The Wolf Among Us: Episode 2 “Smoke & Mirrors” Review (Xbox 360)

The Wolf Among Us

We’re back in Fabletown for Episode 2: Smoke and Mirrors, and it’s as dark as we remember.

The first episode of The Wolf Among Us was certainly a very fine string to Telltale Games‘ already impressive bow, and Smoke & Mirrors takes us even deeper into the clandestine, noir depths of Fabletown. You don’t so much play The Wolf Among Us as participate in it, but it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. The characters, despite being plucked straight from the pages of Brothers Grimm, have intriguing depth and personality and their plights will leave you wanting more insight into the rugged fairytale necropolis. I played episode 2 on the Xbox 360 and while there are one or two lingering frame rate issues it did little to diminish the charm and the urge to push the story on.

The Wolf Among Us

How will you choose to interrogate Tweedledee?

If you haven’t read DC Comic’s Fables comic series then you should certainly spend some time with it.  The Wolf Among Us takes these characters and brings them to life in an all new murder-mystery tapestry like something right out of David Lynch. Smoke & Mirrors sees us continue Bigby Wolf’s investigation into the murdering of Faith and Snow (White) with a surprising plot twist right off the bat. The same simple game mechanics are present but the genius of the game lies with its story telling and excellent character dialogue. The Wolf Among Us borrows a lot from the decision driven story telling that made Telltale’s The Walking Dead such a hit with fans, but, for me, it pulls it off even more perfectly.

The game looks exquisite. Out of the box the graphics seem fairly run of the mill but once you start playing you realise how sharp and engaging they are, offering up a delicious colour palette of velvets and neons, the heavy outlines emphasising the dark forces rife in the town.

“You don’t so much play The Wolf Among Us as participate in it, but it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.”

One of the highlights of Smoke and Mirrors, and something which defines the series so far, is how far the player is willing to go to preserve Bigby’s humanity. The quicktime button-mashing fighting sequences are well choreographed, but the real buzz is the ultimate control you have over events – how far will you go to solve the case? How will you interrogate your witness? Of course, the chapter will close in much the same way for all players, but with The Wolf Among Us it’s all about the journey and how the small decisions you make will alter the story and character interactions further down the line.

If you played Episode 1: Faith then Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors is a no brainer. While it’s short (took me around 2 hours to complete) and relatively uneventful in the grand scheme of things, there are some revelations which leave you with a real sense of ‘what next?!’. Let’s just hope Telltale Games don’t make us wait another 3 months for Episode Three. In the meantime we can all enjoy Episode 2 of The Walking Dead which should have a release date soon. 

Release Date for The Wolf Among Us Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors revealed

Like me, have you been waiting patiently to see what is to come of Bigby Wolf and the residents of Fabeltown? Well fear not, episode 2 of Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among us has finally been given a release date. Epidode 1, Faith, grabbed gamers and didn’t let go with its perfect of blend of character development, narrative and suspense – somewhat of a staple these days for the developer – and the fans it recruited have been patiently awaiting the next instalment. Well, my friends, we only need wait another few weeks – Episode 2: Smoke and Mirrors will arrive in early February, and I’ll be reviewing it right here at Home Behind the Sun. The news arrived over at Telltale Games’ official forum where their president, Kevin Bruner posted:

“We are working hard with all of our partners (Xbox, PlayStation, Steam, Apple) to coordinate everything, but we’re confident enough to announce that here. The episode is looking really good (as is the rest of the season!). We are very concerned about the long delay for this episode, but this is one of those occasions where several things conspired against us (not to mention the additional delays due to the holidays). I won’t dive into the details, but it’s been an unusual and specific set of circumstances and we do not anticipate it happening again as we go forward with the rest of the season.”

Bigby Wolf and the Woodsman exchange fistycuffs

Whether you’re a fan of the Fables series (on which The Wolf Among Us is based) or not, there’s a lot to be found for the adventure gamer. Faith introduced us to some wonderfully complex characters in a world that felt as if film noir had collided with Brothers Grimm. From the outset you got a real sense of purpose, and the short yet sweet episode was filled with such variety. From bar brawls and rooftop chases, to suspenseful dialogues and a genuine plot twist, The Wolf Among Us felt right at home on my console. To check out my review of The Wolf Among Us episode 1, click here.

