It’s safe to say Telltale have found their calling in revitalising the adventure genre, though at times it does feel like they’re just applying the winning formula to whatever license can be attained - perhaps only to sustain their own existence. But I won’t look a bat-car under the bonnet, not when Telltale’s games are quite good. Rapid breeding notwithstanding. I’m a little surprised Batman wasn’t attempted sooner. His double life, detective skills, and face-pounding prowess are aptly suited for the developer’s style.
There is no Batman without Bruce Wayne. Much of this episode covers the tuxedo life of the billionaire playboy philanthropist, the restlessness of his business responsibilities, and the effort it takes to support his rooftop adventures. There aren’t any major league villains as of yet, just a more grounded war with Catwoman and the crime-lord Carmine Falcone. Most of the decisions thus far seem to be gearing the player toward a more restrained Batman, or a more brutal one.
The Telltale formula shines most during Batman’s sequences. The investigatory item sections mould naturally to what are now crime-scene deductions like those of the Arkham games. Each piece of evidence has a corresponding sibling you must physically make a connection with to progress. Far from being difficult, but they’re also not spoon-fed.
The investigative moments will be at their best when they’re at their toughest. Not only for the sake of challenge, but so we feel like Batman - something the quick-time events have nailed down. They’re quick. Really quick. Much quicker than previous games, and much more choreographed. There wasn’t any penalty when I failed – prrobably for seamlessness and the whole “you’re meant to be Batman” thing – but every time I enjoyed the chance to test myself.
So Telltale have actually adapted their brand of adventure gameplay to Batman. You won’t always be thinking about your next conversation quip; you’ll be sitting in the bat-cave doing Batman things, reading dossiers, news articles and intel at your leisure. Complete with Alred’s avuncular remarks and repartee.
This made the game feel longer than I recall Telltale episodes being. Expecting the game to cut me off on a cliffhanger - it kept going - even to a mini-conclusion. Structured like a small season inside one episode, all the while planting suspicions of what’s to come.
Something I’ve always wanted to do is gather friends ‘round while they watch me have fun playing Telltale games. Maybe they could even chime in on decisions, and maybe I could not listen to them, but you can actually do this functionally now with crowd-play. From afar or nearby using almost any device, people can vote on your next choice. Either you’ll get the results to inform your choice, or the game will automatically implement the most popular one.
If Telltale are going to tell a Batman story their way, they must make us feel like Batman. That’s a hard thing to do, because Batman needs to be in control, and giving players options with a character so stubbornly resolute is risky. But Telltale have smartly stayed within the confines of what Bruce Wayne/Batman would do anyway. It’s a clever story full of puns and allusions, and a reassuring start from a studio who were in danger of stagnating.