Suburban Timewaster

I play video games and review them.

Christmas Stories: A Christmas Carol Collector’s Edition (Big Fish Games)

Your uncle Scrooge writes you a letter, asking you for help.  In order to grant his request, you must work with his good conscience and the ghosts of Christmas to save him from himself.  Careful, because Scrooge’s evil alter ego seeks to undermine you at every opportunity.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure that you’re familiar with the classic story, A Christmas Carol.  It is the tale of a rich old miser who must change his ways for the good of the world and himself.  This game chose to take a different turn by having you take the role of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred.  I’ll admit that this change is not one I’m crazy about at all.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against change and I do love the story Zombie Christmas Carol.  The only difference is that the zombie version managed to stick to the original theme of the story with an extra plot about the undead walking among them.  This version undermines the moral of the classic story.  In the original Christmas Carol, the three ghosts of Christmas visit Scrooge to scare him into changing his ways.  The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge his past, forcing him to observe memories from his traumatic childhood and demonstrating how it made him the man he became.  It also forces Scrooge to see the mistakes he’s made, such as choosing money over Belle, and showing the few bright spots in his life to make him see that he’s wrong.  Scrooge is helpless to change his past and the bad decisions he made, showing a deep regret for some of his choices.  The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge the life he’s missing, such as taking him to Fred’s house, and the depravity of the world he refuses to face.  It also demonstrates to Scrooge how he has the power to do something about this depravity.  The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come takes the appearance of the grim reaper and never speaks.  This is to demonstrate how scary and unknown the future can be.  Its job is to show Scrooge the future he will have if he doesn’t change his ways.  Let me tell you, said future is not a good one.

In this game, the ghosts each make an appearance.  However, spoiler alert, you get to change Scrooge’s past.  I’m sure you remember the scene in the original story, when Belle didn’t like the man Scrooge became and broke off her engagement. Well, in this version, Scrooge tried to propose to Belle but the evil alter ego steals the ring and Belle gets angry, thinking Scrooge played a cruel joke on her.

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Don’t worry, you can get the ring and change Scrooge’s present so that he and Belle not only marry, but also get to have children of their own.  As I said earlier, the whole point of the Ghost of Christmas Past is to show Scrooge how bitterness and greed consumed him.  While Scrooge is helpless to change his past, he can still learn from it.

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The Ghost of Christmas Present asks you to take a letter to Scrooge from Bob Cratchit asking him to get medicine for Tiny Tim.  Unfortunately, said alter ego took the letter and tries to destroy the medicine.  That’s right, Scrooge’s current misery isn’t because he let greed and bitterness consume him.  It’s because a little demon goes out of his way to sabotage him at every opportunity.  The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come makes its appearance and it talks.  The whole point of this spirit is that it doesn’t talk.  You also get to see Scrooge’s miserable present, which doesn’t make sense considering that you changed his past.  He’s not the same man anymore, so he wouldn’t have a bitter future.  There are also two other plot issues, such as Fred saying that he misses Fan.  Since she died giving birth to him, he wouldn’t remember enough about her to miss her.  Another one is that, when you first get to Scrooge’s house, he has a Christmas tree.  The whole point of the story is that Scrooge hates Christmas.  Why would he put up a tree in his house?

The Collector’s Edition comes with an extra story line where you explore kitty cat world and help Sherlock Cat find Santa Cat.  It’s An American Tail with felines.

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I’ll admit, this story is adorable but it really has no point other than to get you to shell out more money.

The game play is actually quite fun, with you going around and collecting objects to add to your inventory.  You can use them to advance throughout the story.  Some items require you to take place in a hidden object scene for you to collect.

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You also play mini games that you have the option of skipping.  If you’re stuck, use a hint.

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While this game seems like the typical hidden object formula, it also has one extra addition.  Remember Scrooge’s good conscience, who comes with you?  He can animate objects in order to help you with your quest.  In the extra storyline, this feature changes into a magnifying glass so you can collect paw prints.

