Checking out 14 of Telltale’s offerings from over the years. From CSI through to Walking Dead, where did your favorite game list?
Telltale Games has managed to corner the market in point and click adventures; attracting a number of AAA franchises under their wing. With Batman next in line for the Telltale treatment, we decided to take a look back at some of the best (and worst) outings for the developer. From the TV tie-ins, through to the comic book adaptations; let’s take a stroll down the developers more recent offerings. (For reference, we’ve left off a number of games we haven’t personally experienced).
14. Law & Order: Legacies (2011) – Proof that not everything Telltale touches turns to gold automatically. Released as a series of mini-episodes at the end of 2011, Telltale did their thing with Law & Order. The biggest crime it commits (other than being horrendously dull) is ignoring the gamers choices – instead barrelling on with the game in spite of your decisions. When a Telltale game doesn’t grant you the personal choices – there’s really little point in suffering through the remainder of the games drawn out plot.
13. CSI: Fatal Conspiracy (2010) – Slightly more forgivable than L&O, if only by virtue of variety. CSI: FC attempts to bring a series of mini-games into the Telltale fold – to varying degrees of success. This doesn’t really save the game from being a complete drag however – with frequent breaks in plot progression forcing you to complete tediously repetitive puzzles in order to progress. While not the worst of Telltales outings; it’s certainly not a moment we’re sure the company wants remembering next to its grander accomplishments.
12. Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures (2009) – First off this game looks amazing. The look and general aesthetic of the game are nailed down 100% and praise should be afforded for the general commitment to the source material. Sadly the quirky nature of the world from which the gameplay flows is less stellar. The effort’s clearly been put in but the end result is a staggered, somewhat boring trek through the Wallace & Gromit world that never really captures the truly quirky nature of the movies. In fact we’d go as far as to call it dull, with a plot that feels like the scrapings from rejected movie scripts. The villains are unappealing, the game play dull and for all the good it does in the looks department; there’s very little to appeal beyond dull repetition.
11. Minecraft: Story Mode (2015) – The odds were always against this one proving to be a monster hit and so the end results suggest. Translating the open world play of Minecraft into a story driven exercise was always going to be a tall order for Telltale; the nature of Minecraft never lending itself to the idea of a heavy narrative influence. Unfortunately things begin to slide quickly as the story spins its wheels and the padding takes hold. The characters are bland, the consequences feeling less and less interesting as the game pushes on while everything between feels like an excuse to make self-aware jokes about the limitations of Minecraft. To its credit, the game experiments with some interesting ideas like the crafting system and executes them faithfully to the original game. But they just don’t feel utilised in a way that takes advantage of the wider world. In all it’s an exercise in expanding the Minecraft universe that never truly clicks. A shame for fans of the Mojang series.
10. Jurassic Park: The Game (2011) – Jurassic Park makes a decent stab at trying to be its own version of a Telltale game – ejecting a lot of the emotional threads that typically bring together the story. Unfortunately the focus on action also brings into view the games biggest issue; the characters are just awful. There’s no investment for the gamer as the action takes centre stage. This wouldn’t be so bad except the mechanics that underpin this are lousy at best. with little variety afforded to the gamer. Unless you’re really invested in the Jurassic Park world, this one isn’t really worth hunting out.
9. Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People (2008) – Another example of Telltale taking on an odd choice of game and trying to make it their own. Strong Bad’s got a great sense of humour and when things come together, they work well. Yet it’s hard throughout to feel truly invested in proceedings. The jokes only hold out for so long as the game creaks under the Telltale framework. This is certainly no groundbreaking adventure title but for fans of the web series from which it’s based; there might be enough here to justify a look.
8. The Wolf Among Us (2013) – On the one hand there’s a lot a mature themes at play in the Wolf Among Us. A game that takes the iconic comic series and turns it on its head; providing a dark and compelling tale. However things unravel towards the games conclusion; the story losing momentum as its twists and turns begin to feel predictable and slightly overplayed. It’s the characters which make this though, from Snow White through to the fable characters across the board. The voice acting is excellent and the characters come to life with conviction. The action sequences are impressive in small bursts. On the whole it’s a competent if slightly unremarkable offering from Telltale which feels slightly let down by some poor writing.
