‘The Wolf Among Us’ wraps its fairy tale full of murder and suspense

“The Wolf Among Us” takes graphical cues from the hit television series, “The Walking Dead.” (Photo courtesy of Telltale Games)

“The Wolf Among Us” takes graphical cues from the hit television series, “The Walking Dead.” (Photo courtesy of Telltale Games)

Bigby Wolf is about as misunderstood as it gets. The guy just wants to do his job to the best of his ability, but he just can’t ever seem to catch a break. His reputation as the Big Bad Wolf always precedes him, rightfully or not. That’s what makes him the best Fable for the job as Sheriff of Fabletown, a haven for fairy tale and folklore characters smack dab in the middle of New York City.

Times are hard for the Fables. Corruption’s grip on Fabletown tightens as its leadership has forgotten its people, forcing them into lives of crime and prostitution as they struggle to live in the real world. Suffering a few delays, it took a while to get there, but this is the episodic tale of the recently concluded “The Wolf Among Us.”

Telltale Games, the unrivaled maker of graphic adventure games, finally struck gold with “The Walking Dead Season One” after a couple of bumps in the road over the years. “The Wolf Among Us” takes its graphical cues from “The Walking Dead” and showcases a distinct neo-noir comic book art-style fused with masterful storytelling and strong, evocative characters.

The pulp murder-mystery saturated with lambent ‘80s pink and purple hues is a welcome respite from the dreary and depressing world that is “The Walking Dead.”

Through five episodes, players will investigate a series of murders in Fabletown. It isn’t only a matter of sniffing out clues and knocking heads around, though. Choices, a staple in Telltale’s games, matter.

Interactions with other characters can and will have an effect later in the game, giving players a somewhat limited ability to behave the way they choose. You can play a nice Bigby if you want, but he’ll almost always end up in a situation where his true big bad colors show. It’s in his nature, and there’s really no getting around it.

That doesn’t mean it’s any less fun as the finer points of the game have marked improvements over its zombie apocalypse predecessor. Fluid action sequences provide more choices for Bigby to rain destruction down upon his enemy. And that’s exactly what he does in almost every combat situation he’s faced with, culminating with quite an epic final battle.

When Bigby isn’t thrashing scumbags like Georgie Porgie or the Tweedle twins, Dee and Dum, he’s putting together clues to solve his case. Less emphasis was placed on puzzle solving than in The Walking Dead games, and that’s a bit of a shame.

The game still requires you to move a cursor around to probe objects, but again, that all feels predetermined. Bigby picks up a book of matches, and it isn’t immediately clear what to do with it. Bigby picks up a photo, and it’s used as a tool in a line of questioning. “The Wolf Among Us” excels in these situations, because if you’re going to have to listen to a lot of dialogue, it better be good.

Telltale does a phenomenal job with character development and dialogue. The bizarre cast, which ranges from talking pigs, toads and trolls to Beauty and the Beast, does its best to fit in the mundane real world, but they’re at their best when they aren’t pretending to be “mundies.”

As certain characters’ motivations are revealed, I couldn’t help but sympathize with them. Like anyone else, they’re just trying to make it with the hand they’ve been dealt.

Just like individual issues or arcs in the comics, the pacing has its ups and downs. Action sequences started the series out with a bang in episode one and took a noticeable dip in episode two with the need for exposition.

It is totally worth it if you can make it past that. The game hits its stride in the last two episodes, where it throws you for a loop by blowing up Bigby’s investigation and casting all new suspicion as it introduces a different antagonist.

“The Wolf Among Us” lives up to the standard set by Fables comic book creator and writer Bill Willingham. It’s commendable that there isn’t one wasted character in “The Wolf Among Us” and you don’t have to know them or Fables continuity to enjoy the game.

“The Wolf Among Us” is a perfect standalone story and gateway into the Fables comic book universe and the closest thing you can get to “True Detective” in video game form.

 

Reach the reporter at Michael.Jerome.Martin@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter at @Bizarro_Mike