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Game Review: Tellltale’s Batman: Episode 1

Telltale is no stranger to taking beloved properties and crafting their own interactive narratives. In fact it’s about the only thing they do. So it was only a matter of time until they tried their hands at Batman. The first episode has arrived, but it is another worthy addition to the Batman mythology?

Short answer is yes. Telltale has always done a fantastic job of taking characters and lore from franchises and crafting their own narrative while still being faithful to what’s already there. From the very beginning this feels like a Batman story. But rather than spend a few moments as Bruce Wayne and more as Batman they’ve turned the formula making Bruce Wayne very integral to what happens in the story. Thus in the first episode you find yourself playing as Bruce Wayne more often than Batman setting up intrigue that will play out in later episodes. It should be mentioned that this story is very early Batman so he hasn’t quite established to relationships with other characters yet, however you make decisions that help to build those relationships. Familiar characters are given nice twists that make them stand out from previous iterations while still retaining the qualities they are known for.

Voice acting is top notch as it is with every Telltale game. I think Troy Baker might be the first actor in history to have played both Batman and The Joker (are you really surprised Troy Baker is in here?). There is some dialogue that comes off as a bit cheesy, but it’s more from the writing than the actor. While some characters don’t have much to do, it’s only the first episode so I expect them to appear more frequently with each episode. The visuals are great making this feel like a comic come to life and it’s always a pleasure to see famous locations from the Batman universe.

Gameplay is the same as previous Telltale games. You press the right buttons when prompted during action sequences, limited time to make dialogue choices, etc. Then you have some of the more Batman based gameplay such as investigating evidence to piece together a crime scene. Whereas the Arkham games held your hand here you’re given evidence and it’s up to you to link different pieces of evidence together to figure out what happened. However there still seems to be a bit of hand holding. The developer could have thrown in more evidence and let you figure it out on your own, though it could be just to get the player use to the mechanic for later episodes. There is also a part where you come up with a battle plan; however the choices never feel like they have any impact other than which takedown do you think will look cooler.

If there’s one big negative to this game it’s the same problem I have with all Telltale games; stiff animation and choppiness of the action scenes. Early on this is not a problem, but later action scenes there are small pauses and odd jump cuts. Animations still aren’t smooth, with characters feeling very stiff. You would think after all these games the animators would be able to do better, especially with the upgrades that were supposedly made to the game engine. It’s a shame the animations aren’t smoother because there are cool moments during the fight scenes. Also the placement of the prompts could have been a little better since they tend to take your focus away from the action which defeats the point of having cool fight scenes especially in a Batman game.

The first episode of Telltale’s Batman series is off to a good start, but there is still room for improvement. Hopefully the rest of the episodes run much smoother, but aside from the technical aspects I look forward to seeing the story unfold.

This review was done playing the PS4 version of the game purchased by the reviewer.

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Reviewed by Peter Rivera on August 2, 2016

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