A nerd, a wrestler, a lagomorph, and a heavy machine gunner get together for a game of poker…
No, this isn’t the setup to a weird joke. This is the backdrop for one of the wackiest, weirdest, and best game studios active today: Telltale Games.
Sam and Max, The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead, Homestar Runner, Bone, Monkey Island, and on and on. These properties and more have been remade and/or presented by Telltale into some of the best ever narrative games. From character writing to storytelling, adaptations to new series, Telltale’s pedigree is noticeable and not to be taken lightly. And many of their games still hold up years after their release dates.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the tales the studio has chosen to tell.
Sam and Max
Starting off with one of the classics.
Sam and Max were originally characters created by Steve Purcell for his independent comic of the same name. An anthropomorphic dog and psychopathic rabbit acting as freelance police, raising hell (sometimes literally) wherever they go. What’s not to love?
Somewhat unexpectedly, the pair were a hit with their nonsensical, slapstick, and occasionally meta humor. Originally produced by Lucasarts, Telltale acquired the rights in 2005 and released their episodic adventures over the next few years. Even after 10+ years, the dialogue and character interplay is enough to hook any newcomer. Challenging puzzles and witty banter with colorful characters, Sam and Max were a starting point for many longtime gamers.
Give it a look if you haven’t already. It’s definitely worth the experience.
The Walking Dead
Showing that zombies can still be the life of the party, Telltale’s Walking Dead series was a massive commercial hit. In particular, the first season was phenomenal, and my personal introduction to Telltale. Managing character relationships through various decisions would affect the outcome of the game, though not in every case. Choices had long-term consequences, all of which led to a tearful first season finale and carried beyond it.
Cast as Lee, a character outside the world of the graphic novels, the player becomes guardian of a child, Clementine. As time passes, the two develop an almost familial bond, forged in apocalyptic fires. Lee, and by extension the player, wants to protect Clem from the world around them both. The player’s choices determine how she reacts in future installments, and they leave a significant mark on her as she grows up in the hellish future.
The whole series is full of heartbreaking, emotional moments that will pluck the heartstrings of many players. Mixing drama, horror, revenge, and survival, The Walking Dead series is memorable and justifiably lauded for what it is. It’s a story of people trying to overcome their discomforting, horrific surroundings. No safety is promised, no security guaranteed. If you haven’t already, download the game and give it a try. It’s narrative gameplay at its purest and simplest.
Tell-tale signs of Telltale games/end of chapter
Story and character driven, choices mean everything, and consequences are a certainty. Sequencing events is key and few if any choices are meaningless. Telltale is one of the paragons of narrative gaming storytelling and worldbuilding, and it’s rather difficult to dispute that.
So, tell us how you feel about Telltale in the comments; I’m always up for a discussion. Do you enjoy their games or styling? Do you think I’m off base with their work? Is there anything you want to say in rebuttal? Let me know below!
As always, this is Crab, and remember: choices have consequences, either good or bad.
I like weird and silly and scary things. Sometimes I talk about them.
I enjoy gaming, sci-fi/fantasy books, well-written stories, Magic: the Gathering, and caffeine. I like things that make me think, feel, and react.
Praise Cthulhu, hail Rakdos, enjoy the weirdness. And remember: a good story can come from anywhere.