It may have started with a hungry growl, but The Walking Dead adventure game series goes out with a soft groan in No Time Left. The fifth and final episode in the adventure franchise based on the Robert Kirkman-created graphic novels closes off the saga of Lee Everett and friends with a tearjerker of a conclusion that is suitably gloomy and moving, if not entirely satisfying when compared to the gory brilliance of the preceding chapters. The story veered off track in the last episode, losing a fair bit of steam after the introduction of an offputting new plot device--and the whole thing comes to a halt in this brief final act that lacks the devastating impact of the earlier episodes, despite more than a few heartbreaking moments. (Note: The following text includes information that could be considered minor spoilers for The Walking Dead series.)
No Time Left picks up where its predecessor,
The abduction still feels tacked on, a phony way to take things back to the beginning when it was just Lee and Clem on their own. The plot has moved off on a tangent, with a new villain and a corny chase for a missing child that is miles removed from the brutal focus on survival that made the first three episodes so engrossing. The narrative flow feels forced. Too many core characters have died, and it feels like the game is being brought to a close largely because this is the final episode, not because the story is coming to a natural ending.
Aspects of No Time Left also play fast and loose with the premise that the game responds to your actions, although the game varies enough based on how you play that you may or may not see any given inconsistency. At the start of play, for instance, you head out after Clementine with a buddy or four, depending on how good you've been getting along with everyone. But after some quick scenes, you might wind up back at square one, and a group that may have just told you to get lost could immediately offers to pitch in and help find your little buddy.
Personalities and motivations can be thrown out the window, depending on the course you pursue. A previously selfish Kenny might suddenly grow a conscience, forgiving a fellow survivor for kicking off a tragic chain of events, and then risk his life to play hero. Yet the scenario might be much more organic should you have taken a different path in previous episodes. In that case, Kenny's motivations are a much more realistic blend of tough-guy bravado and self-importance, which is consistent with how he's behaved throughout the series. You might also witness some touching moments with Kenny when he finally must confront his own selfishness. Some of these conversations also flesh out the characters of Omid and Christa, who were previously as dull as dishwater.
Everything moves at a frenetic pace. You can zip through this episode in little more than an hour or so, less time than it takes to complete any previous episode. Part of the speed comes from the lack of challenge in the quick-choice combat and button-mashing action sequences. Nothing should require more than a single attempt, save a fight near the end of the game with a gun-wielding nutcase.