it did make this mini-series feel particularly “mini”, a tiny experience that’s part of a wider story of which I’d have liked to explore more. I felt this is particularly in terms of character development; where it really feels like a snapshot in time for Michonne but where other characters go from unknown to friends to usually something else before you really get to know them. Maybe I should go back and read the comics.
So, The Walking Dead: Michonne is a short, smart trip through a fresh corner of an intriguing world. It should particularly appeal to gamers of a more cinematic disposition, lapsed fans of the series (hi!), Gamerscore hunters and perhaps even some non-gamers whose horizons have been broadened by things like Netflix’s Bandersnatch.
If Telltale’s brand of “interactive story” was never your thing or you are looking at paying full price then you should probably deduct a star or even star and a half. But if you subscribe to Game Pass and are looking for a quick, fun and engaging experience then this is a game, or perhaps experience, that I highly recommend.
Reviewed on: Xbox
Available on: Xbox, PlayStation, PC, App
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Skybound Games