We’re almost at the end of Batman: The TellTale Series. We avoided spoilers with Episode 1 and 2 but had to dive into some spoilers for any meaningful discussion of Episode 3. Episode 4 certainly starts out strong enough, and we’re given some interesting choices but somehow, this chapter falls flat. Again, we’re deep in the story now, so beware of spoilers as we discuss Batman: The TellTale Series Episode 4.
Joke’s on You
Though called “John Doe,” Joker’s appearance in this chapter is both surprising and oddly refreshing. His appearance is unusually timed, as are his actions. While I love Mark Hamill’s Joker, Anthony Ingruber’s Joker is incredibly likable. No, not his impressions, which are tolerable to me, but combined with TellTale’s script, Ingruber makes the Clown Prince of Crime feel a bit like John Milton’s Lucifer in Paradise Lost, seeming logical, intelligent, and downright likable. If it wasn’t for the fact that we all know who Joker is (and that he gently double crosses you a few times in ways that seem more like playing you up), I may have thought of him as a potential ally. The back story divulged by some other members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery are largely unneeded, and may even take away from the character a bit. That being said, having Joker as your tour guide in Arkham, without him being in firm control of everything, is odd for long time Batman fans, but it’s so different it’s actually a bit refreshing.
Of course, behind his simpleton act, something deeply disturbing hints at the edges of Joker’s words. He knows far more than he explicitly states, possibly including your alter ego. It also makes me question if Vicki Vale really is as bad as he says, or if, somehow, this is all a game he’s somehow involved with in a way we may not yet be able to understand.
Sadly, our time with Joker is cut short. I had thought from the previews we’d be seeing more of him but Joker almost acts as an introduction level to this episode. I’m wondering if TellTale used him as a setup for Episode 5 or even Batman: The TellTale Series 2.
Behind the Vale
Vicki’s backstory has changed from most of her past appearances. Learning that Bruce is Batman is one thing, but TellTale really made her stand out as a character. Combined with lines from Joker, I’m not really sure if she’s Lady Arkham, but if Joker’s telling the truth, it’s quite a twist. It makes Vicki the other side of the Batman coin in a very personal way. In fact, in some ways, it would make Lady Arkham seem a bit more like she’d be the proper hero if it wasn’t for the fact that she was going to hurt civilians as well.
Whether it’s really her or not, the cards are stacked against Batman/Bruce in a way that sews the two identities together in ways we rarely see. The public hates Bruce (and in my story, many hate Batman too), Harvey hates Bruce, Selina ditches both, both have their mental health wrecked, the fortune that funds them has been assaulted, the tech’s been compromised… it feels like an interactive Bane storyline. From the first time you put on the Batsuit and realize Batman’s voice modulator isn’t working, you realize the suit is still damaged. Lucius wasn’t joking, and that attention to detail makes the cost of Batman’s war all the more visceral.
However, it’s not enough.
Enough Hand Waving
The sensor’s in Batman’s hands are, as usual, used as a literal kind of hand waving to move the story along. It’s hard to believe for me, and it maybe it works for other people, but I feel like it’s a good metaphor for this episode, especially when we’re forced between saving Batman’s tech or Bruce Wayne’s home.
The tension with Penguin came real hard, and real fast at the end of the last Episode. How Oswald suddenly can find Batman’s tech and start hacking it doesn’t feel genuine. The result is felt, but even his line about “being a soldier,” hinting that someone else is pulling the strings, doesn’t make the situation any better. Lady Arkham seems more like a chemist than a hacker.
The same can be said with what happens with Harvey when he walks in on you and Selina, innocent or not. We’ve all had the friend who won’t see reason, but the fact that it’s happening to a mayor who suddenly has a private army on the street feels like something that can only happen in a third world country. Directly interfering with a private citizen’s mental health problem and then assaulting their property, especially in a public statement, is too hard for me to swallow.
Both fights seem to “end” the trouble from the villain while also pushing them more towards their iconic selves, but both end abruptly. Choosing to save your tech seems to doom your manor and vice versa. Without a preview of the next and final chapter, there’s a hollowness at the ends Episode 4.
We do have some good moments with the Vale house investigation (“The kid who saved Batman” line is great), but for the most part, I felt like this episode was more about hitting Batman/Bruce Wayne in whatever way was possible, logic be damned. And that’s a shame, because prior to Episode 4, that was something that felt respected. It’s never been perfect, but there’s too much hand waving for me to focus on the trick. I’m looking at the edges of the scenes to see what the artist is doing, and it ruins the trick.
I feel like, beyond the visuals for Two-Face, none of my options from previous episodes matter in this one. Maybe we’ll see something in Episode 5, since the choices you make at the end of 4 strongly indicate that there’ll be a big divide, but within this particular section of the game, things feel rather isolated. No matter how nice you treated Harvey, Penguin, or Vicki, they hate you. I don’t sense much of a difference in the outcomes, and that’s disappointing because it makes the episode feel isolated. Like anyone can jump into this particular part because nothing before it matters.
We still have Episode 5 though, and I’m hoping it will tie together our choices from the first 3 Episodes with the major ones in 4 to produce something that’s at least as satisfying as Episodes 1-3 thus far.Related: batman, Batman: The Telltale Series, Point and Click, RPG, Single Player, telltale, telltale games