- Format: Xbox One (version reviewed), PS4, PS3, 360, PC, Mac, iOS
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Telltale Games
- Developer: Telltale Games
- Players: 1
- Site: https://telltale.com/series/batman/
- Game code provided by the publisher
A Telltale Batman game should’ve been a perfect fit for the franchise. Telltale have already proven themselves capable of delivering top-quality comic interpretations via The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, and Batman – like any other comic – relies on the strength of its scripts rather than the relentlessness and intensity of its action. Two episodes into the five-episode series though, it’s still struggling to find its feet.
Straying too far from the heart of the Batman franchise can impact a game negatively (Rocksteady’s bat-tank, anyone?), and Telltale continue to make gambles here that don’t pay off. We’ve already discussed the dubious wisdom of the developers pushing so hard to make their own mark in our review of the first episode, and that approach is even more obvious here. Within the opening moments for example it’s confirmed that, yes, Thomas Wayne really was a gangster.
This then results in the mugging and double murder that serves as the nucleus of Batman’s genesis and personality being rewritten. There’s an interactive (and to be honest, hard to swallow) sequence that essentially has Bruce Wayne saying “Oh hang on, all these years I was wrong, I’ve just remembered this bit about the life-changing event I’ve had seared into my memory in vivid detail for two decades”. Alfred was aware of the secret, and had kept it from Bruce all these years. It’s all a bit… well… all a bit unBatmany.
“UnBatmany” is a good made-up word to describe the episode as a whole. Even when he’s got the costume on, Bruce never really comes across as the Batman, even less so than in the first episode. It’s an interesting story, just not one that fits very well into the Batman universe. Things threaten to descend into outright farce when Oswald “strike a light guvna, Mary Poppins step in toime” Cobblepot comes to the fore. With his ridiculous accent and even more ridiculous thugs (a couple look like they belong in an eighties synthpop band, while another has mutton chops), the result is an ensemble dangerously close to the outrageous camp of the Adam West series, only without the light-hearted humour or irony. All the fight scenes were missing, really, was the odd “KA-POW” or two.
Although we’ve been gleefully beating this episode around the head – and we haven’t even mentioned the technical troubles such as the returning frame rate woes, and the chance of hitting missing bits of audio – there are some kernels of quality in there. Selena Kyle/Catwoman remains a good interpretation in terms of both writing and performance, and there are some entirely unexpected moments (though these tend to render at least one previous choice meaningless). There are also some good lines in there, the best being a missable exchange between Oswald and Batman.
“I don’t kill my enemies,” Growls Batman.
“Maybe that’s why you’ve got so many,” Oswald immediately replies, making a perfectly valid point in our opinion.
The mastermind of the eponymous “Children of Arkham” makes an appearance at the end of the episode, using Rocksteady’s trick of a brand new villain hiding behind a mask and a voice changer to, presumably, set things up for their true identity being that of an established character.
There’s an interesting either/or choice at the end; though, going on available evidence, it probably won’t send the next episode on significantly differing paths in the way that it should. There’s not even the neat tying up of your choices at the end that the first episode had.
There’s nothing wrong in principle with setting the story in an alternate timeline in the early years of Batman’s career. Things have strayed so far from the Batman that everybody knows and loves however – grounded a little too much in gangster story conventions – that we’re now aching for Mark Hamill’s Joker to be shoehorned in to liven things up a bit.