Developers: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Plot: Reeling from the loss of his partner, Sheriff Bigby dives into the seedier parts of the Bronx, chasing up a lead on who killed Faith and Snow.
I have no idea what I was expected from the second episode of the Wolf Among Us. After the terrific, yet saddening twist wrapping up the first episode, I have seen a fair few fan theories online. I kind of wished I hadn’t looked, because I thought I had the entire plot worked out. However, by the time the opening credits kick in, we are hit with a twist so amazingly unpredictable, that we are sent reeling and praising the brilliance of Telltale Games, before we’ve even begun.
This twist also makes it rather tricky to summarise any of the actual story of the game, but maybe you are best off not knowing anything about the narrative. Basically, Smoke and Mirrors simply continues the investigation, focusing on some new characters like Georgie Porgie (an interesting take on ‘kissing the girls and making them cry’), and The Little Mermaid. However, the most exciting piece of writing of Smoke and Mirrors comes from the episode turning to the older characters and fleshing them out a bit. This episode focuses more closely on Beauty and Beast’s relationship, one of the more interesting sides of the comic book, but also gives the supporting character of Holly more to work with, which was interesting, because I assumed we were done with the relatively minor character. It seems that Telltale Games aren’t willing to leave any stone unturned, when it comes to story-telling.
The most uplifting thing about ‘Wolf Among Us’ is the fact that it just feels good to be back in this game. That eerie buzzing of the theme tune, silently massaging our adrenaline. The neon pink give us a fraction of light in this murky, Noir world. Best of all, it is just fun being Sheriff Bigby, one of the most exciting gaming anti-heroes I’ve had the pleasure of tackling (especially in a choice-driven game like this). Every now and again, the writers would stop hitting us with clever story twists or interesting back stories, and just let us enjoy being Bigby. Little details like retrieving a pack of cigarettes from a wreckage you caused, or calmly telling a civilian you ‘have a way with people’, before proceeding to beat the hell out of the person you are interrogating. As I said in my previous review, it is simply fun having that perfect comeback to whatever the other characters throw at you. However, this doesn’t become a one-wolf show. There is a great emotional scene where Bigby is left speechless during a confrontation, early in the game. Again, discussing it further would stray into spoiler territory, but if you know the moment I am on about, I am sure you can agree it was beautifully written.
I was a little disappointed at the lack of ‘choice’ this time around. The last episode laid out several different paths to take and almost every play-through I saw, crafted a slightly different version of events. However, none of these alternate routes ever feel like they greatly affect anything. For example, the main choice was whether you saved Prince Lawrence or not. That never comes into play in Episode two. The other one was whether you arrested the Woodsman or Tweedle Dum. We got an alternative interrogation scene, but by the time, it was done, the game turned strangely linear. It is a tough game to have this amount of choice with, because it is anchored by a story-heavy mystery, where there can only be one answer. Whereas with the Walking Dead, the story can branch in any direction, the Wolf Among Us never seems to have that luxury. Sure, talking to Tweedle Dum gives you foreshadowing on one side of the story and the Woodsman lets you grapple a clue two scenes early, but you still end up getting the whole picture by the end regardless. Of course, this is totally understandable and I am not asking for that to be changed, I just feel a little deflated that the Wolf Among Us can only seem to go so far.
Also, other sides of this episode felt a little disappointing. For one, it seemed very short. You progress a little further with the story and while it was enjoyable, especially the final twist, it still feels a tad routine. You uncover clues, have fun piecing them together, but as far as gameplay goes, Smoke and Mirrors covers no new ground. I am not sure about everyone else, but my game lagged slightly, as every time the action cut to a new scene, the sound would play a little before the visuals kicked in, which dampened the mood slightly. I think there is a wrench in the works and it is fairly easy to spot. It’s called the Walking Dead game. Yes, quite frankly, I feel that the Walking Dead is so successful that Telltale Games have kind of let Wolf Among Us slide down on the priority list. And that is a crying shame, because, and I know I am in the minority with this opinion, I think that if enough time and effort was put into the Wolf Among Us, it could surpass the Walking Dead game in terms of quality. It has a better overall tone and the stylish look of the game feels more exciting and original to me. However, with the public screaming for the developers to get us the next chapter of Clementine’s story out as soon as possible, poor old Sheriff Bigby seems to have been shoved onto the backburner.
Final Verdict: A fantastic story aside, Smoke and Mirrors feels a little routine when it comes to gameplay. Good, but not overly great either.