Or, as I like to call it: How to Hate Yourself and Your Choices, You Despicable Monster: A Short Story Collection. Because... Jesus Christ, guys. Spoilers beyond the cut!
I actually really loved the story conceit - sure, it was short, taking me maybe about an hour and a half to finish it all, as short as the last episode of Season 1 - because of the intensity it bought to every beat, every choice. Season 1 was a master class in an extended zombie story, pockets of intensity and action interspersed in quieter, emotional moments that made the characters shine. The comparison's been made in a few reviews, but it really works - 400 days is the Short Story Anthology to Season 1's Zombie Novel. Short, sharp moments that distill what makes The Walking Dead such a fascinating and compelling universe and game: The Choices, the Horror, but ultimately the heart of its Cast.
I'll bullet point a few notes/thoughts on each story in the order I played them, and bold the 'key' choices that showed up in the stats, because the stat screen at the end of the game was kinda broken for me, unless every choice really was split straight 50/50, which I doubt!
- Wow, they actually do a really good job with the characters in such a short space of time. You establish Vince as a Lee-esque hero with a dark past and perhaps noble intentions (By the way: The Everett Family drug store!!!), then set up Danny and Justin and make both seem like actual, interesting characters in about 5 minutes... before shit hits the fan, because Zambies!!!
- Holy shit, I blew Justin's foot off! I mean, man, what a decision to make, so quickly. I chose to leave Justin behind because, trying to think pragmatically, Vince-like considering what he did for his little brother, Danny seemed like a 'survivor' to be around as shit was going down. Justin, whilst convicted of a less shocking crime, seemed really skeevy to me - cowardly, a straight liar, whiny - whereas Danny, despite his dark past, seemed more of a man Vince could stand by. Still, hot damn. That foot shot was nasty. And they made you do it twice!
- Duuuuuude. Man. Dude! Duuuuuuude. Weed jokes! Man. Duuuuuuude. I actually thought the really quick way they set up Wyatt and Eddie's friendship was well done... but I could've done with less dudeisms. I get it, these guys smoked weed, Telltale.
- I stayed in the Car/Left Eddie Behind. I somehow won the Rock/Paper/Scissors game in the tiebreaker (which was surprisingly tense for... ya know. A game of Rock/Paper/Scissors.), which meant I got attacked by the crazy dude, and ultimately left Eddie to either get fucked up by said dude, or possibly get turned into zombie chow by the guy they run over. Who, looking at the shot in the credits roll, seemed to actually be the Police bus driver from Vince's story, which I thought was a neat crossover.
- I really liked the relationship established between Shel and Becca, even if the moment when Becca jump-scared you after seeing the Walkers made me want to wring her little neck. It felt kinda like the relationship between Lee and Clementine, if Clem was a few years older. The moment where Shel loses it a little over seeing the Walker eating a puppy really tugged at me.
- I let Roman kill the thief, but didn't kill Stephanie. I feel kinda weird about this one. On the one hand, it felt like it kinda made sense for Shel to not particularly feel strongly about shooting an outsider, but to be way more hesitant when it came to one of their own... but hoo boy, the game kinda made me feel terrible about choosing to not kill her. I imagine I would've felt terrible for choosing to kill her too though, so good job at making me feel like an asshole I guess, Telltale?
- HOLY SHIT THAT WAS CARLY'S BODY ON THE ROADSIDE, CARLY NOOOOOO. I knew some things carried over from my Season 1 save, but I was really not expecting Russell to hide next to poor Carly's maggot-covered corpse. That was a real stinger, made even worse by the 'Reunited' achievement popping up moments after. Damn you Lily, damn you to hell.
- I left Nate the crazy asshole behind. Here's where the order you play the stories in really threw me - if I'd not played Wyatt's story first, I would've had no idea that Nate was bad news... although him being all perverty certainly put me against him quickly enough anyway. And then again, I knew what was coming thanks to playing Shel's story and seeing the old lady as a walker, as well as the bloodstains in the diner. A really easy decision for me compared to everything else, but still cool how the different stories could weave and affect your thoughts on each other.
- Only in TWD could you go from discussing the benefits for having lobster claws for hands over a snake for a mouth, to an intense hide and seek chase through a dark corn field, to... ew, Dee's face.
- I was Honest to Leland. It kinda made no sense to lie, considering that I was standing right over Dee's smooshed face (really, thanks for dwelling on that Telltale. Thanks.) with the pipe right next to me, but that was a super well done reveal. Man. Bad Feels all around.
... and Tavia!?
- SURPRISE NEW CHARACTER AAAAH. I don't know why, but for a moment I thought the hand taking down the pictures of the other characters would be Lee, and it'd pull out to see him and the group before they moved on to their own story, but this was cool. Is she the real new protagonist? And where's she from - The Alexandria Safe zone? Or... Woodbury? Oh christ, what if Season Two is set in Woodbury!?!?!? If that's the case, I demand the chance to fucking slap Lily like the bitch she is, even though no character would have a good reason to.
- Everyone but Vince joined Tavia. Aww, dangit. I liked Vince! This was actually the one bit I didn't really like about the game, because the ending seemed to imply everyone was joining Tavia, as no one said no and I'd felt like the dialogue I'd chosen had convinced them all to join me, only for the stat screen to tell me otherwise. I wonder what it was that made him stay, or if that's a canon thing (shocking twist: what if Season Two follows the people who stayed at the camp, rather than those that left with Tavia?), but this is The Walking Dead: I gotta live with my decisions. On to Season 2!
Overall, despite the short length and the usual sort of Telltale bugs - that said, I think at this point if those same stuttering loads between scenes persists into future TWD games, it'll be harder to forgive now - I really enjoyed 400 Days as a tiny fixing of gloom and zombie doom. I can't wait to see what comes of Season 2 after all the little things this has set up. What did you guys think of it?