Game review – Batman: The Telltale Series’ story-centric gaming takes deeper look at Batman
Telltale’s Batman is at its best when it takes a critical look at Bruce Wayne’s sense of vigilante justice
Batman: The Telltale Series: Episode 1: Realm of Shadows
Ever since I played Back to the Future: The Game back in 2011, I’ve been hopelessly addicted to the simplified point-and-click gameplay style pioneered by Telltale Games.
As much as I enjoy old-school, illogical brain teasers such as The Secret of Monkey Island, I’m never smart enough to finish them. Telltale Games solved that problem by substituting deep plots and believable dialogue for impossible puzzles, and went on to adapt classic properties such as Jurassic Park, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.
In other words, they’re the perfect studio to give a deeper take on Batman – a property as compelling as it is overexposed.
This first episode of Batman: The Telltale Series (available for download on every console, phone and computing device) kicks off in typical Batman fashion, with the caped crusader putting down a beating on some Gotham City baddies. This isn’t an action game, though, so all the player has to do is hit the appropriate combination of buttons as they appear on screen – God of War style. Telltale did a marvellous job of adapting their slow, thoughtful style to action-oriented licences in last year’s Tales of the Borderlands, and the action sequences in Batman are even slicker.
Then the real game begins – a game that focuses just as much on Bruce Wayne as his alter ego. While you still spend plenty of time investigating crime scenes as Batman, the heftier and more intriguing sequences have you navigating Gotham City politics. Every decision you make has consequences down the line, but the rigid narrative structure doesn’t allow for too much leeway.
The game is based on Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s original Batman comic book series and is not beholden to any other version of Batman in either film or video games. While that frees up plenty of plot possibilities, it can be hard to remember which version of Batman this is – especially when the game borrows ideas (the British Penguin, for example) from other titles such as the Batman Arkham series.
The game is at its best when it takes a critical look at Bruce Wayne’s sense of vigilante justice. The player can make Batman much more of a monster than he really is, especially when it comes to important decisions like deciding whether or not to torture a suspect for info.
Ironically enough, the biggest addition to the Telltale formula is one I didn’t even bother to use – “crowd play”. The new option allows the game to be watched by an online audience who can participate in the decision-making process.
When this feature is active, the player provides their audience with a link to Telltale’s website with a unique code to participate in that session through any web-enabled device. These additional players are given the option to vote at the game’s decision points, with the results presented to the main player to judge which decision to make.
It sounds cool, but I already know the decisions I want to make – the most horrible, anti-Batman choices I can. I just couldn’t help but take a page from the angry, nearly evil version of the caped crusader introduced in the 1986 comic Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
Just like other Telltale games, this first episode is only a couple of hours long, and the future episodes will see regular releases over the next few months. It’s not for everyone (especially Batman fans looking for an action game), but Batman: The Telltale series is yet another fine addition to story-centric gaming.
I can’t wait to play the next episode.