A walking dead, also known as dead end or zombie is a situation in an adventure game from which the game can no longer be finished, even though the player character is still alive (hence the name). Thus the player may not realize that he has made a mistake and caused the game to become unwinnable. The only way out of a dead end is to restore an earlier saved game, or restart. This may require the player to replay a significant part of the game.
Walking deads generally appear when the player can no longer return to a certain area after leaving it (but may have forgotten to do something crucial, or take some item along), or when the player loses or destroys an important inventory item with no way of getting it back.
Walking deads are very common in text-only adventure games, which tend to be unforgiving towards player mistakes. However, in a text adventure, replaying from the start won't take up much time. In graphical adventure games, especially if they involve extensive cut-scenes, walking deads can be a serious annoyance to the player, and are nowadays generally considered poor game design.
Examples of dead ends (Warning: may contain spoilers) :
- In King's Quest V, you can generally not go back to an earlier area, but frequently require an item from there. Examples include the pie, the hammer, the crystal, and the medallion. Missing any of these will make you unable to complete the game.
- In Codename: Iceman, when you leave the CIA building, you are given the wrong ID card, but you are not informed of this unless you specifically look at it. Later in the game, of course, you need to have the proper one.