This game is fun, but undermines the original story.  I give it 5 out of 10; making an adaptation that completely ignores the message severely damages the game.  However, the addictive game play makes up for it.

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Mystery Tales: The Other Side Beta Test

The Twola TV Company’s giving away free super TVs all over town.  Only issue is that the police keep getting reports about dead bodies in front of these television sets.  Is it a coincidence, or are these TVs deadly for viewing?

I’m sure you already figured out on your own that there’s something suspicious about these TVs.  The actual mystery is about what is up with these TVs.  In the first few minutes, you know something’s wrong when your partner, Natalie, passes out in front of hers.  That’s right; it’s the damsel in distress cliché.  The use of this is particularly grating when you discover that Natalie collaborated with you on several other previous cases, all of them involving the supernatural.  Wouldn’t she know better than to fall into such an obvious trap?  If that wasn’t enough, one of the characters is a scientist with anti-television views people haven’t had since the 1950s.  Needless to say, this incident actually makes his argument stronger.  Despite these plot issues, the mystery is intriguing and I really would love to solve it.

The game play is typical hidden object with you going from room to room collecting various items to use in different locations.  Some items require you to participate in hidden object scenes.  If you’re having trouble finding items, use a hint.  Let me tell you, I’ve only had to use the hint a couple of times throughout the beta test.  You can also play mini games that are easy to follow but, if not, you can skip it.  I’ve only had to skip one game, which is a good sign.  During the run, you collect notes and diary pages with only the former available for viewing.  You can read the latter when the full game comes out.

This game is addictive and intriguing.  I can see myself buying the full version in the future.

Cathy’s Crafts (Gamehouse)

When Cathy’s parents go on vacation, they put her in charge of their store.  Meanwhile, her boyfriend wants her to go to New York with him.  Can Cathy find her own path in life, or will she live according to what other people expect from her?

The plot is your typical young girl wants to follow her dream job while everyone else around her is planning her life for her.  Thankfully, this only lasts for one section.  The rest of the game is about Cathy finding her way while her boyfriend, Mark, goes to Paris and tries to convince Cathy to get a job there.  I’ll admit that I have mixed feelings about him.  On the one hand, Mark does want Cathy to go for her dream and supports her for it.  On the other hand, Mark also has a tendency to be a little selfish and takes questionable actions.  For instance, Mark is the reason Cathy’s parents don’t come back to the hardware store in time because he used his hacking skills to send them to Timbuktu.  He also doesn’t really contact Cathy except to send pictures of himself in Paris.

In my opinion, Cathy is a terrible judge of character.  Let me tell you, when she gets a job at the florist shop, she fails to see that her co-worker is sabotaging her.  Let me point out that Cathy’s boss has a habit of playing favorites and it turns her co-worker, who’s been there longer than Cathy, against her.  Whenever Cathy leaves this co-worker alone with her tasks, they always end up sabotaged and, when this co-worker offers advice to Cathy, it goes against her.  Spoiler alert, instead of this being a lesson about not trusting everyone you meet, Cathy’s co-worker feels guilty and apologizes.

I should tell you that this game exists in the Delicious universe and Emily and Paige make a few cameos in the game.  The structure itself is similar to Delicious: Emily’s New Beginning where you have to pick the crafts for each level based on what customers will be shopping at your store.

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You also have a cat named Ming to take care of, who inspires many of Cathy’s designs.  Either the customers will go to the cash register to pick up crafts or they will go to a table to make their own.  When everyone’s done, you check him or her out and try to make enough money to get the first star in each level.

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Try to go for all three stars, if you feel lucky.  Between levels, you can purchase upgrades for each venue.  You can also get trophies and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to collect them all.

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This game is fun yet a tad bit cliché.  I give it 6 out of 10; only buy if you want to play every game set in the Delicious universe.

Sally’s Spa (Big Fish Games)

After running a successful salon chain, Sally decides to try her luck in the spa business.  Can she be just as successful while helping her friend, Nell, sell her products?

