Ain’t no joke
Is this a new record for Telltale?
Tales from the Borderlands, one of the most extreme ends of the episodic release spectrum, took nearly a year to conclude. But with Batman we’re already on the fourth episode in just three short months.
I mean, I’m okay with it, especially with how well-paced they’ve been.
Batman: A Telltale Games Series: Guardian of Gotham (iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: November 22, 2016
MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode)
Let me just get this out of the way — they did it. They injected the Clown Prince of Crime into a Batman story. No, “he” wasn’t in any promotional materials leading up to its release. There were no hints to his existence in the first three episodes, so I thought we were in the clear, but I was wrong.
With that said, this is a mostly safe performance, that for once doesn’t just try to mimic the great Mark Hamill, and thankfully doesn’t take any cues from Leto’s recent foray into Hot Topic Theater (“would you…die for me?”). So while I think that Harvey, Bats, and Oswald could have carried this series all on their own, the presence of Batman’s greatest nemesis really doesn’t hurt anything. Plus, they get points for trying something new with the character that I won’t spoil here (along with a few inoffensive rapid-fire cameos from the comics).
That’s mostly because all of those aforementioned ingredients, all of the buildup and character turns. They’ve all taken shape and formed an interesting dichotomy. On one hand you have the conflicted newly christened mayor Harvey Dent, who still hasn’t been fully taken over by his Two Face persona, attempting to restore order to a clearly broken Gotham. Then you have the [admittedly obvious heels] Children of Arkham, who are taking the city back after they suffered for so long. There are so many variables and uncertainties that it keeps you on your toes.
Speaking of pacing, picking up where that last cliffhanger left off was something. You go from a flashback of what played out to a cell in Arkham in seconds flat, and are left to pick up the pieces in a crippled, desperate state. Seeing Batman cornered and vulnerable is something I wanted to see from the start, and one of my favorite takes on the character. His utility belt and lovely toys (and the explosions they cause) have been a joy to watch since Adam West and Burt Ward graced the screen in the ’60s, but it’s equally thrilling, if not more so, to see Bruce claw his way out of situations with brute strength and keen intellect alone.
While I’m a few steps shy of saying that all of the choices I’ve made so far have had a major impact on the narrative (has anyone coined a phrase for Telltale’s faux/illusion of choice yet?), they are more meaningful than a lot of the studio’s other work. Because again, the characters here are a little more nuanced, especially Harvey, who’s been my favorite from the very beginning. And Bruce, having to deal with the ordeal of getting beaten to a pulp in Arkham Asylum, is earning his stripes as well before our eyes rather than simply being told how awesome he is. As an aside, I find it hilarious that Telltale throws in a tiny puzzle every now and then in one of its games every several years almost to say “hey, we’re capable of this.”
Despite the abrupt ending in Guardian, Batman: A Telltale Games Series has been one of the most consistent works the developer has put out to date. I still get the occasional audio or jerky animation issue on PC, but at least on my machine, nothing in the first four episodes rang any major alarm bells. With just one chapter left, I think you’re in the all clear for going all in on this.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]