Looking back at recent titles by Telltale Games tells its own story. The Back to the Future and Walking Dead series, even Poker Night 2 have all been full of character, charm and caked in quality touches that have left the games an absolute joy to play. With the Walking Dead they showed just how much of a serious side they have tucked away behind the comedy seen before, and when you see the characters included in The Wolf Among Us you’d be forgiven for thinking this was going back to something less adult in nature. The Three Little Pigs, Snow White, Mr Toad, it sounds very cute. But this is the start of something much darker – a tale of deception, murder and uncertainty. And it’s bloody brilliant.
Set in Fabletown, a hidden suburb of New Amsterdam (formerly New York), you take the roll as Bigby Wolf, the sheriff in the town whose human form goes quite some way to hide the fact he used to be the Big Bad Wolf who, for those unfamiliar with these fairy stories, was a bit of a bastard. He tried to blow the Three Pigs’ houses down, and had a pop at Little Red Riding Hood too. But he now takes a human form by the name of Bigby, and it’s not long before he winds up at Mr Toad’s place and hears an argument in the apartment upstairs, which turns out to be between the Woodsman and a mysterious woman who, if you choose for it to happen, Bigby takes a bit of a shine to. Before long there’s a full on murder mystery to be solved, something which not only remains open at the end of the game, but also becomes a far more gruesome investigation than you’d first think. Snow White even joins Bigby in his pursuit for the killer, and with the help of the magic mirror they start to piece together what might have happened.
Almost all of the characters you come across are recognisable visually, but most will surprise you in terms of their characters and roles in the game. Beauty and the Beast are going through a rocky patch in their marriage, Mr Toad is a sleazy landlord type guy and one of the three pigs keeps hopping into Bigby’s comfy chair in a part-revenge over the whole house blowing affair. It gives the game not only an undeniable charm, but an edge which keeps you on your toes, never quite knowing what to expect around the corner.
Since The Walking Dead everything seems to have tightened up considerably, with conversations far more fluid and the Quick Time moments feeling like a fair challenge. Considering that things weren’t terribly bad before, a small improvement is really quite significant and increases the feeling that Telltale have got the whole pointy clicky genre well and truly nailed. Dialogue is brilliantly done with characters’ emotions portrayed entirely convincingly, and even after this initial episode you’re starting to develop opinions of each character. You’ve also got the element of the big decisions that we’ve seen before – key moments throughout the story and certain conversation which will totally affect the outcome of the rest of the series. Players who worked through the Walking Dead series will know that sinking feeling when you did something a bit heartless, only to notice a small line of text saying “Clementine will remember that…”. Well this is no different, and although it’s impossible to know how some of the decisions you make will affect you in the long run, it’s a constant concern in the back of your mind.
And of course, you’ll instantly notice just how great the game looks. Using high contrast visuals which emphasise the features of the characters and their surroundings it’s all too easy to get engrossed looking around and lose focus on what’s actually happening. Each character is beautifully animated too, giving a great indication of what to expect over the next few months as the other episodes are released.
The Wolf Among us is all set up to be another exceptional series of games from Telltale. Everything we’ve come to love in previous series is all in place, and with the genius-like selection of storyline this time round it’s going to be different enough to warrant being a game in its own right. Episode 2 is out soon, and quite frankly we can’t wait.