Batman: The Telltale Series
360, Android, iOS, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One
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