The story isn’t much to talk about, just an excuse plot for the game.  However, the game play more than makes up for it.  It’s similar to Sally’s Salon with you moving people to different locations and doing the actions required for each customer.

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Only, this time, you can also sell Nell’s beauty products based on what is popular for the public.  Believe me; what the people want differs for each level.  For instance, stress products could be popular in one level and hair care products could be popular in another level.  Some products can satisfy two market conditions at once.

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The more products you sell, the more you have access to until you can get a special surprise at the end.  You can also buy upgrades for your spa in-between levels and, remember the purple station from the last game?  Well, this time, you can move men and women to the purple station.  For women, you paint their nails while, for men, you just clip their nails.

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It’s a little sexist because, being a woman myself, I never bother getting my nails painted when I get a mani-pedi.

This game is incredibly addictive.  I give it 8 out of 10, the superior sequel to Sally’s Salon.

Guardians of the Galaxy Episode 3: More Than A Feeling (Steam Store)

When the Guardians rescue an eccentric alien name Mantis, she claims to hold the key to the Eternity Forge’s power.

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Now Starlord’s left with one decision, destroy the Eternity Forge or unlock its full power.  Either way, the fate of the universe rests in his hands.

I have to admit, my original impression of the game was that each episode would be about someone each of the Guardians lost in their past.  It would also give a reason for why each one of them wants to use The Forge.  Instead, only two of the Guardians want to use the Forge while the other two think Starlord should destroy it.  If you want to know who wants what, remember Drax’s reason for going after Thanos.  Then remember Rocket’s origin story from Episode 2, the one that sent me spiraling into depression.  After that, use the process of elimination to figure out which two Guardians want to destroy The Forge.  If you feel that I’ve turned a complex plot from a fun and yet serious super-hero story into a boring math problem, you couldn’t be more right.

Each episode delves into the past of one of the Guardians.  In this one, it’s Gamora’s turn.  Unlike the last episode, this one doesn’t insist on taking a break from the plot at large to delve into a Guardian’s back-story.  During the game, it’s clear that Gamora and her sister, Nebula, have issues.  Considering that they’re both the adopted daughters of an evil overlord who turned them against each other as part of their assassin training, it’s not hard to believe.

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Now we get to see what drove Gamora and Nebula apart.  In the interest of not giving anything away, I’m just going to tell you that it’s a very deadly Three’s Company plot.  Whether they make up or not is in your hands.

The game play is typical of Telltale with you picking the dialogue options for the characters you play.

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There are times when you will have to participate in QuickTime events that require you to press the right button at the right time.  Like many other Telltale games, they sneak up on you.

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In the previous episodes, you had the option of checking your codex and mail and you can do so in this one as well.  If you chose to give Thanos’s body to NovaCorp, let me tell you that Rocket’s right, they are d*cks.  In the last episode, they refuse to stand down and let you handle Nebula.  These so-called cops won’t even listen to you when you claim that it’s to save the galaxy.  In fact, they won’t even give you the bounty and proclaim you the enemies of the galaxy.  It makes you want to replay the game and give Thanos to the Collector.

Some choices will affect the game play and, as I said earlier, there is one choice that will set the stage for future episodes.  At the end of the episode, you have the choice to either use the Eternity Forge or destroy it.

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I’m sure many people who’ve lost a loved one can sympathize with Drax and Rocket when they vote to use the relic.  However, consider that the relic can only bring someone back from the dead if someone else takes their place.  Also, remember that Hala wants to resurrect the entire Kree race and she will murder whoever stands in her way to accomplish this.  Would you take away someone else’s life and risk ruthless people using this power for evil just to get the people you lost back?  Trust me when I say that it’s the most difficult decision you’ll ever have to make in the game.  No matter what you do, this decision will test the bonds of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

This game is addictive and intriguing.  I give it 9 out of 10, the perfect combination of light and dark elements.

Life is Strange Episode 2: Out of Time (Steam Store)

After Max discovers her rewind powers, she finds herself in more trouble than she bargained for.  Not only does Max not know what her limits are, but she finds herself caught between Chloe and Kate.  To make things worse, the school’s psychopath, Nathan, is out to get Max and even her rewind power might not save her.