Fan of adventure games? Follow Home Behind the Sun on Twitter & Facebook for all the latest adventure game news, including a review of The Wolf Among Us: Smoke and Mirrors.

Broken Age, Act 1 to be released early for Kickstarter backers

The founder of Double Fine, Tim Schafer has unveiled via Twitter that Act 1 of Broken Age will be available to Kickstarter backers from the 14th January.

Broken Age was floated on Kickstarter in 2012 and hoped to raise $400k to fund the point and click adventure, but it ended up being crazily popular, attracting an 87,000 strong crowd and a whopping $3.3 million.  Getting a first glimpse at the game, it’s not difficult to see why.

Broken Age is a charming, stylishly animated point and click adventure game with an otherworldly, mysterious feel.  Anyone fond of traditional point and click adventure gaming will know Schafer’s work back to front, lauded for his work on Grim Fandango (perhaps my favourite game in the genre), Full Throttle, and of course, The Secret of Monkey Island. Some big name credits in the voice acting department for Broken Age only add to its appeal, Jack Black and Elijah Wood both offering up their talents. The game appears to have two protagonists, a young boy and girl, in similar situations, seeking to break tradition and change their lives. The boy is alone on a spacecraft seeking escape from isolation while the girl is being ‘sacrificed’ to a mysterious monster by her village. Actions will be context sensitive with a more modern feel to it than your Broken Swords and Monkey Islands, and, if you let it, it looks like it’ll charm you into submission and become one of those long cherished adventure titles. Trailer below.

I’ve said it before, but it’s just thrilling to see games like this thriving today. Games which rely on narrative, imagination and pure wonder to connect with their audiences – and don’t patronise in the process.  Broken Age Act 1 will be available to download via Steam on the 14th January to Kickstarter funders ONLY – a public release date is yet to be announced (as you can see from Schafer’s tweet) but should follow before the release of Act 2.  So if you backed this one, congratulations. Give us a tweet and let us know how you get on!

Detective Grimoire kickstarter campaign comes to fruition on Android

Do you remember that kickstarter campaign which got underway a few years ago for a quirky looking point and click adventure game?  Well it’s finally landed on Android in the shape of Detective Grimoire, and it doesn’t disappoint.  As many kickstarter investors will know, crowdfunding is a risky business with endless delays and projects are often completed in a piecemeal fashion. Detective Grimoire was probably no different, but nobody expected to have to wait 18 months after its target deadline! So was it worth it?

Detective Grimoire is a point and click adventure game which draws its inspiration from a number of sources. You play the eponymous detective, as you set out to solve a murder in a grizzly swamp community through interrogating residents, hunting for clues and solving puzzles. The overall feel of the game is somewhere between Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and a Stephen King novel, and the puzzle element alludes to Professor Layton in a rather obvious and sometimes comedic way.  Despite the sinister undertones, the game is packed with comedy akin to the Monkey Island series, and the simple design coupled with excellent voice narration lend themselves well to creating an immersive gaming experience.  As with all great adventure games, the focus here is on character development and story.

It’s nice to see games like Detective Grimoire being released exclusively on a mobile platform. Lately, we’ve seen some excellent ports – Syberia from Anuman Interactive is an excellent addition, as well as more recent gems like Wadjet Eye Games’ Gemini Rue – but it’s nice to see some new games come through organically on Android that have real depth and presence. Of course, Detective Grimoire will also be available on PC, but this hasn’t stopped SFB games from making full use of the touch screen and making it a genuine mobile gaming experience.

Detective Grimoire is available on the Android market now and is currently priced at £2.43 (or $4.00) and is worth a shot if you’re a fan of puzzle based adventure games.

