Is this the Telltale game that Gotham needs?
Telltale Games’ unique story-telling adventure games seemed to have captured an audience, seemingly by releasing new franchises to tell their own story with. Having always been interested in playing a Telltale game I was excited to experience their latest production to arrive on the Switch, for I've always been a fan of the Batman universe. Like many others, I've had a consistent stream of Batman throughout my life. Starting with the animated series, moving through the Hollywood movies and also with the recent (and excellent) Arkham games, my love for the Dark Knight has only grown over time. Having never experienced a Telltale offering before, Batman Telltale seemed like a match made in heaven and a perfect time to dive into the Telltale catalogue.
Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised and seriously impressed with the overall quality of both the visual and audio production. The voice actors really do a great job with the script they're given, which for the most part is top-notch. Occasionally an awkward and cheesy line arises, but honestly even the best of actors are at the mercy of the script they’re handed. Fortunately, the writing was always engaging and left me on the edge of my seat the whole time, excited for what would play out next.
Like other Telltale games, this is more of an experience than an actual game. This package for Switch includes all 5 chapters, previously released episodically for other platforms throughout 2016. As I got deeper into the story I realized it felt more like watching an AMC or Netflix series, but with an interactive twist. As each scene pans out the player gets to steer the conversation in different directions and speak for Batman or Bruce. Most of the time the players choices don't affect the plot of the story, but more so allow the player to delve into what peaks their curiosity. Some of the time you can actually change the scene completely by choosing whether to approach the event as either Batman or Bruce Wayne, whichever sounds more interesting to you. As a fun bonus you get to see the percentage of what everyone else picked at the end of each chapter, a welcomed surprise.
While the big story-altering decisions can be effective at capturing the players attention, I felt the most immersive component was in the little character-shaping choices presented. You know when you are watching a show and you just want the protagonist to punch that smug, piece of trash jerk that's monologuing about his future plans? Fortunately there is an option to do so. Or what about when the hero finally catches the bandit, but lets him go free. Where's the option to break one of his bones as swift punishment for what he has done? Decisions like this are up to you, and can actually change your reputation for better or for worse.
This original portrayal of Batman features a younger Bruce Wayne, and isn't tied to any other existing Batman universe. Though not exactly an origin story, the viewer is treated to the beginning of many different classic friendships/villains and Batman tropes. Many of them have fresh new takes on the characters you thought you knew, but nothing too radical or out of the ordinary to drive hardcore fans away.
I couldn't believe how engrossed I got into every character and actually cared for their well-being. While there is plenty of action throughout every episode, there are also plenty of character-building drama sections as well, and truthfully I don't know which one I enjoyed most. For not having actual control of Batman, the developers have done an immaculate job of keeping the player engaged during the action sequences. Never is there a dull segment throughout the series, but that's not to say that there isn't any downtime. When Batman isn't beating up baddies, Bruce is busy interacting with Alfred and playing the political game with Gotham. This balancing act of focusing on Bruce Wayne and his alter ego is what makes Batman so special, and is masterfully portrayed in this experience.
Of course the Nintendo Switch has the amazing ability of being both a home console and a portable console, but unfortunately when playing away from the dock the game can be a bit choppy. While on break at work I plugged my headphones in and was still consumed by the story, only being mildly distracted at the frequent breaks of frame rate. So while playing handheld is definitely doable, I wouldn't recommend it over playing on a bigger screen. The real problem I had while playing was that it wouldn't save my progress while playing, and I ended up losing an hour of progress, even though there are "Save Icons" that showed up every scene. To make matters worse, after a nearly 2 hour session I died and the game wouldn't load the episode back. Exiting to the Main Menu ended up losing my progress, making the total amount of my time wasted 3 hours, which was absolutely brutal and aggravating to endure a 2nd (and 3rd) time. Because of this I would recommend playing through whole episodes at a time, and not trust the game to be saving itself automatically.
Batman - The Telltale Series completely caught me off guard in the best way possible. The scene direction combined with the truly exhilarating action and drama made for an unforgettable experience from start to finish. There can be frequent load times and frame rate drops, but they don't really matter as it never gets in the way of the fun and exciting story. What did tarnish an otherwise fantastic game was the awful save system that failed me multiple times, making me repeat 3 hours of gameplay I had already experienced. But if you can get past that and are a fan of The Dark Knight trilogy or Netflix's Daredevil, you should feel right at home and won't want to miss experiencing this new series.