Spoiler alert, which I try to avoid, but it’s difficult not to talk about some video games without mentioning them.  First, I’m going to talk about Kate, the religious friend of Max’s who found herself on a viral video.  I’m going to tell you what I’m sure you’ve already figured out if you played the game.  Kate when to a party and Nathan drugged her.  As a result, she unintentionally starred in a sex video and has no memory of what happened.  People hassle Kate for it with Victoria in the lead and her mother and aunt disowned her.

According to them, Kate’s disgraced the name of God by starring in that video and, either they don’t believe that Nathan drugged her, or they feel that it’s her fault.  First off, I would think that people that raised Kate would know that she would not do something like this voluntarily.  Another thing is that, as tragic as the situation is, I’m glad that they chose Kate to give it to rather than Victoria.  I’ve seen rape used too poorly in many fictional franchises where the victim is usually a provocatively dressed party girl.  What many people fail to get is that rape is about power and ugly people can fall victim to it.  By having this happen to Kate, who preaches about abstinence and wears conservative clothes, you demonstrate that this can happen to anyone.  Doesn’t matter how pretty you are, how modestly you dress and how much you preach about God.  Anyone can be a victim and it is not your fault.  Kate’s storyline also shows how evil Victoria is and yet the game shows hints that she’s not pure evil.  Yes, she does spread Kate’s viral video around, bullies Max and even films something at the end that I won’t give away because I have to keep some mystery.  However, Victoria is there for her friend, Taylor, in her time of need and, at the end, even feels remorse over her actions.  Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t redeem Victoria but it makes her a more complex character.  Nathan, on the other hand, seems closer to pure evil but the game hints at a troubled family background in the first episode.  I applaud that they’re not using this to excuse him and it doesn’t look like he’s getting a love redeems plot.  That’s something that happens quite often in these types of stories.

Now, I’m going to talk about Chloe.  Right now, I don’t know what to feel about her.  I do like that she’s not pure evil as society would portray most female characters like her.  Chloe can also be rather tough and I can sympathize with her situation.  In the last episode, we learn that Chloe has an abusive step-father her mother married after her real father died.  This episode does give the step-father depth but it doesn’t excuse him beating up Chloe and harassing Kate.  Chloe dreams of leaving Arcadia Bay and making it out on her own in the big city.  However, some of her actions are very questionable, such as attempting to exploit two insane people who could kill her if she so much as makes the wrong move.  One of them, Nathan, actually did in the first episode.  Chloe also encourages Max to use her powers as much as possible, which causes Max’s nose to bleed and for her to pass out.  If that’s not enough, Chloe plays with guns and lays on train tracks, the latter nearly getting her killed.

When you save her in a destructive way, Chloe does thank you but asked if you could’ve found a less destructive way to do it.  I don’t know if this is a Final Destination Paradox, meaning that Chloe’s fate is to die, or if she’s just too dumb to live.

The game play is similar to TellTale with no QuickTime events.  You pick dialogue but you don’t have to pick it right away.  You explore different areas, talk to people, examine various items and take pictures.  If you discover certain information about people, you can rewind time and use it to get closer to them.  You can also rewind time if you don’t like the choices you made.  Sometimes, the game play is rather frustrating on the PC if you can’t line the camera right.  Other times, the mouse refuses to cooperate with you.  You have no idea how many times I had to rewind time until I could get my mouse to cooperate.

As you play, Max will automatically fill her diary with character profiles and her version of what happened in the story.  You will also receive text messages from various characters that Max will automatically answer if you press the right button.  There will be a point where you get a text message from Chloe during Jefferson’s class and, if you try to look at it, he’ll scold you.  I mentioned a scene that’s very tragic.  However, you can prevent that tragedy if you say the right things.  You won’t be able to rewind time in that scene, so be very careful.  It’s frustrating but, I have to admit, I’m glad that they’re giving Max limits with her powers.  It makes her more human.

