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.