The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Telltale's opener to The Wolf Among Us proved its commitment
to Bill Willingham's Fables and its
dark side. The first episode ended on a startling cliffhanger, leaving the
second, Smoke & Mirrors, with some big shoes to fill. While still engaging on its own, without any
groundbreaking decisions or exciting sequences, Smoke & Mirrors feels a
Smoke & Mirrors slows down the action from the first
episode to deliver more about Fables' universe and introduce a slew of new
characters. It gets you out in the world to explore as you resume your
investigation to track down the Fable murderer. The transition is engaging,
especially seeing how twisted the Fables' world is, with strip clubs and fairy
tale characters forced into prostitution. Episode 2 also explores more of the
class division between certain Fables - something I'm hoping continues, as it
further explains how some went down such a dark path.
My biggest gripe is that this episode debuts too many
characters without letting them find their place. For instance, the infamous
Jack from fairy tales such as Jack &
Jill and Jack and the Beanstalk
makes his debut, but is little other than annoying. On the other hand,
expansion of characters like Ichabod Crane is a welcome addition, especially
considering his role in the comics. Crane's writing is well-done, keeping you
questioning his motives but wondering if he's just misunderstood at the same
time. I can only assume that the under-developed characters will get more
opportunities to grow in future episodes, but their roles feel half-baked for
Smoke & Mirrors' gameplay is more barren than the
previous episode, and it takes a toll. Remember those cool time-stopping, big
decision moments from the first episode? Episode 2 doesn't feature a single
one. To make things worse, the decisions you did make last time don't seem to
matter; outside of your treatment to certain characters, like Beauty and
Beast's dilemma (which isn't particularly exciting), you don't see ripples from
your previous actions. I hope more hard-hitting consequences appear in future
episodes because right now the scope of the decisions feels miniscule.
Smoke & Mirrors also focuses on relationship-building,
which is more about proving yourself to certain characters. This is done
through interrogation sequences. Can you question a child without being too
forceful? Will you break stuff around a strip club to get answers? As the Big
Bad Wolf, should you physically harm someone to find what you need? Telltale
places these choices in your hands, but sometimes they feel too guided. For
instance, instead of giving you an option to break one or two things, you have
a handful. It starts to make you think the developers want you to behave in a
certain way. Being repeatedly offered similar decisions makes the process lose
You're still investigating murder scenes, but it feels as
though connecting clues has been dumbed down. Telltale places the answers right
in front of you. What's going on is obvious, but you need to confirm it through
dialogue and clues numerous times. This was done better in episode one, where
you were connecting what happened to Toad, but piecing it together wasn't as
in-your-face-obvious as it is in this episode's investigations.
I was let down by how slow-moving Episode 2 is; it feels
more like a bridge in the story than a complete chapter. Still, I can't deny
that the world and the mature tone are captivating. The latest chapter doesn't tarnish
my enthusiasm for where the story's going, especially with a new cliffhanger
that leaves you just as concerned and stunned as the last one. I still can't
wait to see where Telltale goes as it explores more of the seedy world of
Fabletown, but Episode 3 needs to cover more ground. This episode hardly fails though; the "that's
messed up" reactions that hit during this episode are its strongest offerings,
making it worthwhile. I just wish it had a little bit more meat on its bones.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.