Now at its midway point, Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us has struggled at times to keep the attentions of its audience captivated; the narrative inconsistently channeling the taut excitement and snappy dialogue which was so expertly engineered in its inaugural episode.
A Crooked Mile however, looks to be the finest episode yet in the series; with some truly emotionally charged moments, incendiary dialog and new enemies for Bigby to deal with, its only real problem is that the whole affair is just over far too quickly.
Kicking things off in earnest, the big whodunit serial killer mystery is very much afoot with both Bigby and Snow in pursuit of the accused from the previous episode. While Telltale’s writers have had a difficult task in keeping players invested in the mystery, A Crooked Mile represents their best attempt yet at securing those wayward attentions, as the mystery takes a number of truly intriguing turns before serving up a nihilistic adversary in the form of Bloody Mary and a hint at bigger things to come with the teasing appearance of The Crooked Man, setting up the remaining two episodes pretty nicely.
Elsewhere, the episode pulls the veil back on the Fabletown community; showing how the local denizens deal with grief and loss and how, despite their disparate attitudes and opinions, tend to band together when outsiders threaten their group. Its a beautiful thing to witness all things told, as it not only serves to deepen the impact of the serial killer’s actions but also showcases the ramifications of them with due emotional aplomb.
While A Crooked Mile is certainly emotionally charged, it also provides Bigby with his widest range of responses yet. While the first two episodes have mostly marginalised Bigby as an aggressor with incremental shades of violent response, here players have an opportunity to paint him in a much more sensitive light than before. Those looking to rekindle his testosterone-topped behaviour have little to fear however, as they too are generously empowered to bring a fatal brand of feral vengeance to Bigby’s foes. In either case, its simply great to have the choice this time round; rather than being forced to merely choose to act out the primary protagonist as a lesser asshole or a greater one.
On the other hand, Snow appears to have a dark side to her which manifests itself briefly in this episode which again provides additional and a much welcome depth to a cast of characters which up until this episode at least, have been going through the whodunit motions. It’ll be interesting to see if the writers take her momentary change of attitude anywhere or if it was just a one-off deal.
Another great moment in an episode seemingly full of them, is when Bigby is dealing with Gren; a friend of the deceased Lily. You see, the normally aggressive fable has decided to mix alcohol with drugs to ease the grief of the latter’s passing and the result is pretty hilarious as no matter what the player chooses, the dialog informs them “Gren won’t remember that”; representing a nice nod and a wink to the “[insert character] will remember that” prompt which has long been a stable of Telltale’s character relationship system.
From gameplay perspective, A Crooked Mile, like all of Telltale’s episodic titles, isn’t remotely challenging. The player is shepherded by events from location to location, from furniture to furniture as they inspect items and talk to characters to further progress the narrative. Of course, this will be no such revelation to aficionados of Telltale’s output or indeed to newly enraptured The Wolf Among Us players, but its worth mentioning that notion of challenge has long since fled the scene and hasn’t yet returned all the same.
Equally, the streaming problems which plagued earlier episodes on the Xbox 360 version of the game remain in unfortunately fine form here, with transitions between scenes coming across jerkily and the beginning credits and ‘next episode’ sequences stuttering especially badly.
Ultimately though, while it might be churlish to criticise what is arguably The Wolf Among Us’ finest hour, it is that very platitude which represents a deft reflection of what is actually A Crooked Mile’s most notable issue; the experience is simply over far too quickly. At just over one and a half hours long, A Crooked Mile feels like the most slimline episode of what was already a fairly trim series. Whether this is down to the notably revved-up pacing or not isn’t clear. What is clear though, is that more time would have been welcome to further develop what is The Wolf Among Us’ most bombastic episode to date.
Like HBO‘s adaptation of Game of Thrones pivotal Rains of Castermere, the events of A Crooked Mile make me long for what comes next and represents a sure improvement over the last episode, Smoke and Mirrors. Hopefully, its penultimate episode will continue to give players an offering of equal quality and prove, once more, that it isn’t just The Walking Dead that can so effortlessly sink its teeth into the audience.
A season pass for the Xbox 360 version of The Wolf Among Us was independently acquired by the reviewer.
Published by Warner Bros Interactive and developed by Telltale Games, The Wolf Among Us is available on PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360 and iOS
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