‘The Wolf Among Us’ episode 1 review: the stakes are high, but performance can suffer (iOS)

December 18, 2013
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Some fans of The Walking Dead may have scratched their heads in puzzlement when Telltale revealed that its next game would tackle the Fables comic book series. Fables has a massive following, but lacks the mainstream presence that The Walking Dead enjoys. But the source material is excellent, and Telltale's signature genre of choice-based interactive stories is the perfect way to adapt it. It aso helps that many of Fables' characters are recognizable even to those who've never heard of the comics.

Fables is set in a fictional New York City neighborhood called Fabletown, where the heroes and villains of classic fairy tales live after having been exiled from their homes by the mysterious "Adversary." Here the Big Bad Wolf goes by Bigby, and he's the Sheriff and protagonist; Snow White helps runs thing from the mayor's office, and other recognizable faces inhabit the spaces in between. These "fables," as they call themselves, brought magic with them to the mundane world, but they keep themselves hidden from "mundies" at all costs.

Despite its name, Fables is no fairy tale, and neither is The Wolf Among Us. Telltale's adaptation does justice to the comics' gritty, sometimes brutal world. With The Walking Dead Telltale proved its prowess when it comes to atmosphere, and it continues that tradition here. The Wolf Among Us is an interactive noir murder mystery, and like the source material it's surprisingly mature for a story full of talking pigs and frogs.

The Wolf Among Us pulls no punches. Its characterization of both minor and major players is strong, and it stings when it kills someone off (there are multiple deaths just in this, the first episode of five). The music and voice acting are for the most part very fitting and of the highest quality. Fans of the comics especially will enjoy seeing these characters brought to life so skillfully.

All that makes it even more unfortunate that the game's performance on certain devices suffers so extensively. I can't speak to others' experiences, but there was extensive choppiness on my original iPad mini.

The Wolf Among Us has three different types of sequences: investigation gameplay, action gameplay, and cut scenes. Seeing the frame rate drop continuously during cut scenes, with the audio track frequently going off-kilter or pausing so the visuals can catch up, is bad enough, but during action sequences it's unacceptable. These sequences have you tap or swipe the screen strategically as Bigby chases down perps or throws punches, and they require quick reflexes to pull off. I can't even tell you how many I messed up because the game performed so poorly on my iPad mini.

It's a crying-wolf shame that performance issues mar what is otherwise an engrossing adaptation. Of course, your experiences might differ; The Wolf Among Us probably runs fine on the latest iPad (and the iPhone 5S, for that matter). But if you're rocking an older device or a first-gen iPad mini it might be better to delve into Telltale's latest on PC. But the choices you make in this first episode will surely reverberate through the rest of the game, making it definitely a fable worth playing.

  • The Wolf Among Us Episode 1
  • Developer: Telltale Games
  • Platforms: iOS
  • Price: $4.99
  • In-app purchases? No

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