This game is tragic and yet addictive.  I give it 9 out of 10, it gave me a bit of an emotional reaction but not strong enough to get the full ten.

Life Is Strange Episode 1: Chrysalis (Playstation Store)

When Max Caulfield returned to Arcadia Bay, she thought it would be just another typical high school life.

Unfortunately, for her, she couldn’t have been more wrong.  Not only does Max find herself at the center of typical teenage drama, she also discovers that she has the power to rewind time.  Can she use it to save Arcadia Bay from an oncoming tornado, or will the power corrupt her?

After playing several Episode stories back to back with the main character being an innocent virgin losing her love interest to the slutty mean girl, this is a breath of fresh air.  While Max is still the virgin and Victoria, the mean girl, might be sexually active, it’s not as black and white.  For starters, Victoria does have more than two brain cells to rub together as demonstrated in the game opening.  She answers the question correctly, though still secretly brags to Max about it.  Max is also not completely against sex, despite being a virgin.  While she is capable of slut shaming and derides herself for it afterward, Max will also remark, after seeing posters promoting abstinence, that looking at that makes people want to have sex.  Even if she’s friends with a religious girl who believes this stuff, but doesn’t try to push it on Max.  In addition, there is a male Victoria, Nathan, and, unlike in several Episode stories, this game does not give him a pass because he has a penis.  Nathan’s not right in the head and, while it’s implied that he has a troubled past, the game does not excuse him for this.  He is every bit as irredeemable as Victoria and he’s not a love interest for Max to cure.  Depending on how you play the game, he’s an obstacle for both Max and Kate, the religious girl who’s good friends with Max, to overcome.  There’s also a character, Chloe, who listens to punk music and smokes pot but, unlike in many episode stories, you don’t lecture her on the evils of pot.

That’s her step-dad’s job and, let me tell you, he’s a real a**hole.

That’s right; this is not your typical high school game.  While Victoria is the mean girl of the story and the most popular, not everyone’s impressed with her.  When you talk to the skater boys, they admit that they don’t like her.  A teacher Victoria has a crush on, Jefferson, does not find her so attractive that he’s willing to break school rules.  Even Max’s geeky friend, Warren, isn’t interested in Victoria, though there are several not so subtle hints that he’s interested in Max while his friend, Brooke, is interested in him.  Did I mention that all three of these characters have stereotypical geeky interests?  This is another breath of fresh air, considering shows, such as the Big Bang Theory, where the boys all have geeky interests.  The girls in that same show, even the scientists, don’t like comic books and video games.  Max admits to owning Battle Royale and watching Full Metal Alchemist, though she hasn’t seen every geek thing out there.  You can even have Max read a poster about geek girls forming their own club and approving.  Max has geeky interests and has a tendency to zone out, ignoring everyone around her.  Therefore, you can bet that she’s someone I can relate to very well.

Speaking of being able to relate to people, this game has several scenarios drawn from real life.  I’ve already mentioned some details, such as abstinence groups, pot smoking and girls with geeky interests.  However, I’ve also said that not everything is black and white and it shows.  For instance, Victoria is not your typical mean girl character.  She is smart, as I pointed out earlier, and, unbelievably, she does have a sense of honor.  When you choose to be nice to Victoria, she agrees to take a picture she posted of you without your permission off the internet and tells you that this doesn’t mean the two of you are friends.  Don’t get me wrong, Victoria’s still screwed up, as she manipulates a friend of hers into shaming her roommate for posting an article she doesn’t like.  Victoria also takes several missing person photos of Rachel Amber and shows no concern for a girl who, for all she knows, could be in a serial killer’s basement.  The only thing that makes her less screwed up than Nathan is that she hasn’t killed anyone.  That’s right, Nathan actually killed someone and it’s how Max first discovers her powers by using them to save the girl he shot.  You do have the option of reporting Nathan to the principal but, since he’s the son of one of Arcadia Bay’s richest families, the principal won’t do anything about it.

Even if you do the right thing, you still get in trouble.

