Around Every Corner tackles the extremes of child endangerment and mutilation, forces players to slowly and deliberately bury the recently deceased, and it portrays the thoughtless slaughter of the living, by the living. The writing is fraught with tense pauses and biting, yet humane, dialogue among survivors of the zombie apocalypse.
If the question is, "Does Episode 4 live up to its predecessors?" the answer is, "No, it's even better." Around Every Corner sees Lee, Clementine and the latest group of hobbling, distressed vagrants finally reach Savannah, in search of a boat (because Kenny really won't shut up about the idea). The characters that have stuck with us throughout the horrific journey – Lee, Clementine and Kenny – are now noticeably affected by the zombie apocalypse and the loss of their loved ones. Kenny is quieter yet more irritable, Clementine is growing into a confident and precocious young girl, and Lee is less clumsy, not as shocked by everything he sees in this new world.
One moment when this is most apparent, Lee is alone, traversing the sewers beneath Savannah as he races to meet up with the group. He easily distracts a horde of zombies from their feast in the middle of the tunnel and, when he realizes that meal has a familiar face, he doesn't scream or even step back from its splattered remains. He just picks up the discarded gun, shakes his head, and carries on.
The writing in Around Every Corner does more than simply maintain the caliber of previous episodes; it's a slow, southern drawl, filled with silences that speak louder than words and sharp interjections of the darkest humor. High-hat during a guitar solo: It's a blues song, personified and digitized, then ripped apart by the ravenous undead.
Telltale refines its approach to point-and-click adventure in the latest episode. Conversation choices are simplified. After choosing two of three available choices for Lee, it automatically plays through the third choice, not forcing the player to "pick" the only option left. The areas Lee explores are compact yet full, never asking the player to travel vast distances in the hope of finding something relevant. Each stage is balanced to the task at hand.
In my review of Episode 3, I mentioned that some players were upset that their choices didn't truly matter, since the game wraps up loose ends to bring everyone back to the same page. Around Every Corner rips apart that tidy wrapping like a 3-year-old on his birthday. Entire scenes and characters literally live or die according to just a few choices, impacting not just Episode Four, but Five as well, as a special statistics map at the end divulges.
And then the ending – oh, the ending. That's all I have to say about that.
As I was reeling from that fantastic closing set-up, the only hitch in Telltale's seamless run appeared. The all-important stats figures comparing my choices to those of other players was unfinished, showing placeholder titles. This will be fixed in a patch, I'm told.
This review is based off a Steam download of The Walking Dead Episode Four: Around Every Corner, purchased by the author.
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