Stranger Things Game
Stranger Things, now available on Netflix, has captured the imagination and hearts of viewers across the globe, along with many critics who are calling it one of the best shows of 2016. The eight-episode supernatural thriller plots itself in the middle-American town of Hawkins, Indiana, in November 1983 and revolves a group of kids, who while grappling with the mysterious disappearance of their best friend, follow a trail of clues to find the missing boy. The series skillfully weaves several storylines together as the parents, the authorities, the boys, and the older siblings all set out on their own investigations. The plot isn’t exactly groundbreaking – in fact, it is all too familiar – but the story does lend itself well to an episodic game series developed by Telltale if only because there are several separate storylines to follow. Players could choose between playing as one of the four kids, the parents, the sheriff or even the older teens and each story thread could offer a completely different experience.
As with J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, Stranger Things pulls off a faithful but not slavish tribute to Spielberg and Stephen King. The series doesn’t necessarily succeed in subverting some of the tropes it employs, but it captures the feeling of watching the ’80s movies it pays tribute to. The direction and cinematography are stunning throughout, and the series nails all the appropriate period details from the costumes to the creepy production design. Everything from Dungeons & Dragons to the decor, fashions, logo, spooky synth score and 80’s soundtrack are meant to replicate something that feels as if it might have come from an old VHS tape from your local video store. It resurrects literally dozens of movie-making techniques and styles, from cinematic cuts, to title fonts, wide angles and dutch angles that Telltale would be perfect in adapting. But Stranger Things isn’t just an exercise in style; it’s an exploration of relatable anxieties and unexpected bonds that spring up between friends growing up. There’s definitely something here for any kid who grew up in the suburbs and for many of us, we recognize the characters in Stranger Things as kindred. In addition, you can’t underestimate the power of nostalgia, and an episodic game taking place in the decade when Nintendo and Sega popularized home consoles would no doubt attract an older generation of gamers.
Stranger Things features a compelling, tightly drawn story that pulls together strong characters, several twists and plenty of thrills. It’s a great TV show and would make a really great game. (Ricky D)
Taking place in the 2060s, Thunderbirds centers around International Rescue, a secret group run by Jeff Tracy and his family. Using their Thunderbird vehicles, they fly all over the world (sometimes even into orbit) to rescue people from danger; be it a natural disaster, neglectful corporations or the occasional encounter with the super-villain, the Hood.
Thunderbirds combines science fiction, espionage, action, and suspense, wrapped up in a setting that was futuristic in the 1960s, now all the more interesting as a retro-future based on the 60s, when the show originally premiered. I would have argued for a video game adaptation even if the franchise had begun and ended with the first series. However, with the modern continuation Thunderbirds Are Go now gracing our televisions, the Tracys and International Rescue are back in the popular consciousness, making it a great candidate for a tie-in.
The possibilities for episodic storytelling are endless: will they have an underwater adventure in Thunderbird 4? A space rescue in Thunderbird 3? The video game could take place anywhere the developers choose, maybe even showcasing countries and locations that we’ve never seen in games before. What’s more is that the theme of International Rescue would be fresh for Telltale, being much lighter than the grim fare of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. At the same time, the video game version of Thunderbirds wouldn’t be subject to the same restrictions as children’s TV, so it could go to a slightly more perilous territory if the story and gameplay demanded.
As for the gameplay, the choices in Thunderbirds would be truly life-and-death. How do you spend your time against the ticking clock? Which pod will you take in Thunderbird 2? What will you do if someone you are rescuing discovers your identity? Of course, the Hood might show up just to mess with all your plans, and Lady Penelope and Parker might have to navigate some tricky dialogue trees in the course of their spy work.
Finally, just the opportunity to walk around Tracy Island in a game would be thrilling for fans of the show. And by the way, remember those complaints about Telltale’s wooden animations? Well, with characters that are all marionettes, Telltale’s style would fit right in. (Mitchell Akhurst)
Most consider The Walking Dead to be Robert Kirkman’s best comic series, but I always found Invincible to hold much more water. It’s deep, rich, and filled with awesome story arches and art that pops. Invincible’s universe is rock solid and everything about it makes perfect sense and while Kirkman does such a great job of explaining the particular facets of this world, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t skipped a few.
For the unfamiliar, Invincible is a story about superheroes fighting crime and killing things. While generic on paper, it’s the characters, settings, and circumstances that bring Invincible’s plot to fruition. To be specific (and not getting too deep into spoilers), it concerns a high schooler named Mark, son of the all-powerful superhero Omni Man. Mark had been waiting to get his powers ever since he discovered they were hereditary, and the story starts off pretty much right when he starts developing them.
