January 28, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 33°F


Review: Fairy-tale game wolfs down visuals

"The Wolf Among Us"

Telltale Games

With their release of “The Walking Dead” video game last year, Telltale Games has proved that the point-and-click adventure genre is not yet dead. Through its refined mechanics, story and tone, “The Walking Dead” managed to achieve critical acclaim amid triple-A, blockbuster game releases. Telltales’ next game, “The Wolf Among Us” looks to be promising in portraying the gritty lives of fairytale characters set in the modern world.

“The Wolf Among Us” is based on the comic book series “Fables,” by Bill Willingham. In it, the player controls Bigby Wolf, the eponymous “wolf” of the game, as well as the wolf in the “Little Red Riding Hood” fairytale. Bigby is the sheriff of Fabletown, an area of modern Manhattan housing humanoid myriads of “fables,” which are characters from folklore or fairytales such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” or “Beauty and the Beast.” As sheriff, Bigby makes sure other fables stay in line and do not reveal their magical nature to the humans they live among.

“The Wolf Among Us” immediately establishes the tone and aesthetic to be that of a gritty comic book. The game features bright colors contrasted against harsh shadows, lending to its neo-noir aesthetic. With its cel-shaded appearance to give the characters a comic-like outline and seemingly hand-drawn textures, the game creates powerful visual imagery and crafts a particularly striking visual experience.

While the game’s visual aesthetic is a big showstopper, the voice acting and audio work are impressive as well. The voice actors all portray their respective fables in a way that doesn’t take from the serious nature of the game, but still represents their characters effectively. Ambient sounds and background music, such as a police siren in the distance or the soft melodies of jazz, lend themselves to the game’s dark, detective vibe.

“The Wolf Among Us” is very much a narrative-driven experience, being more of an interactive story than an actual game. Controls are limited, being reduced to pointing, clicking and occasionally mashing a button, allowing anyone to enjoy the plot of the game. While the simplified controls are not necessarily a bad aspect of the game, the lack of many game elements may be off-putting for those who are looking for a high-octane action game.

The game holds many of the conventions and quirks typical of a Telltale game. It releases its content in an episodic format, divvying up an 8-to-12-hour game into five episode-like portions released bimonthly. The first portion of the game, titled “Faith,” is the only episode yet to be released.

The game features simple point-and-click mechanics and timed button presses to advance the plot and action within the game, respectively. Mechanically, it plays very similar to other 3D point-and-click adventures done by Telltale like “The Walking Dead.” The mechanics are polished and streamlined, enough that even someone unfamiliar with playing video games could successfully play it.

Many scenes allow the player to choose one action or another that can affect the outcomes of some of the game’s events, adding content to the approximately two-hour long episode. While decisions, such as responding in a kind or hostile manner, don’t drastically alter the outcome, they add an amount of personalization to the story. From choosing how Bigby responds in conversations to deciding some of his actions, the game makes the player feel in charge of the game. “Faith” crafts a visually excellent narrative that leaves the players yearning to explore the rich world of “The Wolf Among Us” in future episodes.

“The Wolf Among Us” is available on Windows, OS X, Xbox 360, PS3, Playstation Vita and iOS.