While Telltale did not make this game, it has a similar style.  For starters, you do make dialogue choices for Max.  If you pick the wrong thing, you can make use of her power to rewind time.  You can also explore several scenes and take pictures using Max’s camera.  Throughout the game, you’ll have access to her diary and phone, which you can use to check your messages, read character profiles and the story from Max’s point of view.

This game is intriguing and unique.  I give it 8 out of 10; amazing but doesn’t get a strong emotional reaction out of me.

Halloween Stories: Invitation (Bigfishgames.com)

It’s Halloween, and Jane and Joe received two tickets to attend the coolest party of the year.  Unfortunately, said party turns out to be a trap as Jane and Joe find themselves locked in a creepy mansion with mysterious creatures.  Can Jane get herself and Joe out of the creepy mansion before the evil creatures set their plans in motion?

Let me say that, despite the lack of jump scares the game gives you, the story itself is terrific.  I don’t want to give anything away.  Therefore, I’ll just tell you this one little detail.  There are some people in the world that will go to any lengths to get what they want.  I mean this in a tragic way and, if you play the game, you’ll see what I mean.  As for the mysterious creatures, they call themselves Beyonders and they have an enemy in the main character.  When you play the game, you’ll discover why.

The game play is quite typical of the hidden object genre.  You go from room to room collecting items and using them in various locations.

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Some items require you to participate in some very well done hidden object scenes.

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You can also play mini-games to advance the story that vary on level of fun.  If you are stuck, use a hint.  Purchase the Collector’s Edition and you’ll discover Jane and Joe’s back-story as you conduct a séance.

This game is addictive and intriguing.  I give it 8 out of 10, not scary but well-crafted Halloween fun.

Fables The Wolf Among Us Episode 5: Cry Wolf (Steam Store)

Bigby’s finally solved the murder of Faith and Lilly.  Now he only has to bring the Crooked Man to justice.

The last episode ended on a cliffhanger with Bigby meeting the Crooked Man.  T

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hose of you still interested in finding Faith and Lilly’s killer might be disappointed in the resolution.  Thankfully, the game is more about the huge conspiracy in Fabletown than it is about that.  Which, if you ask me, is a little more interesting.  As for who the killer is, it’s the one the fans most suspect.

Be warned, I have a few more spoilers to discuss.  One is about the social commentary on prostitutes at the end.  For starters, I should tell you that the one who killed those girls and the one who put their heads on Bigby’s porch are not the same person.  The latter is Nerissa, The Little Mermaid, and this is where the social commentary enters.  She talks about how the world considers prostitutes like her to be disposable.  If one of them dies, people won’t bat an eye.  It’s something Nerissa refuses to let happen to her friends, so she stuck their heads in front of Sheriff Bigby’s office to get his attention.  This is something that separates Wolf Among Us from other video games.  Don’t get me wrong, prostitutes are quite common in adult video games but this is the first time I’ve seen a prostitute treated as a person and not window dressing.  Let me explain that, more often than not, prostitutes are what the main character pays for on the side being little more than sexual fantasies.  In this game, the prostitutes may be victims but one manages to take an active role.  In the second episode, it’s Nerissa who leads Bigby to Crane by insisting he pretends to be a regular customer.  In this episode, if you bring the Crooked Man to trial, Nerissa will speak against him by pretending to be a witness.

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Truth be told, she wasn’t actually there but she didn’t expect the Crooked Man to remember her and she was right.  I’ll admit, Nerissa does dress a bit revealing when on the job and it is partly fanservice.  However, remember her profession.  When she’s finally free, Nerissa dresses casually.

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Personally, I don’t think putting a woman character in revealing attire is sexist.  It can be, if done poorly but, if you analyze each of your characters and you feel at least one of them would dress like that, you can pull it off.

The game play is typical of TellTale games.  You pick Bigby’s dialogue options, you have to make important choices and you have to press the right button for Quicktime events.  In this game, you get to fight Bloody Mary and it is awesome!

