With the popularity of fairy tale-themed television shows like ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” and NBC’s “Grimm,” it’s no surprise that Telltale Games has decided to adapt Bill Willingham’s hit comic book series — and The New York Times bestseller — “Fables” into a video game.
Given the success of last year’s “The Walking Dead” episodic video game adaptation, the company has some big shoes to fill. With the first episode of “The Wolf Among Us” (available on Playstation 3, Xbox, PC and Mac), Telltale proves they just might be up to the task.
Based on the Vertigo comic series, the game is set in Fabletown, a community of fairy-tale and storybook characters who have escaped their respective worlds. They now live in a tiny enclave in New York City, hiding away from “mundanes,” who are analogous to the Muggles of “Harry Potter.”
The game takes place 20 years before the comic’s story starts, and players take on the role of Bigby Wolf — the Big Bad Wolf of fairy-tale infamy and sheriff of Fabletown — as he sets out to investigate a murder.
The decision to make “Wolf” a prequel is a clever one. Not only does it keep the game’s storyline from simply becoming a playable version of the comics, but it also prevents the game from messing up the comic series’ continuity.
Moreover, having players play as Bigby works on many levels. Not only is Bigby one of the most popular characters of “Fables,” but his role as sheriff lends the games its noir look and feel. It also offers newcomers an entry to the “Fables” universe by way of interviewing other characters. This is particularly important because the game is chock-full of subtle references and Easter eggs for even the most casual of “Fables” fans. From the beginning, it’s clear “Wolf” is trying to inhabit as much of the comic’s universe as it can.
In light of that intent, “Wolf” looks a lot like the comic on which it’s based. The game features framed cut scenes and locations just like they’re drawn in the comic’s panels. An exception is the game’s emphasis on gritty dark shadows and neon coloured highlights.
The voice cast is incredible, as well. Lead voice actor Adam Harrington nails Bigby’s voice, capturing him exactly the way many comic fans may have imagined the character to sound.
But the one major criticism of “Wolf” is the gameplay. Players unfamiliar with Telltale’s style will take a little while getting used to how it works. What’s really interesting, however, is that the game factors in all of the player’s decisions as Bigby, meaning one rude interaction with a character now might have repercussions later.
Ultimately, the first episode of “The Wolf Among Us,” or “Faith,” as it’s officially titled, successfully captures the tone of the series it’s based on and effectively sets up the four episodes to follow.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 23 print edition. Nivea Serrao is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.