I thought this could be the one; This could be the episode to escape Telltale’s horrific case of the ‘Penultimate Episode’ curse. Ever since Telltale’s ‘rebirth’ (or as I like to call it, The Walking Dead Game Season 1), the developers have been very inconsistent in many things: frame rate, lip sync, release schedule, etc. To their credit, however, we can always count on them to deliver this one truth: Episode 4 will be lackluster in comparison to the others. Don’t believe me? Just check the metacritic numbers on any of their flagship titles. The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Tales From the Borderlands- there is no escape. Granted, these fourth installments often aren’t BAD per say, they just might lag behind in comparison to the other episodes in the series.
Was Batman: Ep. 4 able to escape the curse? Read on to find out! Or, simply scroll down and read the arbitrary score that I’ll inevitably give it, because who needs attention spans, am I right?
Indeed, you are seeing the screenshot above correctly. In Guardian of Gotham, Telltale introduces us to the grandest of all Batman villains: the Joker. My feelings on his introduction were very mixed, to say the least. The Joker has been portrayed so many times by so many different people- including Troy Baker, voice of Batman in this game! His character has been demonstrated in many different ways, and so I had an open mind about this version. Sure, I will always adore Heath Ledger’s Joker, but hey, I didn’t HATE Jared Leto’s Joker. All-in-all, Telltale’s Joker lacked any unique twist to him. Played by Anthony Ingruber, this Joker (or, as they refer to him in Arkham Asylum, John Doe) lacked any unique bite or flair to him. The most interesting thing was that this was Batman’s introduction to the Prince of Crime, and it seems as though he isn’t a well known crime-boss quite yet. There is room for his character to grow, but his vocal performance lacked any particular trait; Ledger has his creepiness, Leto has his craziness, and Hamill has his iconic laugh… Ingruber didn’t stand out in the slightest next to those actors. Granted, the role of the Joker has big shoes to fill, but it Telltale missed the mark on this one.
Another fallacy in Telltale’s use of the Joker was his length of stay- he was barely a part of the plot at all. I’m sure he’ll show up in the finale, but in this episode he was essentially only a blip on the radar. The rest of the plot continued to show Bruce Wayne/Batman’s inevitable fall before the victory. While interesting, the story was bogged down with a slow pace that I could not escape. Having been drugged, Bruce Wayne is essentially powerless for the majority of the episode, and that doesn’t make for much exciting action. While I realize that some down time is needed in order to set up the inevitable climax in the 5th episode, that doesn’t make playing some parts of this episode any less boring.
The monotony of Telltale’s gameplay can only be overlooked when the story is able to overcome its inherent lack of excitement- in this case, Guardians of Gotham was unable to compensate. No detective linking felt exciting, no quick-time event felt threatening. Oftentimes, I think about what Quantic Dream did with Heavy Rain– even though the gameplay was largely similar, I felt the consequence of each of my actions (or lack thereof). I felt absolutely zero excitement while fighting my battles in this one, as Telltale makes them so easy to accomplish without offering any punishment for not succeeding. Again, if the story had grabbed me, this wouldn’t be much of an issue. Sadly, that was not the case.
While I didn’t dislike my experience, I was overall left feeling empty after this episode’s conclusion. Its lackluster Joker, slow pace, and neutered Batman failed to provide the entertainment that Episodes 1-3 did with ease. I’m very excited for Episode 5, as I really hope Telltale pulled punches from this one in order to make Episode 5 as good as it can be. Unfortunately, those pulled punches made Batman: Ep. 4 a weak fighter, as Telltale yet again failed to escape the ‘Penultimate Episode’ curse.
FINAL VERDICT: 2.5/5
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, Android, IOS; Publisher: Telltale Games ; Developer: Telltale Games; Players: 1 ; Released: November 22, 2016 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $4.99 (Episode 4 only), $24.99 (Full Season)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Batman: The Telltale Series given to HeyPoorPlayer by Telltale Games.