PC, Mac, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade
Review based on Xbox Live Arcade version
|Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: February 5th, 2014
Episode Two: Smoke & Mirrors doesn’t really expand too much on the established story line. In fact, it largely destroys what we’ve already come to know. One of the plot twists from the last episode is forsaken by the second chapter to push a new story arc, and the killer itself gets a deeper angle that would have been far more compelling had they stuck with the original story line. Other than Bigby being questioned by the human police, most of the tale deals with interrogating the Woodsman or Tweedledee (depending on your choices from the previous episode), and then going around the underground looking for more clues about the two bodies from from the first episode, all leading to a battle at the end that isn’t natural to the progression of the tale itself.
For the sake of continuity, most of what appeared in the first game is carried over. The music isn’t any different, being more of a score that uses keyboards and what sounds like a bass guitar at times to create either an ominous atmosphere, or your general eighties to nineties cop drama environment. The voice acting is on par with the previous entry as well, and even the new characters like Jack, Georgie and Hans manage to play up their roles quite well, though the fourth that shall remain nameless sounds as generic as Beauty, who ends up with more time to put her incredibly out of place acting on display. TJ, however, steals the show once again with his scared and innocent childish attitude when he talks to Sheriff Bigby about something he saw. Sadly, the conflict at the very end of the final chapter could have been executed better, and Beauty’s voice acting is just unimpressive and in no way suits the general tone of any of it, even before hand.
The rougher comic book style is present again, but given that the episode largely takes place at night, it’s actually incredibly flat from it. Most of Smoke & Mirrors takes place in familiar locations, but the last two chapters bring in the gritty underbelly of the town once more including a strip club and cheap motel that rents by the hour. And yes, there is nudity in the club by a new Fable that in no way will surprise anyone. The game never gets the chance to show off how the art style actually works for the comic book based title, which is thanks partially to having two quick chapters that just seem like a waste thanks to how quickly you complete them. For instance, chapter one lasts a few minutes, lets you fake a few dialogue choices before you leave to go the interrogation in chapter two. Things like this are a major let down, especially having the environments restrained to things like the basement of the main government building, and Icabod Crane’s office most of the time.
Aside how stagnant the imagery is, the game takes forever to load at times as well. This causes a lot of the opening and closing scenes of a chapter to move slow, or become incredibly choppy. During Chapter 2 during an interrogation, I stuck staring at my choice from the last episode for three minutes before pressing the navigation button on the Xbox controller wondering if it genuinely froze. Only then did it finally progress. I’m not sure what is to blame for these sort of issues, the engine or the game trying to work the choices you make or made into the current episode. Whatever it is ends up disruptive to the flow or impact, especially during some of the more tense moments, sometimes making it rough to complete from start to finish in one sitting.
Freezing issues aside, the game basically handles the same way as any of Telltale’s Adventure titles. Nothing is changed, just move the cursor and press the right button to examine or pick things up, or to make the dialogue selection you want. There isn’t a lot of action in this episode either. The first chapter only has two commands you need to follow at the start and a short rumble towards the end. This is actually much shorter than what was present in Episode Two: Smoke & Mirrors, and the latter of the two feels tacked on thanks largely to Beauty’s voice acting and how preconditioned the random encounter ends up being to trigger it. The chances of the events that lead to the fight happening in life are so small that it feels like poor writing trying to force in one final conflict in before the game’s end, and it does take away the impact of what follows afterwards.
Episode Two: Smoke & Mirrors is an alright new chapter to The Wolf Among Us that is in no way is as good as the first. This one just uses plot twist after plot twist to present more questions instead of trying to use with the potential the main cliffhanger at the end of the previous episode to continue building the human characteristics of the fables involved, and push the emotional aspects like coping with grief and loss. At first, Episode Two seems like a well written addition to the larger story, but by the time you finish and look back you’ll realize the wasted potential, some poor writing, and how bland the visuals are, leading to a rather dull sixty to ninety minutes of gameplay.