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Batman – Guardian of Gotham: The Review

Developers: Telltale Games

Publishers: Telltale Games

Plot: With Lady Arkham and the Penguin terrorising the streets, Mayor Dent goes to desperate lengths to keep Gotham under control, including throwing Bruce Wayne into Arkham…

Telltale’s Batman has been impressively ticking away for some time now. With a shocking story that has turned both Thomas Wayne and now, with the last shocking twist, Vicki Vale, into the roles of villains, and the chance to mould the characters of Gotham to your own design, in true Telltale Games style, we have had a good run of solid story-telling. But it isn’t until the fourth episode, where the series really comes alive.

Everything just runs a lot smoother. It opens with the action completely uprooted and switched to Arkham. This episode sees a lot of characters dropped from the roster. Catwoman is reduced to a brief text exchange and Vicki Vale is surprisingly absent. Usually I like to see everyone brought up, because it stops anyone from not developing as they should, but here it keeps the story moving at a smooth and steady pace. Also Arkham allows some cameo cramming to its finest extent. While in a break room, Bruce Wayne gets the chance to speak to the terrifying Victor Zzasz and lesser known baddie, Albert Wesker. We also get to see the Titan thug we beat up in Episode Two. However, as I am sure you already know, being the worst kept spoiler on the internet, the main attraction here is Bruce’s unlikely ally in the form of an unnamed, green-haired inmate who is prone to outbursts of laughter at other people’s misery. It is an excellent use of Batman’s ace in the hole. The villain we all love to see, but one who doesn’t quite fit in with the Children of Arkham storyline. Introducing the Joker here affirms how Telltale adapt the character (as ever Telltale write him both outside of the canon, but also horrifically familiar), and where he fits into the story. His addition is merely peripheral, assuming he is kept to the side-lines for Episode 5, but it is most definitely welcome, the threat levels rising to the roof whenever his tone changes. It is almost a shame when Bruce gets out of Arkham surprisingly early, but we have a finale to build for. Tracking down your one lead, Vicki Vale, we are given the finest use of the detective crime scene yet, uncovering a gruesome double homicide that puts you back into the driver’s seat as the World’s Greatest Detective. With Bruce Wayne enemy number one, you are forced to don the cowl more than ever, a fitting decision as we get closer to the endgame.

Afterwards, the Children of Arkham are reduced to the background. The real threat right now is both Harvey Dent, enforcing a police state to combat Lady Arkham’s rise to power, and the Penguin, who has Wayne Enterprises and potential access to Batman’s tech. Never before do we get the sense of impending doom. With your resources being taken away from you one by one, Batman falls back on his instincts to solve the problems at hand, and it gets very hard to see just how Batman is going to get out of this one. Episode Three toyed with the idea that you cannot be everywhere at once, but Episode Four pushes the idea to the extreme. It builds towards a fantastic showdown. The choice element in Batman has been a tad poor up till now. With a specific story and mystery in mind, there just isn’t enough lenience in the narrative to allow story-breaking decisions as we have had with the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. So Telltale gives us something new instead. We get the choice of ending this episode by taking down either Two-Face or the Penguin. Each battle is riveting, a real cinematic experience. The stakes are also incredibly high, a stomach-turning decision about what to sacrifice. The entire episode builds up to the choice to the point where you leave the episode genuinely unsure if you have done the right thing. And this is the genius of Telltale, restored to its original glory. The only issue I had with this episode, and it has been a minor problem all series, is the frame rate. Especially with Episode Four, which introduces some glorious swooping shots that are just too much of a strain on the memory, the lag hurts the experience. It is hard to get just as swept up in the power of a fight when the cinematic is a few seconds behind itself. And when the story is this good, you want to experience the full Batman story.

Final Verdict: Guardian of Gotham hits the heights of the series so far, with neat cameos, gripping story-telling and one of two amazing boss fights to send the episode out on.

Four Stars