Slowly, Mark’s delve into the world of superheroes transforms into a tale filled with space battles, interplanetary exploration, and monstrous villains. Unexpectedly, it even touches upon some more down to earth, topical subjects such as racism and abortion. It’s a story that compels me 129 issues later. One that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down or stalling. In fact, the world of Invincible has so many untouched facets ripe with potential that I see no reason Telltale wouldn’t be able to make an episodic series out of it.
A strategy that TellTale used with their Walking Dead series could easily work in this instance. In The Walking Dead’s case, it’s lore was enough to carry a story set outside of the main comics. The games followed completely different characters than the books, but the universe that they took place in and the rules they followed were the same. People still died, came back, and ate other people in the same fashion. This was enough to keep the Telltale games interesting even though their plot had almost nothing to do with the comic series.
I’d argue that Invincible’s lore is far more interesting than The Walking Dead’s. The idea of superheroes existing in a realistic world is extremely endearing, and Invincible nails it in every way. A game set in this exact world would be amazing, especially if it addressed some of those untouched areas. A brand new story with rich characters, the unique Telltale art style, and brilliant writing is what I dream of. And who knows? With Robert Kirkman’s ties with Telltale, maybe an Invincible game isn’t that far off. Here’s hoping. (Ricardo Rodriguez)
Outcast is arguably Robert Kirkman’s least interesting comic series. It definitely isn’t bad, but when compared to The Walking Dead or Invincible — two of Kirkman’s most popular series — it doesn’t hold up. This isn’t fault of the world or art, which are both beautifully constructed and resonate with personality. No, it’s more the actual pace of the series. For example, issue nineteen is the first time we’ve been given actual answers instead of questions. And this is exactly the reason Telltale should borrow this awesome world and lore and create a story of their own.
Outcast’s plot is more endearing on paper than it is when drawn out for nineteen issues. Kyle Barnes — a recently divorced thirty-something — has been plagued by demons his entire life. They possessed some of his loved ones and used them against him. During this time, Kyle discovers that he has the power to expel these demons from their hosts with relative ease. Years later, he decides to put these skills to use, exorcising people in need and during one exorcism, the demon calls him an “Outcast,” symbolizing some importance. Kyle sets on discovering the origin of his powers and the group he is apparently a member of.
So far in the comic’s run, very few Outcasts have been shown, so, why not a Telltale series focused on an Outcast other than Kyle? The comics can be pretty haunting by themselves, with the dark visuals and the personable writing but, imagine if it was brought into a moving format — one where the audience themselves could experience the fear. In addition, with Outcast’s lore at their disposal, Telltale could write one mean story. The books take place in kind of a backwater, country town, so it would be interesting to see the games delve into a city or even a prison. For all these reasons and more, Telltale could transform a pretty good series into an outstanding experience. Let’s hope they take it. (Ricardo Rodriguez)
DC/Vertigo Comics struck gold with their critically acclaimed and highly controversial Preacher series. The story of Jesse Custer and his chaotic battle with the forces of heaven, hell, and everything in between managed to touch readers on a very personal level, both those of the religious persuasion or otherwise. What’s more, the colorful cast of characters ranging from angels to vampires means that there is near-limitless potential to the stories that can be told within the Preacher mythos.
Telltale does a fantastic job of taking already established franchises and creating a new and exciting story based around these worlds. The most notable of these would be their Walking Dead and Game of Thrones series, as both titles were able to tell their own twisted and engaging stories while also involving characters from the main plotlines. Game of Thrones had the benefit of drawing from a very grim and dark palette, as characters in the series can die on a whim. This was the case for many of the heroes and villains of Telltale’s series, as the player was never quite sure who would make it through each episode. Following this pattern, an episodic game based around Preacher would thrive with both fans of the series and those of Telltale’s trademark brand of storytelling. One potential idea for a story would be to focus on a previously unknown character from Jesse’s past who comes into contact with some of the more supernatural forces of the main plotline. While the titular Preacher may on occasion make an appearance, the game would more focus on the whirlwind of chaos that surrounds his life, and those that may get caught up in the storm. However, the game would still need to keep in line with the series sacrilegious themes, which is an area of storytelling the Telltale has yet to breach. While the religious characters and ideals wouldn’t need to be forced down the player’s throat, they would still need to be well aware of the twisted and religiously fanatical family that Jesse and his companions came from. (Carston Carasella)
Rick Remender masterfully melded 80’s nostalgia with impactful storytelling with his ultra-violent and thought-provoking series about teens training to be assassins, titled Deadly Class. One of the many focal points of the series is how culture and society can have both positive and negative impacts on the human condition. Remender does well to showcase humanity at its lowest and most vile while creating a story this can change from funny to morbid in an instant.
Telltale works well with multifaceted storytelling along with a series that can focus on more than one character, and adapting Deadly Class into one of their titles would benefit their strengths greatly. The comic’s overabundance of memorable characters and intersecting plotlines means that players would have to be ever mindful of the choices they make early on. A game focused around the comic’s main character, Marcus, wouldn’t due the series justice, as his character must follow a very specific path in order to represent his journey properly. However, shifting the spotlight instead onto another freshman trying to survive throughout their first year would offer up a much more intriguing dialogue that could utilize the supporting cast in a stronger fashion.
In light of their other comic-based titles like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, Telltale would have no trouble working with the vibrant and pop art-esque style of Deadly Class. This, partnered with an intricate storyline and well-developed themes would provide players with an unforgettable experience that showcases a group of wasted youths in the era of Cold War paranoia and drug-induced fantasies. Deadly Class stands as one of the most thought-provoking and well-received comics in Image’s catalogue and a Telltale adaptation would only further cement its status as one of the best comics of this generation. (Carston Carasella)
As a student of comedy growing up I would love to see TellTale take a stab at being funny again. Sure The Walking Dead, Games Of Thrones, and Batman are all great worlds to tell stories around but it’s been a good while since they attempted to make us laugh. Better than just going back to an old I.P. or the Sam and Max style of storytelling, I’d like to see the episodic adventure game format applied to the classic sitcom. And instead of having a season tell one long overarching story, I want to see an attempt at having a selection of 5 or 6 single stories. With each episode being self-contained, it would allow for tighter storytelling and better chances to think out comic timing. While there have been funny adventure games over the years, you have to admit that most games that attempt humour try to be surreal to get laughs, or rely on sarcastic characters and quippy one liners. A sitcom style game would give the writers a lot more to work with. Enter Red Dwarf:
Red Dwarf is ripe for the TellTale style of adventure games and it’s actually a wonder why this hasn’t been adapted already. The cast of lead characters have a wider range of personalities and backgrounds and lend themselves really well to the concept of multi-character based narratives. The sheer amount of potential for the creative application of one of the character’s skills or traits to solve a multi-layerd puzzle or problem would allow for interesting paths through an episode. Imagine swapping between Lister and Kryten on the fly in an area, or across different sections of the titular mining ship Red Dwarf itself. There’s also the potential for interaction between characters. Choosing one character could lead to very different results when compared to using another to interact with an NPC.
The real beauty with Red Dwarf is the absolute freedom the team at TellTale would have with both writing and game direction. The crew have been everywhere, from alternative realities to backward universes and inside their own psyche. Having a game based on the show revisiting past episode locations or featuring recurring guest characters such as ‘Ace’ Rimmer for example, has us excited for exactly what could be possible in the vastness of space. (Robin Smith)
Blackadder is seen by many as the greatest sitcom produced by the BBC in its long history of comedy. Revolving around the many different members of the Blackadder family tree, it examined different periods of history with an askew eye and a sense of humanity that many other shows tend not to do.
The final episode in its fourth series run is still held in high regard today, ending on a somber note that was both reflective of the tragedy of the sheer amount of human sacrifice seen during the first world war, and a brave choice that few would have expected from a prime time TV sitcom.
While the many Edmund Blackadders tend to be intelligent and capable lead characters, they rarely ever get what they desire. Edmund Blackadder is a character that is both a foil and a protagonist, Hero and Villain. The shades of grey available for the writers to play with would make us very interested in seeing what the talented writers behind titles as multifaceted as The Walking Dead could do.
There’s also the possibility of visiting a multitude of historical time periods, both ones seen on the show already, and ones not seen before in the series. Taking court with the narcissistic and insane Queen Elizabeth, and attempting to please her while also achieving the plotting of Edmund’s goals could provide some interesting and funny storytelling. As long as the core relationship between Blackadder and that generations Baldric remains somewhat close to that we have grown to expect there’s no reason this wouldn’t be a fantastic adventure title. (Robin Smith)
When asked what franchise deserves the “Telltale Games treatment” above all others, my instant thought went to the BBC’s cult classic sci-fi series Doctor Who. Although it is one of the most celebrated brands in pop culture and a contender for the most influential science fiction program of all time, nearly every attempt at adapting The Doctor’s time traveling adventures to an interactive format has resulted in mediocre slogs that fail to realize their own potential. The universe of Doctor Who is practically designed to be turned into a story driven adventure game, and though the Sumo Digital’s latest attempt at doing so with the Doctor Who: The Adventure Games series certainly had a ton of potential, lackluster writing and the producers’ prioritization of the abysmal Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock kept it from ever reaching the heights that modern adventure games can reach.
For those who have presumably been living under a rock for the last decade, Doctor Who centers on the adventures of the face changing alien known as The Doctor as he meanders through time and space in his time traveling British police callbox. Along the way, he has amassed innumerable enemies and made countless allies throughout the universe, but no matter when or where he arrives, The Doctor is always looking for the next mystery to be solved. With the ability to explore any conceivable scenario, whether it be rewriting human history or venturing into unexplored alien worlds, it would be amazing to see a talented team of writers go crazy with this property. Having proved that they can both create realistic and interesting character dynamics in The Walking Dead and effectively use a sci-fi backdrop in Tales from the Borderlands, Telltale would have no problem creating a compelling narrative that features The Doctor and his myriad of companions. Additionally, the Doctor’s commitment to pacifism and problem solving over brute force and violence naturally lends itself to a more story-driven experience than other franchises, eliminating the need to shoe-horn in unnecessary quick time events or unwieldy shooting segments. The prospect of time travel is also perfectly in line with Telltale’s ability to set up difficult choices for the player to make, that have profound effects on the game as it unfolds, as the butterfly effect could be used to justify wildly different outcomes for every decision that the player makes when meddling with history. While it is a special occasion for former Doctors and companions to reappear on the TV series, nearly every living Doctor Who alumni has adamantly reprised their roles in audio drama, and it’s equally likely that they would appease fans by lending their voice to such a respected studio for their work. Even if the show’s current or past cast isn’t available for the game, I wouldn’t put it past Telltale to make a faithful Doctor Who story with their own characters and worlds. As it stands, the best game to bear the Doctor Who namesake is Lego Dimensions, and if that isn’t a testament to how criminally underused one of the most narratively flexible shows has been in our medium, I don’t know what is. If any team could be given the opportunity to make another Doctor Who game, I couldn’t think of a better candidate than Telltale. (Matt Bruzzano)
Easily my favorite new show to come out in recent memory, BBC America’s sci-fi clone drama Orphan Black may not initially seem to adhere to Telltale’s basic formula, but I believe it has just as much potential to be turned into a great game as any other property. The TV series tells the story of Sarah Manning, a troubled con-artist who comes to find out that she is actually the product of a series of human cloning trials, as she struggles against her “sisters”, her creators and other parties that have a stake in the technology. Similar to The Walking Dead, the show itself doesn’t have as much room for interpretation and untold stories as a series like Game of Thrones does. However, Orphan Black has an extensive history behind its main plot, as nobody is really sure how many clones remain or what is going on in their lives. The series’ creators, Graeme Manson and John Fawcett, have already shown that the franchise can vary wildly in terms of tone, with certain episodes resembling psychological thrillers, situational comedies and crime dramas more than the actual science fiction they are rooted in. Additionally, Orphan Black has already had success in other mediums, as seen in the amazing limited comic book series published by IDW since last year. Because of this, Telltale would basically have free reign over what kind of narrative they want to tell. Whether they want to explore an established character’s back-story or simply follow a new clone, the developers have less rigid themes to work with than the defined aspects of their past projects such as the grim world of The Walking Dead or the outlandish comedy of Tales from the Borderlands. Due to the modern setting, most of the gameplay in an adventure game based on Orphan Black would likely be less of a spectacle than some of the shining moments of Tales from the Borderlands, but a few well made detective-style missions as Beth Childs or mad science puzzles as Cosima make for a great interactive take on the show. The key to tying this hypothetical game together, of course, would have to be the leading actress’ involvement. Few actors could ever pull off what Tatiana Maslany has done in Orphan Black. Portraying well over a dozen completely unique clones already, it would be a treat to fans to see what other characters she could bring to life. As of yet, there has been no game adaptation of Orphan Black, but I believe Telltale could do the show justice.
