THE debut episode of The Wolf Among Us was an excellent evolution of Telltale Game’s compelling interactive story medium. It was perhaps unfairly overlooked in some quarters upon its arrival last autumn, just weeks before a new generation of Microsoft and Sony consoles.
The Wolf Among Us episode 2 - Xbox 360 (reviewed) / Playstation 3 / PC / iOS
Score: 8.4 / 10
The timing was in part unfortunate, but there was also the sense that the choice of source material - Bill Willingham’s entrancing graphic novel series - lacked the same mass market appeal as The Walking Dead. In many ways, however, the game was superior to Telltale’s most famous franchise.
Willingham’s art style was translated not only faithfully, but with flair aplenty, as the fantastical flipside of New York - one inhabited by Fables, creatures from mythology, legend and fairy tales - combined with a taut script, a memorable protagonist and riveting action sequences.
The second installment expands on the unique universe as the player - the menacing anti-hero of Bigby Wolf - continues to investigate a murder in the underworld. For much of episode two - fittingly subtitled Smoke and Mirrors - the gameplay takes the form of detective work (not always abiding by convention, of course) lending proceedings a somewhat leisurely air.
Indeed, when judged against the first episode, Smoke and Mirrors lacks a certain impact. There is a sense that the episode’s purpose is primarily expository, expanding the Fables’ world and introducing a flurry of new characters.
With only the one short action sequence this time around, the player’s role is often passive, reduced to sitting back, watching scenes and choosing lines of dialogue that can feel preordained and geared towards an aggressive response, as Bigby’s canid tendencies come to the surface.
The balance between narrative and active gameplay is one Telltale is well used to, and in the case of The Wolf Among Us, the quality of the source material and the compelling art design - all flickering neon and foreboding urban scenes played out in panel frame inspired cinematography - means that watching the story unfold is seldom a chore.
Art director David Bogan and director Jason Latino deserve credit for visualising Willingham’s work, while the dialogue and acting is uniformly excellent. Unfortunately, the same jarring frame rate issues that plagues the first episode return, at least on 360, meaning that scenes jolt and shudder when they should flow.
For all that, episode two is still a success and though its hour and a half whizzes past quickly, the game is highly enjoyable. It is to be hoped that for the third episode in the series, Telltale ups the quota of action in the same way it did in the third episode of The Walking Dead’s debut season. The teaser trailer offers encouragement in this respect, but the jury remains out on whether The Wolf Among Us - a very good game so far - can become truly great.