I still remember renting Batman Returns for my Mega Drive at the video club next to my grandparents house. Since those early ninety’s days, we have had a fair amount of Batman games. And in late years we’ve seen the character rise to video game stardom thanks to the Arkham series. Being a big fan of the character, I got really excited when Telltale announced they were working in Batman The Telltale Series.
Telltale has had a lot of success in recent years with their approach to adventure games. Their titles are little more than narrative experiences where the player uses the game pad every now and then. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s important to clarify that in a game like this you don’t do much.
A Telltale series at its core
What does it mean to be a Telltale Series? Basically that the game is divided in episodes, in this case five, that are launched over time. It also means that you can expect certain style of gameplay and narrative.
Telltale games are heavy on dialog. Most of the scenes require the player to interact with other characters, selecting your answer from four different options. Those answer affect the relationship that you have with those characters and they can change future events. That’s on the surface, as most of the important events are predefined and will always be the same.
An interesting ‘touch’ on this game is that due to the dual nature of the character, you will be able to choose if you want to face certain situations as Batman or as Bruce Wayne. It happens just a couple of times but it’s a nice touch. And talking about Wayne, the fact that we control him directly for a big part of the game feels refreshing. It’s something that sets this game apart from other Batman games.
Besides all the talking, there are a bunch of action scenes (fights, chases, etc.) that are solved by quick time events. Those are sequences where the game displays a button and you have to press it in time. We’ve seen it a million times. The problem here is that the game engine has an awful performance and it hurts the pace and dynamism of this scenes. It’s a shame, because it takes all the excitement away.
The world’s greatest detective (or so they say)
The biggest addition to the core Telltale formula are the crime scene investigations. In those scenes you have to identify different elements and find clues. Once you have everything on the scene you just have to put things together (you literally link them) and then Batman will deduct what happened. The idea is good, but the execution is mediocre. These sections are too limited and don’t present any challenge.
We’ve never seen this Gotham before
There’s no other element in this game as disruptive as it’s take on Gotham and it’s gallery of characters. The game has a bunch of surprises, with unexpected turns and cliffhangers that are very well written. I have to say, there are some things that were so unexpected for me, that it took me a couple of episodes to accept them. When you are used to certain myths, it’s not easy to accept when they’re deconstructed.
The story revolves heavily around the Wayne family and the past and the present of Gotham. I don’t want to spoil much about the game, but you can expect a few of the classic characters in the series to appear during the series. Harvey Dent (still sane), Lt. Gordon, Alfred and Catwoman have all a strong presence in the game. The Telltale team has created a new Villain for the occasion, so you won’t be facing any of the classic Batman villains. You might see some of them, but they don’t have an important role in this first season.
Batman The Telltale Series
To be honest, I was expecting more from this game. It’s very entertaining and well written, but technical issues and gameplay limitations are obvious. It’s a good Batman story, and I like that it writes it’s own myth, giving a twist to places and characters well known in the pop culture. If you’re a Batman fan, I strongly recommend you give it a chance. Worst case scenario, you’ll feel like you’ve watched an entertaining superhero TV show.