Telltale Games has become known for a very specific type of modern adventure game. Their games are usually serialized and heavily cutscene-driven, often resembling a TV miniseries just as much as they resemble video games. As the player in one of these games, your job is to make choices on behalf of the main character and to press timed button prompts whenever you’re doing something that requires quick reflexes. After an extremely popular adaptation of The Walking Dead flourished with this formula, Telltale Games stuck to comic book adaptation for their next project: The Wolf Among Us, an original story set in the universe of the comic book series Fables.
In Fables, a bunch of fairy tale characters have sought refuge in Manhattan, where they hide in plain sight and pretend to be human. The Wolf Among Us focuses on one of the series’ major characters, Sheriff Bigby Wolf, as he investigates a murder in 1986. Over the course of five installments, you follow the story of Bigby’s investigation, getting into fights, gathering evidence, and making choices. The action in The Wolf Among Us moves at a fast pace, and your choices are timed and integrated into the game so that interruptions in the flow of the story are rare. As a result, the game feels like a cutscene that never actually ends. Such a heavy ratio of story to gameplay won’t be for everybody, especially because the point-and-click adventure elements of the game are pretty simple, but the effect is pretty impressive and the execution is polished.
The Wolf Among Us has a dark, dramatic plot full of twists and tough choices. However, your enjoyment of the story is going to heavily depend on how much you can get into its tone of pulpy fairy tale noir. The plot itself is pretty good, but a lot of the characters, especially the ones based on more famous fairy tales, are held back by shallow characterization. There are a lot of moments where subverting a fairy tale cliché just makes a character into a different kind of cliché (What if Snow White was a prostitute? What if the Big Bad Wolf was actually a good guy?). The more obscure the fairy tales get, the better their characters fare, but that doesn’t change the fact that the writing often reaches for edginess for its own sake at the expense of depth and character development.
A few issues with the writing and characterization in The Wolf Among Us shouldn’t dissuade people who like the idea of playing through a pulpy, highly interactive story, but issues with the port make it hard to recommend the Android version. Longer load times and a higher frequency of crashes aren’t great, but the real killer is that the button inputs are way less involved on Android. Getting into a tense situation in the console versions of The Wolf Among Us means performing a wide variety of different button presses and special maneuvers, but with the Android version it’s just swipe up, swipe left, tap here, tap here repeatedly, and so on. It takes a lot of the intensity out of the game’s combat sequences. There is one plus with the Android version, though: the first chapter of the game is free in the Google Play store, which means that if you’re on the fence, you can actually start playing it to see whether or not it’s for you.
Making choices in video games is really fun, and rarely is that mechanic more central to the overall experience than in The Wolf Among Us. Since it doesn’t cost anything to play the first chapter on Android, it’s definitely worth checking out to see how it plays for yourself. It’s a flawed port of a flawed game, but it’s self-assured and original enough to find plenty of people out there who love what it’s trying to do.
Telltale Games’ second cutscene-based adventure game is a decent noir story, but the Android port suffers from overly simplified controls and button prompts.