Certified ginger holding down the fort in Cincinnati, Ohio. The banker day job pays the bills, but the nerdy night job keeps the blood pumping. Lover of cats, baseball, anything Blizzard spits out and yellow question marks.
**This is your first and only warning: tharr be spoilers ahead. Most of the screen shots taken and used in this review are from the 5th and final chapter in the series**
With BATMAN being my first Telltale Games title I’ve played through, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was happily surprised at the extremely quick learning curve. The gameplay is simple, using only a few buttons on the keyboard, and occasionally having to aim your mouse at an area on the screen, making this title one I’d recommend to anyone who can handle a bit of violence. It’s ‘cartoon’ violence, but there’s still something about people getting shot in the cartoon head which may upset some players. If you hesitate too long pressing the keys that prompt on the screen, you will die, but the scene will give you a fresh start to right your wrong. More than anything, this is an experience that seems almost like an interactive movie. There is a ton of dialogue and cut scenes, watching the different denizens of Gotham descend further into mayhem. If you have a shorter attention span this game might be a bit of a challenge. On the flip side, I found it to be a breath of fresh air. You’re not walking around, simply going from quest to quest, killing things in between to keep your eyes from crossing. You’re molding the game within it’s set parameters, which seem wonderfully vast.
During my playthrough of Telltale Games’ BATMAN, it was Oswald Cobblepot that finally broke the camel’s back. Up until he was voted in as the interim CEO of Wayne Enterprises, I kept my note taking to a minimum, trying to fully immerse myself in the delicate balance of my Bat-life. Then that conniving son of a bitch came strolling into my, er… Bruce’s, lovely office in Wayne Tower and I lost my cool. Gripping the mouse hard enough to almost crack it, grinding my teeth at the thought of that cheeky British bastard taking over my company, the moment sent me through the roof. And that’s when it hit me: I was not only entertained by the game, but emotionally invested in my life, and by that I mean Bruce Wayne’s life. I was the Batman, hockey pants or not, and for the first time in my playthrough I took a step back and saw my real life reactions.
That’s a part of the magic of Telltale’s craftsmanship. The games they make aren’t particularly intense when it comes to having to fight other things, and BATMAN is noted to be one of the least interactive games they’ve produced to date, but events roll on and set a fire in your heart where you’ll do whatever it takes to keep your head above water. A literal, digital Choose Your Adventure, Telltale’s BATMAN definitely lets you beat up the bad guys (which we all love), but more than anything it lets you think like Batman. Are you going to be morally upstanding? Are you going to be a rich, playboy asshole? Will you steal that kiss from Selina, one that is so perfectly set up that it’s almost painful to turn it away? When push comes to shove, who will you save: your best friend or the girl you want but can’t have? When you’re kicked out of your big shiny tower, which was coincidentally built on land your father unjustly stole, will you let it sting a bit, will you want to set everything on fire, or will you face the end of that time with dignity? You make decisions at certain points in the game, speaking with friend and foe, shaping the future of the game itself. Just as you have to be quick on your feet in reality, the timer to answer these critical questions counts down faster than you’d like. And once they’re answered, there is no going back.
As things get worse and worse in Gotham (who would have thought), you find yourself having to think like two different people, and balance the Bruce/Batman dynamic. Your personality splits, because if you give too much away on one side, the other may become exposed. I found myself trying to make both Bruce and Batman morally and ethically upstanding, but as time went on and the Children of Arkham threw more shit at the Bat-fan, that line keeping me from the dark side started to fade. I had to do whatever it took to keep Dent sane, Alfred proud, and Selina at a reasonable-yet-friendly distance. Betrayal is a daily occurrence, but each one digs you deeper into the hole that Telltale has dug for you, without you even knowing it. By the end of episode 3 I wasn’t sure what actions I was going to be able to complete to get my drugged-up butt out of Arkham, but knowing I had two episodes to go, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Most of the time Batman wins against his foes, but in that current scenario I was beyond help.
As in the comics, TV shows and films, Batman relies heavily on technology. You gain control of Wayne Enterprises again in the 5th episode, and start to dig through the mess Penguin left behind. File after file, Bruce keeps mentioning Wayne Tech, and how easy it is to access pretty much everything in the city. I’m not one who wears tin foil on my head in fear of people stealing my brainwaves, but this technology abuse parallels real life a little too closely for me. With a flip of a button, Bruce is able to do whatever he wants, wherever he wants, and it makes you wonder just how much of that happens in real life. It’s a simple reminder that no company should hold a monopoly over an entire city, like Wayne Enterprises does to Gotham, but realty is coming scarily close to that. Whether or not this was meant to be a simple nod to today’s technology infringements or not, it certainly made me sit back and think just how unsecured my life really is.