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Yes, the original Bloody Mary from the urban legend.  She can walk through mirrors, make copies of herself and is a real match for Bigby, in his original wolf form.  That’s right, Bigby completely wolfed out!  You even get to see Bloody Mary in her original unglamoured form and it is terrifying!  This is a woman who kills the children playing Bloody Mary in front of a bathroom mirror for kicks.  Even the Magic Mirror is afraid of her, I am serious.

As for the Crooked Man, you can either bring him to face judgment or kill him.

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Either way, it’s rather anti-climatic.  For instance, everyone at the Crooked Man’s trial is against him.  Tim claims that people in Fabletown rely on him, yet we see no evidence of that.  Speaking of Tim, he is also absent from the Crooked Man’s trial which feels like a major cop out.

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As the Crooked Man’s biggest supporter, he could have spoke on his behalf giving Bigby a true challenge rather than only convincing the people who hate him.  Speaking of copping out, I discussed Snow’s reasoning to have Toad and Colin sent to the Farm, which I did not approve of.  It doesn’t matter if you stick up for Colin or give Toad money, Snow still sends them there.  Then again, Toad could have been lying about Snow claiming the money didn’t matter.  This is a guy who complains about the cost of glamour and has a sports car parked in front of his home.  He probably screwed over himself and TJ, the one I really feel sorry for, and blew the money on expensive watches.

This game is intriguing and a little disappointing.  I give it 7 out of 10; good ending yet a few wasted opportunities.

Fables The Wolf Among Us Episode 4: In Sheep’s Clothing (Steam Store)

After discovering Crane’s sick pastime, Bigby continues the hunt for Faith’s killer.  What he didn’t know is that he’s uncovering a plot that not only involves Faith, but all of Fabletown.

That’s right, there’s a huge conspiracy in Fabletown and it involves the Crooked Man, the same one from the nursery rhyme.

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You don’t see him to the end, so I’ll discuss the Crooked Man more in my next review.  However, I do want to take a moment to applaud Bill Willingham for his creativity.  For those of you who haven’t picked up any Fables comic books, it has a similar premise as Once Upon A Time.  Many people call the latter a rip-off of the former, but Bill Willingham himself said that’s not the case.  I will admit that I feel Once Upon A Time has the easier job with adding new characters.  That show is on ABC, which Disney owns, and believe me when I tell you that Once Upon A Time takes advantage of this.  Bill Willingham does not have the Disney Company to fall back on, so he must improvise with characters from poems and nursery rhymes.  Which is why Georgie Porgie is a pimp, Bloody Mary is a gleeful murderer for hire and the Butcher runs a shop near the Baker and the Candlestick Maker.

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I am not kidding about that last one.  You have to admit, for a man who doesn’t have Disney to fall back on; Bill Willingham is very creative with what he does have.  I do remember King Louie in the comics, who many people know originates from the Jungle Book Disney movie and had no role in the original book.  I actually took the time to research that, and I could find no record of Bill Willingham facing copyright trials for it.  However, I did come across a statement from the author saying that you need to do proper research before you publish.

I should tell you that Bill Willingham is conservative and, while I don’t agree with his views, I do enjoy his writing.  He himself admits that he never intended for Fables to be a mouthpiece for his political agenda.  All he wanted was to tell a story about fairy tale characters living in the modern day.  His views accidentally popped in as he wrote, which is something that happens to me as well.  This story is no exception and, I should warn you, I will give away spoilers as I write.  So skip the next paragraphs if you haven’t played the game and wish to go in fresh.

One of the Crooked Man’s operations is at the Butcher Shop Bigby visits and he’s been enslaving Fables to make cheap glamour.  For those of you who don’t know, glamour is a magical substance used on animal fables to make them appear human.   It’s rather expensive due to being difficult to mass-produce and the animals that can’t afford it must live at the farm.  Bigby makes a statement about how people are so desperate get stuff cheap, they’ll do anything without realizing the cost of it, which I rather agree with.  However, I do not agree with how Fabletown treats their animal citizens.  I understand that the citizens must lay low, but that doesn’t make it right.  The first act Snow White enforces when she takes Crane’s place is that all Fable animals must go to the farm.  Something both Colin and Toad take issue with because the city is their home.

