The Walking Dead: 400 Days is all about brief encounters.
The game lasts close to 90 minutes, but that's short by gaming standards. Yet, in that compressed amount of time, Telltale Games delivers an emotionally taut game loaded with intriguing characters and gut-wrenching decisions.
Forgoing traditional first-person shooter or survival horror themes, The Walking Dead games have always thrived on a stronger narrative approach. Here, several combinations of all-new characters converge at a truck stop. These vignettes provide the backdrop of the first 400 days since the zombie outbreak was unleashed.
You won't spend much time with the love triangle of Bonnie, Dee and Leland. And there are only brief encounters with lunatic truck driver Nate or buddies Eddie and Wyatt. But all these interactions feel instantly fleshed out and alive with purpose. You feel immediately connected to all these characters while also wanting more when their time is abruptly cut short, sometimes because of your own decisions.
And therein lies what made season one and this bridge chapter so compelling: In this zombie apocalypse, everyone is affected at some point.
Series fans need to jump into 400 Days immediately, if only to introduce themselves to some folks we may potentially meet down the line. And let's hope so, because that truck stop not only served as the birthplace for this band of survivors, it also played out as a microcosm of the franchise's best elements at work.
RATING M for Mature
PLOT Zombie apocalypse now -- with new characters
DETAILS Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, $4.99
BOTTOM LINE It's the living end