Alien Isolation has finally been revealed by Sega

There have been many leaks, planned and otherwise, over the past year regarding Creative Assembly‘s Alien Isolation, and Sega have finally decided to spill the beans.  On first impressions the game isn’t what you’d expect from the developer of the Total War franchise.  It’s a first person survival horror game which has the look and feel of Ridley Scott’s original and terrifying sci-fi classic. It’s refreshing to see such a faithful depiction of the Alien we know and love after years of Alien vs Predator type nonsense, and many will relish in the nostalgia after feeling disappointed with Alien’s box office prequel, Prometheus.

Alien Isolation, the story so far

The Xenomorph, as created by H.R. Giger

The Xenomorph, as created by H.R. Giger

From what’s been revealed, we know that Alien Isolation is set 15 years after the events of 1979′s Alien.  You play Ellen Ripley’s daughter who makes her way to a rival space station to find out more about her mother’s disappearance.  The survival horror theme kicks in when things don’t go as planned and you end up trapped aboard the space station with nothing but dead bodies and a Xenomorph to keep you company (oh, and lots of darkness).  This is survival horror at its extreme.  You’ll encounter the Xenomorph creature periodically and unexpectedly throughout your exploration of the station, and it’s able to finish you off without breaking a sweat. Tackling the alien is futile, and so you have to resort to hiding and taking shelter where possible in what seems to be some excellent and suspenseful stealth play.  Your character does have radar equipment, but it’s pretty intermittent and will only ever show you what’s in front of you (think cones of vision).

What seems to set Alien Isolation apart from most games of the genre is the artificial intelligence in play.  The Xenomorph seems to be very cunning and systematic in its hunt for you, responding to the most subtle clues in the environment (light switches and footsteps, for example) and it will seldom look in the same place twice so you have to constantly adapt to your surroundings.

Not much else has been revealed about the game, but there seems to be a strong puzzle element to the environment, such as finding keys and using various unorthodox techniques to gain access to new parts of the map.  The idea of facing a single enemy throughout a game may sound a little tiresome, but the Xenomorph’s intelligence seems to evolve through the campaign, along with your skills and ways of escaping it.  Besides, did you ever meet Pyramid Head anywhere in Silent Hill and nonchalantly utter, “oh, it’s you again…”?

Sega have yet to reveal an official release date but it’s set to arrive on Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One and PS4 in late 2014. Trailer below.

Next Gen Hitman axed by Square Enix? Let’s not jump to conclusions…

While nothing has been confirmed, the internet seems to be ablaze with news that Square Enix Montreal have cancelled their eagerly anticipated sequel to Hitman Absolution. The news fell into the lap of someone at Videogamer who happened to be browsing the Linkedin profile of games designer (and Square Enix Montreal employee), Richard Knight. He mentions on his profile that Hitman had “been cancelled” and that he was moving onto other projects.

If this is indeed true it would be a sad notion for gamers everywhere, particularly me. I think Square Enix have done a rather excellent job of ‘rebooting’ franchises in a fresh and exciting way (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Tomb Raider etc) and Absolution was a fine string to their bow. Okay, it may not have had the charm or controller-wrenching frustration (and resultant euphoria from completing a mission immaculately) that Blood Money had, but I thought it was a faithful and worthy successor, and it swallowed hours of my time remorselessly.

Not a great deal has been circulated in the media about the new next gen shaped Hitman, although it had been rumoured that IO interactive would be getting a look in, perhaps taking over on one or two titles. It isn’t uncommon for two developers to work on the same franchise, and it certainly wouldn’t do Hitman any harm as IO gave us Hitman in the first place. A return to roots is never a bad thing in gaming.

Basically, I think it’s worth holding your breath for a little while longer. It could be that the project has been handed over to IO exclusively and that Knight has been moved onto another job. Square Enix have announced in the past that IO would be downsized and given more control over the future of the franchise – this could simply be the beginning of things to come. I’m doubtful that Square Enix will be involved directly, but there’s hope for another Hitman title yet and it sounds like it could be in good hands.

What are your most anticipated adventure games of 2014?