Easily my favorite new show to come out in recent memory, BBC America’s sci-fi clone drama Orphan Black may not initially seem to adhere to Telltale’s basic formula, but I believe it has just as much potential to be turned into a great game as any other property. The TV series tells the story of Sarah Manning, a troubled con-artist who comes to find out that she is actually the product of a series of human cloning trials, as she struggles against her “sisters”, her creators and other parties that have a stake in the technology. Similar to The Walking Dead, the show itself doesn’t have as much room for interpretation and untold stories as a series like Game of Thrones does. However, Orphan Black has an extensive history behind its main plot, as nobody is really sure how many clones remain or what is going on in their lives. The series’ creators, Graeme Manson and John Fawcett, have already shown that the franchise can vary wildly in terms of tone, with certain episodes resembling psychological thrillers, situational comedies and crime dramas more than the actual science fiction they are rooted in. Additionally, Orphan Black has already had success in other mediums, as seen in the amazing limited comic book series published by IDW since last year. Because of this, Telltale would basically have free reign over what kind of narrative they want to tell. Whether they want to explore an established character’s back-story or simply follow a new clone, the developers have less rigid themes to work with than the defined aspects of their past projects such as the grim world of The Walking Dead or the outlandish comedy of Tales from the Borderlands.
Due to the modern setting, most of the gameplay in an adventure game based on Orphan Black would likely be less of a spectacle than some of the shining moments of Tales from the Borderlands, but a few well made detective-style missions as Beth Childs or mad science puzzles as Cosima make for a great interactive take on the show. The key to tying this hypothetical game together, of course, would have to be the leading actress’ involvement. Few actors could ever pull off what Tatiana Maslany has done in Orphan Black. Portraying well over a dozen completely unique clones already, it would be a treat to fans to see what other characters she could bring to life. As of yet, there has been no game adaptation of Orphan Black, but I believe Telltale could do the show justice. (Matt Bruzzano)
Kill Bill is a franchise that will always be in many people’s top 10. Whether that’s top 10 Uma Thurman films, top 5 Tarantino flicks or just top 20 all-time favourite films, it’s in there somewhere. The two-part film has already taken on many adaptations including, a graphic novel, so why not push the boat out and make it into a Telltale game too?
The storyline is very rich with a twisted ending much like the ones you find in most Telltale games. The film itself even jumps between different points in time, which would work really well for the game. Need I even start on the excessive gore, something more than ideal for a comic based game, not to mention the back story of Lucy Liu’s character (O-Ren Ishii) is animated in a comic-like style, so the games designers will already have some art to follow from.
The question is, what story could the game take? It could follow the movie itself, but an audience would already know everything that is to happen if they are familiar with the film. Also, any choices made will not have different outcomes as the ending will always be the same. The ideal scenario would be to follow the backstory of each of the Viper Assassination Squad, since audience will want to know more about one-eyed Elle and the Black Mamba’s first victim Vernita Green. The series should lead the squad up until the wedding allowing the player to switch between each member of the squad. Failing a prequel narrative, they could expand on what happens after killing Bill. Uma’s child could be out seeking revenge for the death of her mother, taking on a very similar story as the original Kill Bill. Either way, it is an incredible story with interesting characters is more than deserving to be a Telltale game. I don’t know why no one hasn’t raised this issue sooner. (Laura Rigby)
Through The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, Telltale have shown that comic books and episodic adventure games go hand-in-hand perfectly and can tackle the mature subjects these series present. In the same vein, Brian Wood’s DMZ would fit perfectly, giving the opportunity to tell a story in one of the most flushed out mature series ever published in comic form.
DMZ takes place in the near future where political tensions in the US have erupted into a full-blown second civil war, a war that’s all but come to a standstill around the island of Manhattan, the titular Demilitarized Zone. The war lasts ten years, with the comics only covering the last half, so there’s more than enough room to tell stories not directly pulled from Wood’s books. The world of DMZ is sorely under-explored and it’s something dying to be enlarged by more material.
More than anything, considering the political and social situation in the US right now, DMZ would allow for a lot of ways to engage the player with mature themes of racial and political conflict, maybe more than most games are willing to do. Given the same treatment as The Walking Dead, a presentation of DMZ could once again prove the strong bond comics and gaming can form. (Andrew Vandersteen)
Honestly, it’s a bit surprising someone hasn’t already thought of adapting this. Alien has shown time and time again that it works perfectly in video game form, and The Walking Dead has shown time and time again that horror can be expressed through interactive fiction rather than zombies jumping out of closets. It seems like a match made in heaven, and not that difficult to imagine.
The story is classic Aliens fare. A derelict space-craft, a mysterious egg, and a small group of survivors trying to outlast a murderous super-death being. Inter-character drama, choices of who lives and who dies, action scenes escaping from the Xeno, it’s all there. Alien: Isolation showed that the series doesn’t have to be about bulked up marines shooting creatures if you focus on slow pacing and building tension, something an episodic game would be perfect for.
Plus, be very surprised if this isn’t actually announced eventually, especially with an impending sequel of the franchise courtesy Neill Blomkamp. (Andrew Vandersteen)