Bat­man: The Tell­tale Se­ries – Episode One


360, An­droid, iOS, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One

Is there any­one who isn’t now fa­mil­iar with Bat­man’s ori­gin story? Tell­tale seems to think so, and in the first episode of its lat­est li­censed hook-up it takes pains to en­sure they’re fully ap­prised of the de­tails. One strik­ing shad­owy flash­back should be more than enough, but no, it goes sev­eral steps fur­ther, most glar­ingly dur­ing a com­i­cally ex­po­si­tional ex­change be­tween Bruce Wayne and a rich older cou­ple as he presses the flesh at a lav­ish fundraiser. And yes, you can be as­sured Al­fred has re­mem­bered that, and will re­mind poor Bruce at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, go­ing as far as to hand him the blood­stained theatre tick­ets that fell from his par­ents’ pock­ets. “Don’t let tomb­stones be your fam­ily legacy,” he solemnly warns, shortly af­ter ad­mon­ish­ing his charge for ex­ces­sive bru­tal­ity. “Be care­ful you don’t turn into a mon­ster.” We’ll give you some­thing to re­mem­ber in a minute, you in­suf­fer­able nag.

Any­one with even a pass­ing aware­ness of the Dark Knight will be fa­mil­iar with the cast list; only cos­metic dif­fer­ences dis­tin­guish the ma­jor­ity from past in­ter­pre­ta­tions. There’s a stolid and over­worked Jim Gor­don, and a dili­gent, am­bi­tious Har­vey Dent. A reimag­ined Oswald Cob­ble­pot, mean­while, seems to have ac­quired his look from Brick Lane and his A grisly crime scene of­fers the chance to link ev­i­dence to piece to­gether an or­der of events. You don’t need to be the world’s great­est de­tec­tive to solve this sim­ple puz­zle, but it’s an agree­able change of pace Re­lease ap­par­ently cock­ney ac­cent from Don Chea­dle. With Troy Baker de­liv­er­ing a low-key per­for­mance in the lead role, the stand­outs are the ex­cel­lent Laura Bai­ley as a flir­ta­tious Selina Kyle and Richard McGona­gle as Carmine Fal­cone – once you’ve ac­cli­ma­tised to the mob boss sound­ing like Vic­tor Sul­li­van’s evil twin.

Else­where, an ap­par­ently new and im­proved game en­gine is any­thing but, with reg­u­lar fram­er­ate drops on PS4, bizarrely stilted an­i­ma­tions, and sound ef­fects cut­ting out en­tirely dur­ing ac­tion se­quences fur­ther dead­en­ing the im­pact of al­ready slop­pily edited fight scenes. On more than one oc­ca­sion we were mis­led by a di­a­logue sum­mary that didn’t match the sub­se­quent line. As for the nar­ra­tive ad­just­ing to your choices, well, af­ter a text prompt that noted our non­vi­o­lent ap­proach to ex­tract­ing in­for­ma­tion from a hired goon, Al­fred im­me­di­ately chided us for “beat­ing him half to death”.

Realm Of Shad­ows even­tu­ally stead­ies it­self, leav­ing some in­trigu­ing nar­ra­tive threads dan­gling ahead of episode two. A hand­ful of scenes re­mind you what the stu­dio is ca­pa­ble of: a mid-game press con­fer­ence, for ex­am­ple, ex­pertly mines ten­sion from a buzzing phone and some in­va­sive ques­tions. Later, a set-piece that al­lows you to for­mu­late a plan of at­tack be­fore ex­e­cut­ing it in ef­fec­tively snappy QTE fash­ion shows Tell­tale has at least one new trick be­neath its cowl. Much more of that next time, please.

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