Bat­man: The Tell­tale Se­ries

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Say what you will about Joel Schu­macher, but he never man­aged to make Bat­man quite this bor­ing. Tell­tale’s take on the Dark Knight is rarely out­right bad, but in a way it does some­thing much worse, con­sis­tently wast­ing its best ideas, and back­ing off any time it threat­ens to be more interesting. The re­sult is a story that is by turns in­ert and frus­trat­ing, bland and con­trived. Its twists, sur­prises, cliffhang­ers and big de­ci­sions rarely grow or­gan­i­cally from the nar­ra­tive; rather, they strain for shock value to kid you into be­liev­ing this is good drama. And by the end, the whole thing has col­lapsed like a soggy souf­flé.

It’s all the more re­gret­table be­cause there’s some strong nar­ra­tive ma­te­rial here. The no­tion of Bruce Wayne be­ing forced to con­front dor­mant se­crets from his fam­ily’s dark past has po­ten­tial; like­wise, the du­bi­ous po­lit­i­cal machi­na­tions of Har­vey Dent, and the links be­tween Arkham Asy­lum and a ter­ror­ist group bent on ex­pos­ing Gotham’s cor­rupt un­der­belly. But the script strug­gles to keep all these balls in the air and loses con­fi­dence in its abil­ity to re­tain your at­ten­tion, in­tro­duc­ing new threats and vil­lains when­ever the pace starts to drop, and beat­ing you over the head with sub­text. “Her mask in­spires fear,” Al­fred be­gins, paus­ing por­ten­tously be­fore adding, just in case we hadn’t made the ob­vi­ous con­nec­tion, “Not un­like Bat­man.”

Bruce Wayne and his al­ter ego are the only char­ac­ters who get suf­fi­cient screen time, but which­ever guise you choose, you’re usu­ally lum­bered with ex­po­si­tional di­a­logue or un­evenly chore­ographed QTEs. That might partly ex­plain why a cu­ri­ously re­strained Troy Baker never quite gets un­der the skin of ei­ther role, and why such ex­pe­ri­enced tal­ent among the sup­port­ing cast strug­gle to match their best work. Un­der­cooked drama be­comes un­in­ten­tional com­edy when­ever Oswald Cob­ble­pot shows up with a laugh­ably bad ac­cent. Laura Bai­ley vamps it up as a pleas­ingly am­bigu­ous Selina Kyle, but her en­coun­ters with Wayne mostly amount to the same con­ver­sa­tion re­peated sev­eral times over.

Kyle and Dent are abruptly cast aside for a finale in which the plot holes grow wider still, notably dur­ing one se­quence in­volv­ing a hid­den mes­sage that makes no sense at all. One of the sea­son opener’s best ideas, en­tirely for­got­ten for the mid­dle act, makes a brief reap­pear­ance, be­fore an over­long QTE fight and a flat cliffhanger round things off in wholly un­der­whelm­ing fash­ion. By then, a nar­ra­tive that promised to ex­plore the darker cor­ners of Gotham and the Wayne psy­che has barely tip­toed into the shad­ows be­fore timidly re­treat­ing into the comic-book com­fort zone. Holy dis­ap­point­ment, Bat­man.

The an­tag­o­nist’s mo­ti­va­tions are be­lat­edly ex­posed, though the tragedy of their back­story is un­der­sold. A po­ten­tially re­veal­ing spell in Arkham is over sim­i­larly swiftly and is just an ex­cuse to in­tro­duce Sea­son Two’s vil­lain

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