The game gets much more interesting as Bruce Wayne. Here, you’re trying to get Harvey Dent elected mayor (same old, same old) and are roped in to smooth-talking Gotham’s elite into voting for him. Your efforts are only semi-successful, and the first episode focuses mainly on the role of money and the media in politics, on public image and the pitfalls of celebrity.
These are themes that have some weight to them, though Episode One’s brisk run-time means they’re only touched upon briefly before Wayne dons the mask and gets back to hitting faces. Still, there’s a lot of potential here—not least because of a certain dramatic irony that comes from comic books telling and retelling the same stories again and again. Like Wolf Among Us and its cast of fairy tale characters, Batman benefits from being able to show us brief hints of characters we know and then playing on our expectations for the future.
Less successful is the whole Batman side of the equation, which takes up about an equal portion of the episode. Not much has changed since my E3 demo—by which I mean Batman’s sections still consist of lengthy chains of button-matching sequences. Press Left to see Batman move left! Press A to make him punch!
Press Y to kick through a window!
It’s all rather blasé, and even more tedious once you realize the game doesn’t seem to care whether you succeed or not. Sometimes I’d accidentally hit the wrong button or fudge a combination and I’d be damned if Batman didn’t do the same thing regardless. That takes some of the tension out of it, if you’re hitting buttons as a placebo.
But it’s the only way for Telltale to justify the fact some of these action sequences are truly Kojima-esque. The opening scene alone is a full fifteen minutes or so of Batman punching, kicking, and occasionally grappling, broken up only occasionally by jump cuts to Bruce Wayne having a conversation later on in the evening. The sequences take too long for you to just sit there quietly, so...press these buttons, I guess.
I don’t know how you make a Batman game while minimizing the Batman parts, but it feels like that’s what Telltale’s in need of here. His role is just not very interesting. Bruce Wayne sets things in motion. Batman just punches them until they reach their foregone conclusion.
There is one praiseworthy sequence though. Batman slips into his role as the World’s Greatest Detective, arriving at a crime scene and piecing together the clues—a bullet hole in a metal canister, scorch marks from an explosion, a dead police officer. It falls to you to connect the dots and recreate the events.
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