Two years ago, Telltale Games single-handedly changed how players look at point-and-click adventure games with "The Walking Dead." The developers told a gripping and grim story befitting the comic book series while introducing gameplay elements that moved the genre forward.
So what did the game maker do for a follow-up? Its latest project is another comic book adaptation tackling Bill Willingham's "Fables." Although the series is not as well-known as Robert Kirkman's zombie epic, the game inspired from it -- titled "The Wolf Among Us" -- treads similar ground, to a point. It's dark and moody, but the framework is different. Instead of a desperate tale of survival, Telltales' game is a police procedural, with the twist that the cops, victims and perpetrators in this world are fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters.
Think of it as "Once Upon a Time" done in the tone of the TV series "The Killing." It's also very good. In "The Wolf Among Us," special characters called Fables immigrate to America from the Old World. They carve out a piece of New York for themselves called Fabletown. As Sheriff Bigby Wolf (formerly known as the Big Bad Wolf), players have to investigate the murder of a prostitute.
With the help of his partner Snow White, Wolf discovers that the slaying is part of a larger conspiracy that threatens the foundations of the Fables' new society. Unlike "The Walking Dead," this title puts a focus on gathering clues, being observant and catching witnesses in lies. In most cases, players search a room, find usable objects and question characters. Finding contradictions opens up new dialogue branches and gets Bigby one step closer to the truth.
Another point of emphasis in "The Wolf Among Us" is player choice. At least once in each of the five episodes, Bigby has to make an important call. For example, he can either investigate a bloodstained apartment or catch a crime in progress. Those decisions have consequences and can even lead to characters' deaths. Despite this, the narrative doesn't branch out too far and sticks to the course, even though the details differ with each play-through as players forge their own stories. (It's also great that the developer shows stats comparing players' choices with other gamers.)
Although Telltale Games serves up a good story that will keep players guessing, it's not as consistently great as "The Walking Dead." The first two episodes are spectacular, but the series loses momentum toward the climax. When it comes to gameplay, "The Wolf Among Us" relies too much on quick-time events to convey action sequences. It's nice if used sparingly, but it became redundant at the end.
Despite those flaws, Telltale Games still hits that narrative sweet spot. And with the season finale released this month, players can finally binge through the first season of "The Wolf Among Us," just like a Netflix series. It's one of the best interactive pieces of storytelling you can play right now.
'THE WOLF AMONG US'
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Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360