For the hardcore adventure gamer there are countless opportunities to get lost in the moment, from investigating Templar mysteries with George Stobbart in Broken Sword to felling blood dragons in the land of Skyrim. One of the reasons I adore adventure games from all platforms and genres is the fact that they never seem to age. I play modern titles from the likes of Telltale Games and suddenly I’m transported back to my floppy disk Monkey Island days. I play X-COM and I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the likes of Jagged Alliance and the classic Fallout games – I’d play them today with the same spirit and sense of awe. Then there are completely fresh experiences which grab you and don’t let go, such as From Software’s Dark Souls or basically anything touched by Bethesda.

2013 has been an excellent year for gaming in general.  Microsoft and Sony have both released their next gen consoles, Steam is revolutionising PC gaming, and developers have worked long and hard to bring us some truly memorable and exquisite titles. 2013 also marks the year I decided that Android/iOS gaming was actually something worth talking about. But what are your most anticipated adventure games of 2014? It’s time to stop day dreaming about potential release dates for Fallout 4 and see what’s on offer… (then start day dreaming again).

Watchdogs

In 2012 we got a glimpse of what Watchdog was all about during an E3 demo, and since then it’s made its way onto many wishlists. It’s also experienced significant delays over the past 18 months which only ups the ante – we want to get our hands on it and see what it’s all about.  We do know this: Watchdogs is an open world adventure based around the very intriguing concept of information warfare.  We meet our protagonist, Aiden Pearce, in a fictional Chicago, host to a Central Operating System which controls all of the technology within its borders. These ‘supercomputers’ were founded after a hacker brought the nation to a standstill with a series of blackouts a decade earlier. At E3 we witnessed Pearce assassinate a media mogul who was wrongly acquitted of a murder charge and collaborate with a fellow hacker in stealing some tech. Intriguing stuff with a very Deus Ex style drama to it. Ubisoft have now delayed release until the back end of Spring 2014 which has no doubt riled a few individuals who had pre-ordered a Watchdog next gen bundle. Below is the trailer from E3 2013.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher series has been a joy to behold so far. I like a game with a steep learning curve, one that forces you to immerse yourself and get lost in its world before it’ll pay out, and the Witcher is a perfect example of such a game.  The mature themes look like they’ll be carrying on as well as the overarching world and plot, and perhaps most importantly, CD Projekt Red haven’t showed any signs of dumbing down the adventures of Geralt of Rivia. It’s nice to see hack n’ slash alive and well in the current gen. The Witcher: Wild Hunt will hit shelves mid 2014.

Uncharted 4

How does Naughty Dog follow up something like The Last of Us? With Uncharted 4, that’s how.  We’re still hopeful that we’ll see Uncharted 4 in 2014 but that remains to be seen as they keep us hanging without a release date.  A teaser trailer was offered up at E3 last year and all eyes are now fixed firmly on Sony who are expected to ramp up their marketing pretty soon. The Uncharted series took me by surprise – I was expecting it to be a flash in the pan type experience, not being a fan of what I regard as linear games, but I was completely taken in by it.  You won’t pump hours into the game, but the time you spend there is perfectly tailored to thrill and captivate.  I’m looking forward to Drake’s next outing.  It’ll be a PS4 exclusive and will be released…soon?

Dark Souls 2

Easily my most anticipated game of the past two years, I can’t wait to see what From Software have in store for us. Dark Souls took elements of Demon Souls and made them even better (somehow), with the sequel set to do the same. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve ever gotten from a computer game. Everything was perfect, from the elaborate chess-like combat mechanics to the subtle yet vital implementation of cooperative play. It’s also controller-throwingly difficult, something which I found appealing in a gaming generation sadly lacking the dreaded ‘GAME OVER’ screen. Originally, Dark Souls 2 was going to be released on Xbox 360 and PS3 (and PC) only, although Namco Bandai have since hinted that a next gen release will also be in the pipeline. You can pre-order Dark Souls 2 now and it’s set for a March 2014 release (which just so happens to coincide with my birthday….). Below is 2013′s E3 trailer.