Game Review: “The Wolf Among Us Episode 2: Smoke and Mirrors"

Again I'm writing this months after I started. Episode 3 already went by as well, and I meant to write a review immediately to maintain topicality. Blurgh.

The second chapter in Telltale's five-part fantasy-noir drama "The Wolf Among Us" took way too long to come out. I bought the season pass back when the first episode came out, even before playing it, so I was more than ready for this one and was barely waiting for Telltale's "Go!" to run and download it. One and a half hour later, I came to two realizations: 1, I am disappointed by "Smoke & Mirrors"; 2, I hadn't been more in love with a game for many a year.

I played this one of a big ass HDTV (PC plugged through an HDMI) so the experience was a bit more cinematic for me. I will get to the stuff that didn't work for me first so I can get the negativity out of the way right off the bat.

Toad and TJ return to test the shit out of my patience.
First off, this one is way too linear, and in a story where the player's choices are supposed to affect the plot on a large scale, that is a bit of a disappointment. In episode one, we at least were given the choice between visiting Prince Lawrence or checking out Toad's apartment first about halfway through. The wrong choice would result in a character's death, so it's important to be intelligent about it. In here, there were no such choices; the game drove you through the story and I felt like I was just in for the ride. Of course there were a couple of significant choices that would supposedly play out in part three, but none of them felt as significant as The Trip Trap fork in episode one. Hell, some of the scenes (one of which involves choosing to completely mess up a titty bar with a cricket bat) seem out of place and entirely useless. There is no moral conundrum there; the only reason I hesitated for a moment while playing that scene was because I mistakenly thought I could mess up the story if I fucked the place up too bad.

Something that also bothered me was that the choices made in the first episode did carry out to episode two, but were barely acknowledged. For instance, I chose to tell Beast about Beauty being suspicous, which I expected would cause some significant ripples in Bigby's relationship with Beauty and of course her relationship with Beast. Nope; Beauty just said she didn't appreciate my babbling and we moved on. Also, what the hell is up with Lawrence? The episode trailer explicitly showed a pretty dramatic bit with Lawrence that never happened here. What gives? The same thing happened with the tease of Bigby going full-on Beast Mode, which never happened either. In general the grit and intensity from episode 1 are missing here.

Scumbag and The Creep.
The worst sin of all, however, was the way in which this second chapter invalidates one of the most shocking moments in episode one almost immediately. It felt like a cheat because, though it was a pretty surprising twist, it turned a fucking huge cliifhanger into a bait-and-switch. Very disappointing.

Moving on from all that, there's the good. The best part about these games is how they allow you (or at least grumpy old me) to truly project yourself onto Bigby, giving you a huge variety of choices during his interactions with other characters, letting you mold him into exactly the character you want him to be. You can be a huge asshole. You can be a nice guy. You can be a tsundere scary Big Bad Wolf. It's entirely up to you, and that is very much appreciated. It's different to games like, say, "Mass Effect" in the sense that your choice doesn't define your position in a black-and-white spectrum, but your character's entire personality. It's good to see that that dynamic is still as alive as ever, and maybe even more so.

The plot continues to thicken with the addition of several new mysteries and a couple of new characters (the highly suspect Bluebeard, the sack-of-shit Georgie, and the annoying turd Jack [of Beanstalk fame]). At this point I am very invested on exactly what the fuck is going on, and the big twist at the end was very promising; not only is it a bit sick, it's unexpected even if it shouldn't be. Of course the voice acting continues to be top notch; this game would be worthless otherwise.

"Why can't you two just fucking be friends?!"
Anyone who knows me even remotely well knows that the character of Beast (in almost any of its iterations) is a personal favorite, so I very much enjoyed seeing him and Beauty play a larger role in episode two. My questions regarding Beauty's suspicious behavior are finally answered and I am happy with the way in which the characters are written. There weren't many laughs in this one, but the few there were came from Beauty and Beast ("Your shift?"). I sincerely hope this isn't the extent of their role in the story because they are my favorite after Mr. Wolf.

I would like to blame this episode's awkward and disjointed nature to the fact that it's the middle child, but I've played episode 3 now, and it didn't suffer from the same problems. It feels like there were some last-minute re-writes done and episode 2 came out looking a bit rough around the edges and almost incomplete. At least it works as an entertaining segue into episode 3, which is the best thus far.


My choices:
  • I don't remember what I did or said about giving the news of Snow's death to Crane. It's not important.
  • I persuaded Tweedle Shit into talking.
  • I let Snow come with me to the Trip Trap.
  • I didn't hit Beast the second time. Poor dude had had enough and I still want to be his bro.
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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