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Even in the comics, the animals call it a prison sentence because the government won’t let them leave.  In fact, the Fables go as far as to appoint a human to control the farm.  Is it any surprise to see many people choose not to send Colin and Toad to the Farm? However, that doesn’t do them any good.  Another thing I will talk about in my next review.

As for what the Crooked Man has on the Fables, I never discussed Faith’s situation in previous reviews.  She is the princess from Donkeyskin married to Lawrence in the original Kingdom.  When the Adversary took over, Faith and Lawrence were a couple of the lucky, or unlucky, people able to escape.   In the fairy tale world, Lawrence is Faith’s Prince Charming, able to rescue her from her father and give her a comfortable life.  In our world, he can barely hold down a job forcing Faith to prostitute herself so she can support them both.  Nerissa, the original Little Mermaid, is in a similar boat, as she must prostitute herself to survive.

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Then there are Fables such as Beauty and Beast who live comfortably by our standards yet have expensive tastes.

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This leads them both to be indebted to the Crooked Man similar to how Corrine found herself indebted in Flowers in the Attic and resorted to cruel measures to keep the life that she’s accustomed to having.  While Beauty and Beast haven’t done anything that drastic, they both have expensive taste and they’ve paid for it.  Playing as Bigby, you are free to call them out on this, which I’m sure many people will.  I don’t know about you but, after seeing how Fables such as Faith and Nerissa live, it’s rather hard for me to sympathize with Beauty and Beast.

Speaking of Fables who have it worse, Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol is in this game.  He’s all grown up and still handicapped as the mundies remember him.  Let me explain that, in the world of Fables, the character’s strength is dependent on the memories of the mundies.  This makes some Fables invulnerable and others as weak as any normal human, called mundies in this franchise.  In the case of Tiny Tim, while the mundies remember him, they see him as the handicapped child in A Christmas Carol partly responsible for Scrooge’s redemption.  It’s speculated that this is why Tim will always be handicap and there’s no cure for his condition.  Either that, or there is a cure and he can’t afford it.  Since the Crooked Man gave Tim a job, he speaks in favor of him.  However, he’s not against the Fabletown government.  When talking to Bigby, he claims that Fabletown needs both the Crooked Man and the government to survive but a war is the last thing the town needs.  While Tim does not agree with everything his boss does, he points out that Bigby doesn’t agree with everything Crane does either.  I loved this interaction because it talks about the shades of grey underlining what seems black and white.

The game has other character interactions that make it worth playing, and even show former enemies becoming friends.  Colin, for instance, is one of the original three little pigs and he sleeps in Bigby’s apartment.  If you haven’t figured it out, Bigby is the Big Bad Wolf who tried to eat them.  Yet Colin regularly visits Bigby with no fear and even sticks up for him.

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Another interesting case is The Woodsman from Red Riding Hood, the first suspect in the murder of Faith.  At first, the roles changed to Bigby being the one enforcing the law and The Woodsman being the suspected perpetrator.  In the first episode, The Woodsman reveals that he originally intended to rob the old woman Bigby ate, but ended up saving them instead.  It’s not until you go to the pawnshop and see the Woodsman trying to get his ax back from the Jersey Devil that you team up with him and he encourages you to bring Faith and Lilly’s killer to justice.

The game play is typical of Telltale with you picking various dialogue options for Bigby.  Sometimes, you have to make choices that supposedly influence the story, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that yet.  You also have to participate in QuickTime events that don’t sneak up on you as badly as they did in Game of Thrones or Guardians of the Galaxy.

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This game has an extra feature where you can collect a profile on a Fabletown citizen as you play.  Let me warn you that does mean you’ll have to replay a bit of the game if you want to collect them all.

This game is addictive and intriguing.  I give it 8 out of 10, an adult take on classic fairy tale characters.

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