I thought Telltale did a pretty decent job of adapting Batman to their worn but stalwart adventure format. Plenty of media have provided an exemplary look at Bruce Wayne outside of the suit, but Telltale made a point to keep bringing us back to Bruce on a regular basis. I especially liked the idea of letting us choose whether or not to handle a situation as the bat or the businessman, a motif that returns in full force in Season Two, The Enemy Within.
Bruce is still reeling from having his reputation sullied by the Children of Arkham. Now, as a former inmate of Arkham and with his father Thomas’ criminal ties out in the open, he has a better reputation as a crime-fighting vigilante than he does as Bruce Wayne. Gordon is Commissioner, Bats is still Bats, but new villains have risen up. It’s a perfect opportunity to shirk the “Year One” rookie era and enter a new emergent one where Telltale can take the story wherever they want to (even Flashpoint some day if the mood strikes them). With all of that baggage comes some of the same script clichés (“after the long dark winter comes to the dawn”) but the direction is as well paced as the past season—there’s plenty of intrigues to keep you going.
For the first episode of The Enemy Within, some of that intrigue involves The Riddler, which I’m very particular about. Please, just don’t give me “another Joker,” I say to myself every time I hear about a new iteration coming into the fold, and it’s a request Telltale mostly answers. This version of the character is calm and collective yet green with envy—and even a little intimidating. It’s a tad reductive to see Riddler slitting people’s throats with a razor cane and merely reciting a riddle before he does it, but he’s a worthy hook throughout the episode.
That’s partly because the stakes have been raised, something that almost needs to happen when you’re moving into a second season. Telltale’s Batman is a little more gruesome this time around, with more on-screen death sequences and plenty of opportunities to see limbs chopped off. It also compounds more threads from the source material—like injecting Amanda Waller into the mix and several patented surprises that come earlier than usual. The material keeps coming, and the fountain of Batman is limitless in its ability to quench our thirst. I especially enjoy the scenes that build Batman and Gordon’s rapport; which is one of my favourite dynamics.
To rant a bit, one of my big issues with Telltale games, in general, is that they don’t cater to puzzles. I don’t need pixel-hunting like the olden days, just something that reminds me that once upon a time, those very same developers managed to craft some interesting puzzles that made me think beyond QTEs (which to their credit are a little more interactive this time) and dialogue choices. With very few exceptions (like Wolf Among Us) they haven’t even really attempted it—what better time than now with The Riddler?
Well, I appreciate the effort, at least. Puzzles still feel linear and slightly clunky, and even though there were plenty of chances to make the “puzzle box” concept more enticing, it eventually just boils down to a dialogue choice on top of another limited choice. I still recall the thrill of typing “H.B.” for “human brain” into the text box of an SNES game and feeling smug having bested Riddler without needing to smash his face in (or fight him in a giant robot like Arkham Knight)—I want to feel that again.
Like every Telltale game, the engine is starting to show its age, but the on-point Batman soundtrack (and the appropriate effects) make up for it. The distinctive character models have a lot of inspiration to draw from, and I like the designs they went with this time for just about everyone but Waller. Who knows, maybe she’ll morph into the unstoppable force she’s usually depicted as, but for now, she just seems like a minor annoyance.
There’s enough here with The Enigma already that I’m looking forward to seeing where the second season of Telltale’s Batman goes. With the exception of adding in yet another shadowy cabal—a plot device that’s already been employed once—I see a lot of potentials.