It’s an old story—a world-weary cop busts up a fight, saves a hooker with a heart of gold, and gets launched into a shadowy mystery with only his personal code to guide him. A classic noir story…except that the prostitute is a literally a fairy tale princess, he has to shake down Mr. Toad for info, and the detective? He used to be known as the Big Bag Wolf. Welcome to The Wolf Among Us, the newest episodic game from Telltale, based on the Fables comic book.
Long story short, after a massive war in The Homelands (where the characters from children’s stories live), a band of refugees are living undercover in New York. Using magic to disguise their appearance, they’ve set up a makeshift government: King Cole is the (absent) mayor, Snow White is the city administrator, and the sherif is Bigby Wolf, who’s main job is making sure that everyone obeys the rules and normal humans don’t find out about them.
The Wolf Among Us features Bigby on a nasty call; the Woodsman is drunk and beating up a prostitute. Having the Big Bad Wolf show up at his door doesn’t calm matters down, and the two of them end up on the street fighting over the axe. They may be based on children’s tales, but this game is definitely not for the kiddies.
Bigby gets some non-answers from the hooker, who walks off into the night. And if you know anything about noir, you’ll know that her story is far from over. After an emergency phone call from Snow White, Bigby is put on the trail of finding out who the woman was, and who would have wanted her out of the way.
The gameplay for The Wolf Among Us follows the pattern set by The Walking Dead and Back to the Future, with simple puzzles and dialogue trees. But where The Walking Dead presented you with impossible moral choices, The Wolf Among Us is more focused on the mystery; you’ll hunt for clues and make your own conclusions, which may or may not be right. At the end of the first episode, the only thing I was sure of was that things were going to get much, much worse before Bigby sorted it all out. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, “If a noir has a happy ending, something went wrong.”
The Wolf Among Us uses the same sort of character design as The Walking Dead, with sketched-out characters who look like they’ve stepped out of a comic book. But The Wolf Among Us is set in a realm of magical (if dark) creatures, and the game makes use of that with a super-saturated pallet. City lights are purple and green, a bar looks like David Lynch did the art direction.
The Wolf Among Us could have done a better job of filling in the backstory of the game; if you haven’t read the comics, you might miss subtle references to the fact that Bigby is in love with Snow, or wonder why someone who receives a fatal wound is walking around later (depending on the popularity of their story, Fables are harder to kill, you see). Still, a quick trip to Wikipedia will fill you in on anything that confuses you while you’re going through Mr. Toad’s house, finding holes in his story and trying to get one of the Three Little Pigs off of your chair.
Fans of Fables will love this game. It’s an interactive story, a visual novel, with great writing and voice acting. While I have my suspicions about where the case will lead me, the first episode has me hooked. Telltale has taken all the lessons in cinematic storytelling they learned from The Walking Dead and made a noir story with a dark magic bent that still feels like its taking place in a realistic world.
Category: Point and click adventure
Developer: Telltale Games
System Requirements: OS X Snow Leopard 10.6, 1GB RAM, 2.4 GHz processor, 4 GB of RAM, 2 GB of hard disk space, 512 MB graphics card
Review Computer: 2.2GHz 13″ Macbook Pro, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM
Network Feature: No
Processor Compatibility: Intel
Price: $24.99 (covers all five episodes)
Availability: Episode one available now