I made the mistake of trusting Vicky Vale, who turns out to be Lady Arkham, the mastermind behind the latest and greatest chemical warfare in Gotham. Only too late did I realize who she was and soon enough I was hauled off to Arkham Asylum, thanks to my former BFF Harvey Dent. The Joker popped into my life with his particular brand of crazy, explaining that Vicky was born in the asylum, and is an Arkham. It was at that point which I began to wonder just how much control I really had over the game. Yes, I was making choices as they arose, trying to mold the story I wanted Bruce to live, but there was always a pothole in the middle of the road that sent me swerving down the bumpier path. How much control does the gamer really have in a Telltale game? It’s almost like a psychological experiment is being conducted, to see if you’ll take the blue or red pill. At the end of each episode, Telltale shows you the big choices that you made stacked up against the choices made by other gamers. As someone who finds psychology fascinating, I’d absolutely love to get my hands on more information on how players planned, reacted and eventually adapted when their plan goes wrong. It’s a toned-down and safe way to ask yourself “What would I do in this kind of situation?” and will make you question your own thought process.
Overall, I was madly in love with the story, even with it’s infuriating and gut-wrenching twists, and look forward to more Telltale Games titles in my life. There were a couple of minor glitches in the game, once where a mouth didn’t move with dialogue, another with shading issues that made a newspaper hard to read. The performance for the most part was alright, but you’d think that a fully released episode would thoroughly checked for errors. and I definitely encountered a couple of them, so it seems they didn’t get completely ironed out. As a matter of fact, the game stalled one time just long enough to get me killed, which was rather irritating.
In regards to problems with the storyline, a big thing I got caught up on was Dent killing hundreds of people because he was jealous of Bruce. Yes, the drug that Lady Arkham was injecting into people also played a factor, but by the time Dent pushed the trigger on the bomb, he would have been clear of the drug’s side effects. He may be Two-Face, but it was a very odd plot point that mentally ejected me from the game. I realize these episodes have to be made in bite-size chunks so you may need to rush certain storylines to get where you need to be, but I found myself mentally disengaged from the game experience when he made that explosive decision.
A slightly lesser issue was with the ending to the Selina storyline. You find out she’s been playing you all along, that Bruce was a part of the long con. The dialogue (at least after my answers were chosen) was too thick with “I’m a bad girl, I have no heart, I’m a thief, I’m so bad, Bruce, bad thief” kind of rhetoric being pounded into my head over and over again. We get it, you love stealing things, you hate attachments and you’re skipping town. Okay. Go. Leave and get off of my screen already. The reveal of the long con felt weak and I became restless, wanting to just simply get it over with and her out of my life. “I look forward to our next dance” were her final words to me, leaving an open avenue for Telltale to venture down if they so choose to do so.
I was, however, happily surprised at the Lady Arkham outcome, even after learning of her childhood torture. Chasing her through Arkham and ultimately into the crypt-like basement of the Asylum, the echo of her deranged voice through the corridors was spine-tingling, thanks to some excellent voice acting by Erin Yvette. I chose to reveal myself to her instead of attacking, which I thought would risk Alfred’s life further, and in the attack, the crazy staff-wielding lady took out a chunk of my ear. I don’t recall Batman or Bruce Wayne missing a portion of their earlobe, but it was a worthy sacrifice to keep my Alfred alive.Ultimately, Batman and Lady Arkham kick the shit out of each other before destroying an underground chapel. The walls cave in around them, and at one point on top of Lady Arkham, ending her story, as Batman and Alfred make it to safety.
The story wraps up with a toast, a city ‘in turmoil’ and several big characters only momentarily attended to, as it so usually happens to be in the city of Gotham. Not-so-subtle hints are dropped that this
may not won’t be the only Batman Telltale game we see, and if they’re able to clean up the graphics glitches a bit, I will happily revisit the series for another round of disorder and deception. With one final appearance in front of the city, and beside newly-appointed Commisioner Gordon, I made the (only) choice to show up as… Batman. It didn’t end there though. There was one more face that showed up to the party, silently declaring war on Batman from the inside of a bar…
See you soon, Joker.