Michonne eventually ends up at sea with a small band of men, each of whom is briefly introduced, before our heroine and crewmate Pete set out to investigate a distress call nearby. Pete is a cheerful chap who always tries to see the positive, which contrasts nicely against Michonne’s mostly bleak outlook and quiet demeanour. Their relationship is still in its beginning stages and hopefully we’ll continue to see it fleshed out because they have a good dynamic together. Once the pair reach land, it’s not long before everything starts going a bit haywire, as is customary in the land of the living dead.
It’s here where things take a turn for the underwhelming. If this is the first time you’ve touched a Walking Dead game then it won’t be much of a problem, but there’s nothing particularly innovative or special about the plot that follows. Michonne and Pete accidentally get tangled up with some questionable folk who are running their own settlement and don’t take kindly to strangers, but this is territory that’s been covered before. Randall and Norma, the pair in charge of this community, are just archetypes. He’s a violent bully, she’s a manipulative talker. I didn’t particularly connect with the others Michonne was with, partly because we don’t know enough about them, which means that some moments don’t have the emotional oomph that they should.
In Too Deep is at its best when it’s exploring the protagonist’s mind. The limited times when you get to discover more about Michonne’s life are some of the most interesting. There’s one particular scene, about mid-way through the story, when she begins to confuse reality again. It’s a genuinely creepy and disturbing sequence. Not only is it visually unsettling, but you begin to see Michonne break down. Normally there’s a wall up, but here her eyes widen and she speaks in a panic. If the next two episodes move away from the conventional story beats and do some further delving into the lead and her relationships with others, this abbreviated trilogy will be all the better for it.
Samira Wiley provides the vocals for Michonne, offering a contemplative, strong and sometimes even fierce performance. It’s not a particularly easy role to pull off due to Michonne’s often defensive personality, but Wiley draws you in and helps you bond to her character as she demonstrates both determination and hints of vulnerability. Of the supporting cast, Zachary is a clearly conflicted guy, the uncertainty coming across well in his wavering voice. I also particularly liked Randall, who would almost sound warm if everything he said wasn’t so vicious, which lends a creepy quality to his character.
Jared Emerson-Johnson, Telltale’s regular composer, is back again to provide his consistently brilliant work. I think music often works best when you’re not consciously aware of it, just blending in to complete the atmosphere, which is often what happens here. There are tense scenes where the tempo ramps up, with different elements quickly building together to reflect the pressure on-screen. Elsewhere, in more reflective moments, there’ll be soothing and echoing synths or a guitar slowly being picked. All of it is excellent and it’s easy to take it for granted, but it’s fully worthy of praise.
Visually, Michonne is as impressive as the series has ever been. Everything is drawn with a thick ink-lined style and covered in a layer of grime, looking appropriately straight out of a comic book. Detail is nicely presented in some places, such as outside a seemingly abandoned ship, where crows squawk away as you approach while crabs scuttle along the ground. Elsewhere, amongst the make-shift settlement, fairy lights are hung up, chairs are mismatched and windows are smashed, which all lend to the convincing ramshackle appearance. Being by the sea, though not always moving on it, also helps create a distinct atmosphere compared to what we’ve seen before.
There are a few times when you get to move around the environment and interact, but exploration is kept to minimum. Even in these situations, you often just have to click on everything until the scene progresses. I don’t mean that to sound dismissive, because you’ll often look at interesting things or find other characters to talk to, but you don’t really have control over where you’re going next. There’s also nothing resembling an actual puzzle, this being very much an interactive story rather than a traditional adventure. It’s also worth noting that on the PC I got absolutely no stuttering while playing, which is a problem that has plagued my console experiences with Telltale.
Clocking in at around an hour and a half, I felt satisfied with In Too Deep, but not overwhelmed. The ending does seem to come a bit too quickly and I wasn’t expecting the credits to roll quite at the moment they did, though it does make for an intriguing cliffhanger. Hopefully the next two episodes take us down a more unique plot path than what we’ve seen so far, instead spending more time exploring Michonne’s psyche. Nevertheless, this debut episode stands strong in all other aspects, like the bold visuals and top-tier voice acting, and fans of zombie violence will be well-satiated. If you’ve enjoyed Telltale’s previous Walking Dead output, you’ll find this an enjoyable though familiar journey so far.Continued on the next page...