The Wolf Among Us Review

Title:  The Wolf Among Us
Maker:   Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platform: PS Vita
Cost: $30

Much More than the Sum of Its Parts

Pop culture references the Walking Dead so incessantly, that I could never play the Telltale versions. They looked fine enough, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, even though I have the series sitting in Steam from a Humble Bundle. The Wolf Among Us is so enjoyable that it makes me want to go back and give those early games a try.

The story and universe carry the most weight.  The game does a tremendous job of weaving actual fairy tales into scenarios. For example, in a rage, you’re given the option to rip off the arm of a character named “Gren”. Once you realize it’s Grendel, the homage becomes clear.  When TWAU is at its best, it forces your hand in split second decisions. The options provided are often true to the situation, yet uncomfortable. As many games as I’ve played I would assume I’m desensitized to violence, but it turns out I can’t tear someone’s head off when given the choice.
Grendel
The biggest problem is that it’s glitchy as hell. It’s not clear if this is all versions, or just the PS Vita one. As testament to this, it’s the first game that has actually crashed my Vita and forced a hard reset (the error screen that appears is terrifyingly similar to the blue screen of death). Even when it’s running normally there are long loading times, stuttering between scenes, and a few points that require closing and reopening the application.
Choices
However, it’s well worth the bugs and the minor character inconsistencies, to have an experience in Fabletown. No single episode (of the 5) is nearly as powerful as the story taken as a whole.  They’re made to be played together.  And it’s this consistency and patience that elevates the package to something special.

Review: 5 stars (out of 5)

Memory:  The End

First Impression: Dragon’s Crown

You realize almost immediately that Dragons Crown is a repetitive game. But so is Borderlands, and Diablo, and every other lootfest, so what?  So it becomes about the world, and the characters, that carry the rest of the game. Dragon’s Crown is better than most, but a step behind Borderlands 2. I would mention the story, but like any hack n’ slash, you’re moving from point A to point B, causing the story to take a back seat. It does scores some nostalgia points given the time I spent with Odin Sphere and Princess Crown (both the finest examples of 2-D graphics for their respective generations).

Oh, and the hyper sexualized imagery is somehow not as tacked-on as I expected.  But does remain odd, at-best (search “Dragon’s Crown Images” to see immediately what I’m talking about).

4-player is non-stop pandemonium

4-player is non-stop pandemonium


Soul Sacrifice First Impressions

Soul Sacrifice is a weird game.  By weird, I don’t mean “Japanese”, or that the technical execution is strange, I mean that it’s bizarre.   The first 15 minutes, which should pull you into the game, are borderline repulsive.  They’re out of place ugly (for a game that for the most part is beautiful), there’s no context (for a game with rich lore), and you’re companion, a talking book, is a huge burst of Evil Dead when it seemed to going the more serious route.  After an hour or two however, you start to get into it.  The actual narration of the story is moving, as you find yourself nudged in the direction of evil regardless of what you’d like to do.  There’s small annoyances that seem obvious- you have to go to the main screen for every little tweak and adjustment, and the story, although solid, is literally read to you in the slowest imaginable way (the narration speed could have easily been doubled).  But you keep playing, so that’s a good place to start.

Yes, that's blood coming out of his face

Yes, that’s blood coming out of his face


Opening a PS Vita (the Non-Review)

I thought I was really clever. Since Soul Sacrifice came out I’ve been having my eye on a Vita.  I asked a few people about a price drop, and the consensus was that since they didn’t declare it at E3, it probably wouldn’t happen until the PS4 releases. So when I saw a sale last weekend at Target I scheduled a grocery run to get me close enough to pick one up. It turns if I had been slightly patient I could have picked the thing up with Telltale’s Walking Dead and a memory card this week for the same price. Therefore, less than a week after the purchase, this review is partially obsolete.
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When the clerk hands me the box the first thing I notice is how small and light it is. The cardboard is thin and it seems more like a box for a knock-off retro console, than a legitimate system.
Outside
Opening it up there’s not much inside. But it’s compartmentalized pretty well, almost like the original wii’s bento box appeal. Inside I’m surprised to find a pack of AR cards, not that I ever used them on the 3ds, but its a nice touch.
Inside
I loved my PSP.  The thing was beautiful and slick, and in my opinion the most underrated system since the Saturn.  But the initial setup was a horror (and it happened every-time the battery completely drained). So I’m shocked when I turn on the Vita and I’m through the setup, including wifi and my PSN account, in 2 minutes. The screen is also beautiful and movement fluid. It’s only now that the little thing starts to impress. Logging into the store and finding all the Playstation Plus titles for download is easy, significantly better than the process on the PS3, which is plagued with long load times and convoluted menus. However, when I go to download it freezes on the “Preparing to download” screen. A quick Internet search reveals this happens ALOT. Literally hundreds of people are complaining about it. I have to power it down twice before it finally downloads everything on the third try.
As for holding it in my hand, it doesn’t fit quite as naturally as the PSP, which had the analog stick perfectly placed on the left and the four Playstation buttons on the right. On the Vita the dual sticks seem to sit low, and the back touch pad remains a novelty. But all in all, its a hell of a lot more comfortable than the brick that is the 3DS.
Really, my biggest complaint, is the complaint that has always existed with Sony. The characters and the voice that guide you along lack the personality of a Nintendo system. A door opens, and a small orange stick figure walks through. Is he supposed to be my guide? Why would I bother with this? Then I notice that the tutorial considers itself enough of a game to have a trophy set.  Ok, maybe I’ll give it a try.
Conclusion- All the strengths and weaknesses of the Vita are evident the moment you open the box. The system is beautiful, well designed, but horribly neglected. Flimsy packaging, an unsolved critical but easily identifiable download problem, and just a general lack of games, shows how little attention has been paid to the thing. I think it has the potential to be a tremendously enjoyable system, like the PSP, but will inevitably be underrated and underutilized.