7. Back to the Future (2010) – Arguably deserves more praise than history grants it. Back to the Future: The Game did a wonderful job of continuing on from the iconic story laid down in the original trilogy of movies, taking the ideas and themes and turning them up to 11. For some the story becomes convoluted once the latter episodes are reached; with the plot threads straining under the weight of the lore. But in truth it was here that Telltale were really beginning to hone their craft of storytelling while keeping proceedings entertaining. The balance of puzzles and story beginning to finally deliver the more rounded experience that gamers would be drawn to down the line.
6. The Walking Dead: Season 2 (2014) – Something always felt a little bit off with The Walking Dead: Season 2; almost as though the story was aware of the greatness what came before it. The jarring 18 month jump that we run into during the first chapter doesn’t help while the cast of characters we meet up with during the first chapter do anything but inspire confidence. While the situations presented are different; things never really get out of second gear. The story seems content to let you turn Clementine into a monster with loose morals and poorly thought out consequences. There are bright spots; the improved action sequences and an increased variation in-game play at least affords the game some sense of new-found fun. But in truth it’s an underwhelming sequel that only delivers part of what fans wanted.
5. The Walking Dead: Michonne (2016) – This mini-series that focuses more on the comic book Walking Dead canon was a welcome change of pace for the series. Here the story felt more contained, expressive and ultimately enjoyable. The new cast of characters breathed new life into proceedings, with the action pumping up at the right times. In the end its length is its biggest undoing; the story feeling rushed at several points to fit within the limited episode run. But look beyond this and Michonne is a competent outing for the Walking Dead series that reminds you how strong individual narrative arcs are.
4. Tales from Monkey Island (2009) – Charming, funny and utterly bonkers. Tales from Monkey Island manages to capture the spirit of the original LucasArt classics without re-drawing the map . While the graphics aren’t anything to write home about, it’s the witty dialogue and clever puzzles that raise this games profile among Telltale’s offerings, giving a more reserved gaming experience. The tension rises as the story picks up. For fans of the Monkey Island games, it’s a much welcome return to form for the series.
3. Game of Thrones (2014) – A wonderfully crafted attempt to bring the Game of Thrones lore into the Telltale mould. Taking the televisions foundations and mixing them with some of the books more interesting aspects; we get a brutally dark tale . For some the focus on so many characters across such great distances will be jarring; the game demanding investment across the board from gamers. Yet its in these story threads that the Telltale formula comes to life – the choices feeling increasingly more precarious as the story positions your characters choices on loftier perches. The decision to make use of established characters was wise; giving the series a sense of grounding with the popular TV series. Some of the threads were dull, and the action could have been better paced in the middle chapters. But those looking for the definitive Game of Thrones game could do much worse than get stuck into this.
2. Tales From the Borderlands (2014) – By all rights this shouldn’t have worked. Borderlands is a series that lives and dies by its shooting; yet here was a game that by and large ejected this aspect. What we get instead is a series of beautifully crafted characters that come to life in the best of ways. The world of Pandora shines as its inhabitants charm their way to the centre of attention; providing a heap of laughs and memorable moments along the way. The action sequences feel true to the series; while the cliffhangers had gamers on the edge of their seats in anticipation. Add in the return of Handsome Jack; who provides deliciously meta commentary on proceedings, and you have a recipe for one of Telltales more accomplished outings. It’s developers at their peak, making full use of the established lore to deliver fans the kind of experience they wanted. Few believed this game would succeed – that Telltale would struggle to capture the essence. Yet here they proved that given the right tone and circumstances, Telltale can craft gold from anything.
1, The Walking Dead (2012) – When The Walking Dead landed back in 2012, many weren’t ready for the emotional roller coaster they were set to board. Following Lee and Clementine in the Walking Dead universe, gamers were treated to an emotional tour-de-force that put much-loved characters on the brink and asked gamers to make some deeply harsh decisions. These impacted on the way the game was experienced, with gamers pressed into snap choices, irrational logic and a sense of deeper consequence than many gamers were used too. Who didn’t feel bad when Shaun got munched by the zombies in Chapter 1? Who didn’t cringe whenever Kenny went off on one of his rants? The Walking Dead was a game that pushed the concept to its maximum; grating gamers the chance to carve out their own experience. Perhaps the biggest praise you can give this game; the ending is still fondly discussed as one of the more bitter-sweet finales in gaming.