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Review: Batman: A Telltale Games Series: Children of Arkham

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Same Bat time, same Bat channel

I've been reading a lot of Batman lately.

No, not necessarily the stories where he's just kicking ass and taking names with all those wonderful toys -- tales where he's vulnerable, or where Bruce isn't even the star. Where, Phantom style, it's more about the idea of the Batman than anything else. Beyond the billionaire is a character ripe for molding, most notably through the rich selection of villains whose names aren't The Joker, a rich font that the Telltale game has been able to tap into so far.

Batman: A Telltale Games Series doesn't really give us any new insights we haven't seen before in a Batman story, but the fact that it doesn't stray too far from the source material is also one of its biggest strengths.

Batman: A Telltale Games Series: Children of Arkham (iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: September 20, 2016
MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode)

With its intro out of the way (that once again reminds us of Batman's origin), Telltale can start to dig into the world of Gotham with Children of Arkham. Or, it will, right after this other flashback to Crime Alley (which, granted, is a short one)!

Telltale is taking the Gotham (the intentionally and unintentionally campy TV show) route when it comes to Bruce's side of the equation, in that he's slowly learning more about the legacy of the Wayne family as time goes on -- some of which involves unscrupulous behavior. We just know that his father, Thomas Wayne, is on the straight and narrow though, and nothing Telltale has done so far has cued us in that it'll be drastically altering the source as much as say, Dark Knight Returns or even Arkham City, which culminated in the death of The Joker. It's cheap, but the team is selling it well enough.

That's mostly because Bruce is so entrenched into the "Waynes were corrupt" storyline that it has a nice "sins of the father" vibe to it. We see him fighting an uphill battle right away dealing with the betrayal of his perfect image of Thomas and the court of public opinion, which is a more nuanced take than, say, re-writing Knightfall for the 10th time and having some villain cripple him temporarily. Yes, Telltale has made good on its promise to bring more to the story of the Bat than broken bones, and I'm willing to see this one through to the end.

There are a few broken bones though, and just like the first go-around, I'm consistently impressed by the stylistic choices Telltale went with for the action scenes. Batman's kit allows for some interesting choreography alone, but the way that each button on the controller is presented (integrated into a gadget, for instance) during a quick-time event helps draw the audience further into it. It's still a QTE, but the sound team is hard at work making sure everything has more weight -- a skill it no doubt honed with Wolf Among Us and Borderlands' combat. And speaking of sound, I appreciate the little nods here and there, like those few seconds of one particular song that are a clear callback to Elfman's score for the Burton films.

Troy Baker has a chance to show his chops a little more, channeling an otherwise very whiny Bruce with a little more panache and ferocity that a lot of voice actors wouldn't be able to replicate. He's also able to forge believable relationships with the cast, and I haven't seen Bruce and Harvey Dent be this relatable since Long Halloween (I dug Eckhart's zeal in the Nolan-verse, but his relationship with Batman ultimately ended up being overly-tethered to another character). Deciding to handle one specific situation in Children as either Bruce or Batman is also a nice touch to add significance to the sometimes meaningless "Choose Between Two Big Things" trope.

You still have your patented "safe" approach from Telltale with Batman: A Telltale Games Series: Children of Arkham, but its heart is in the right place. Retreading on Batman themes we've already seen from great writers like Jeph Loeb, Frank Miller, or Scott Snyder isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Batman: A Telltale Games Series: Children of Arkham reviewed by Chris Carter

7

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures


 


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