Batman: The Telltale Series continues its unique and multifaceted take on the caped crusader and remains one of the most amusing titles released on the digital marketplace these days. Well, for Batman fans anyways. As the story continues to bounce along, it’s become clear that this is very much a project made by and for those who love good ol’ Bats more than they should. While this episode, entitled Guardian Of Gotham, raises tension and continues the downright addictive narrative that Telltale has been delivering all season, some of the best moments come in how it toys with the popular characters, themes, and stories that have defined Batman for over 75 years. The designers didn’t just deliver a fun Batman lark; it’s also a love letter to the character and mythology.
Following the cliffhanger finale from the last episode, Bruce Wayne wakes up locked inside Arkham Asylum. He’s introduced to a patient named John Doe, a man the doctors have come to respect for his kind demeanour. He also has green hair and pale skin. Yep, the Joker has finally entered this series, which is no surprise whatsoever. However, the way in which he’s been introduced is unique. It’s apparently Batman’s first encounter with the Joker, who has been quietly insane on the streets of Gotham for sometime. His background remains a mystery, as does the cause of his oddly friendly behaviour. One thing is certain though; the guy is fascinated with Bruce Wayne, as well as the ways in which Harvey Dent has taken a rather public turn for the worse and all of the anarchy boiling up in Gotham.
This inevitable Arkham Asylum sequence of Batman: The Telltale Series plays that old game of exploring Bruce Wayne’s own barely concealed psychosis and how close he truly is to the colourful villains that he fights and creates. Wisely, the Telltale gang doesn’t dwell too deeply on this concept. They just let it play out and buddy up Wayne and The Joker to emphasize their duality. It’s clever, subtle, and a fantastic way to give an old idea a new spin. To emphasize how familiar this all feels, the trophy for completing the segment even references Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s definitive Arkham Asylum book—and that’s a little nerd shout out that I can’t pretend I didn’t adore. Some may whine about the fact that Telltale spent any time on this theme at all, or that they treated a villain as iconic as The Joker in such an unconventional (and even unexpectedly quiet) manner. That’s fair enough, but for me it’s always nice to get a little twist in the Batman routine since I’ve been through it so many times before.
The rest of Guardian Of Gotham is strong, but can’t quite live up to the strange and unsettling opening. This penultimate episode of Batman: The Telltale Series lays plenty of track for the upcoming grand finale. There are exciting twists to get there, but this episode can’t help but feel mildly anticlimactic given that it has to hold back for the climax of this entire adventure. As always, Bruce’s sections prove to be even more compelling than Batman’s. There’s a crime scene with a child that showcases Bat’s softer side (provided you want to do that of course). The commitment to reintroducing players to iconic Batman baddies in unexpected ways continues with some amusing surprises. The shifting attitude of Gotham’s relationship to Bruce Wayne’s yields some impressively tense and suspenseful results. The quicktime fights are as satisfyingly choreographed as always. The detective sequences continue to drag in their simplicity. It all builds to one hell of a cliffhanger with a big unexpected choice that should make the final episode play out in excitingly different ways.
The only problems are the performance issues that have plagued this series from the start (and Telltale games in general). The lag and frame drops proved particularly irritating for me this time as it often led to lip sync issues, which are especially distracting given how dialogue driven some scenes were and how it detracted from the excellent voice performances of the cast. However, it was never a game killer, more of an annoyance.
This series continues to be a goddamn bat-joy for me and while Guardian Of Gotham might not be the best episode of Batman: The Telltale Series to date, that’s only because the competition is so strong. This has been a hell of a Bat tale told with craft, care, and impressively cinematic storytelling that really pulls players into the interactive experience. It’ll be a tough wait for the finale, but given how good the build up has been, that will also be cause for giddy celebration. This series has surpassed expectations so far. There’s no way the final episode won’t be a dilly. If you need me, I’ll be on the edge of my seat until then.