The Walking Dead: The Game is back with Episode 3: Long Road Ahead, right in time for Halloween and the start of the show's third season on AMC. The action is more palpable and the drama runs high, but does this installment have what it takes to keep the series running, or does it just leave the story shuffle-stepping mindlessly along?

There's a certain pleasure one derives from purchasing a bundle and waiting patiently for periodic releases. Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes me more excited than when a new episode of The Walking Dead: The Game is released. I feel like a kid on Christmas, opening up his presents with little regard for the carefully wrapped packaging. The moment I found out that the episode was just released, I picked up my iPad and shook it a little, just to see if Episode 3: Long Road Ahead would rattle around inside. 

It's been quite a journey for Lee Everett and the crew. They've faced horror after horror, but somehow manage to keep on going. By some stroke of luck, the survivors have eked out a meager existence at a motel that's been turned into a makeshift fortress. The group has been getting by, scavenging for supplies, but the tension caused by the events in Episode 2 is still being felt and causing some rifts between certain members. Things get even worse when it's found out that someone has been stealing from the group and giving it to the bandits in the woods. It all leads to some sweet, juicy drama that prompts everyone to hop in an RV and abandon the motel.

While this episode doesn't offer the same kind of creepy suspense as in Episode 2, Long Road Ahead engages you in more action sequences and gives you a lot of tougher choices to make. The decisions that Lee has to make have progressively gotten more ambiguous as the series continues. A lot of the choices he could make in the earlier episodes might have seemed very straightforward: say this if you want to be the good guy, or say that and seem like a total badass. In Episode 3, it's harder to tell what the "right" and "wrong" choices are. Every action has a consequence and there's no way Lee can survive in this world as a white knight, especially when he has to take care of Clementine.

A lot of problems arise in Long Road Ahead and the group seems to be hit with setback after setback. Just when you think that things can't get worse for Lee and company, that's exactly what they do. These kinds of complications add to the sense of hopelessness one feels when playing this game. How much longer can Lee get out of scrapes while ensuring that Clementine and the others are safe? Throw in the some suspiciously quirky new characters, a change in the group's makeup, and a train headed for the coast, and you've got a compelling survival situation.

As always, there's not a lot of  real gameplay to be had in this adventure game, although Long Road Ahead features more puzzles, action, and interactivity than we've seen before in the series. You'll be able to shoot at enemies through the scope of a sniper rifle, but accuracy doesn't account for much; as long as you're taking shots somewhere near a target, you'll hit them. A lot of the puzzles have to do with manipulating the environment in order to accomplish something, but often take a lot of backtracking to complete.

Anyone who's stuck with the series so far knows that it isn't a zombie-killing gorefest and that the story is the star. The presentation is great as usual, with the graphic novel art style as attractive as ever. The only glaring problems with this release are some shaky animations and some instances when the audio doesn't sync up with mouth movements. But for those willing to overlook these niggling imperfections, there's a very well-written, if not wholly depressing, narrative waiting in Long Road Ahead, with the promise of more conflict and drama in the next episode.

 

App Store Link: The Walking Dead: The Game for iPhone & iPad | By Telltale Games | Price: $4.99 | Version: 1.1 | 331 MB | Rating 12+

9.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating