Telltale is an interesting studio, mainly due to the inconsistency I’ve seen in their products. For instance, their landmark series, The Walking Dead, just finished its newest season. The series that was once the forefront for modern adventure gaming is now a bit flat, servicing only the most hardcore of fans. Other ventures like the new Guardians of the Galaxy series have fared better, far better than the first season of Telltale’s Batman. Having just finished up the first season, I dove into Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within – Episode One: The Enigma with a reluctant but hopeful attitude. The first season was an absolute borefest punctuated with cool action and neat Bat-gadgets. Does Season 2 up the ante, or remain mediocre?
This review will contain spoilers for SEASON ONE of Telltale’s Batman, but NO SPOILERS for Episode One.
Return to Gotham
One of my biggest issues with Telltale’s Batman: Season One was the focus on Bruce Wayne over Batman. Sure, Bruce is an integral part to the Batman mythos; one cannot exist without the other. However, it seems that Telltale often forgot that the source material is called “Batman“, and not “Bruce Wayne”. We often saw more in the ways of Bruce’s political battles than caped crusading. This made for a ho-hum, often tedious experience.
Thankfully, Season Two pulls in the focus on Batman, while still adhering to the character development of the first season. Since Telltale’s Batman series is so different than the normal Batman story, it’s important to note that character changes are likely. For instance, Season One saw a ton of switch ups. Harvey Dent barely resembled Two-Face, and Oswald Cobblepot was an annoying, lanky, buffoon. None of this was very good. Season Two switches it up by taking one of my favorite Batman villains, the Riddler, and making him much darker than before.
Riddle Me This
If anything, The Riddler is Batman’s most fear-inducing villain yet. Most fans will think of the Riddler in terms of the bright and eccentric, yet brooding Batman: Arkham games. Others might recall the oddball Riddler played by Jim Carrey in the 1995 film, Batman Forever. Telltale’s version of the Riddler is more of the former than the latter, but with his own sick twist.
The Riddler in Episode One: The Enigma is demented, deranged, and destructive. It’s insanely easy to draw comparisons to the horror series Saw, and its main antagonist, Jigsaw. Similar to Jigsaw, the Riddler sets up violent tests and places victims inside them, offering them their lives through torture and pain. I won’t give too much away, but the Riddler’s handiwork is quite violent. In fact, his contraptions and games are some of the most gruesome content Telltale has put to screen.
Be the Bat
As I said before, Season One of Telltale’s Batman was quite a bit of talking mixed with some action. There was a good bit of detective work, mostly contained to sequences that involved linking clues to other clues. Episode One: The Enigma is a good move forward, offering plenty of gameplay variety within its roughly two hour play time. During the game’s six chapters, you’ll knock some skulls, solve some riddles, perform detective work, and of course, choose dialogue. Where Season One stuttered, Season Two seems to take off.
Combat has been fleshed out a bit more, and while all of it is still contained within quick time events, you’re given a decent bit of choice. During an explosive and riveting introduction in a casino, Batman pummels foes with style. As you approach enemies during the combat, you’ll often be given a choice in how to dispose them. Whether you smash a baddie’s face against a pool table or bar, it’s up to you. While it’s not a drastic change in gameplay, the choice is welcome and fits well in Telltale’s established gameplay.
For those who have followed my previous Telltale reviews, you’re probably aware of the “Telltale stutter”. A brief stutter usually happens when the camera switches, during scene changes, and it really disrupts combat. This issue has plagued Telltale games since the start, but each Telltale game’s stutter is not the same. Some episodes are plagued with slow down, like Episode Four of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. Others rarely see even a frame drop, like the excellent Guardians of the Galaxy series. The first season of Telltale’s Batman was absolutely horrendous with the Telltale stutter, ruining fluid combat and generally scuffing up the experience’s edges.
Surprisingly, this episode of Telltale’s Batman barely saw slow down at all. This made for great combat, immersive storytelling, and an overall pleasant experience. In addition to that, the game has received a noticeable visual upgrade. Returning characters look great with a new coat of paint and updated facial structures. Even Batman himself looks great with a new visual design, adding some depth and intimidation. Generally speaking, the game looks good and runs well.
The Bottom Line on Telltales Batman: Season Two –
Season Two of Telltale’s Batman is off to a strong start, thanks to a gripping and violent story with good characters. Actual gameplay gets spruced up with a welcome dose of variety, allowing players to both kick ass and be the world’s greatest detective. It’s violent, disturbing, and dark, but most importantly, Batman takes center stage. If you’re a fan of the Riddler, you should definitely play this episode. If you’re a fan of Batman, it’s a no brainer. If Episode One: The Enigma is any indication, Telltale’s Batman: Season Two will perform much better than the first season. However, we’ve also seen great starts turn sour (I’m looking at you, Walking Dead: A New Frontier), so let’s hope that this one stays good. At the very least, Episode One is an entertaining 2 hour romp with the Riddler.
Note: This game was played on an Xbox One.