NOTE: This review is spoiler free of plot details.
What makes reviewing episodes of Telltale games difficult for me is a choice I made long ago to never spoil plot details, something I make sure to put on the top of every episode I review. It makes it rather challenging to talk about a game that’s essentially an interactive movie where the issues normally come from how the story unfolds and what works and what doesn’t. This is most evident in the debut episode of Telltale’s second take on the Batman franchise, Batman: The Enemy Within, where there’s so much to dissect but in order to do so, I would have to more or less spoil the entire episode which I don’t want to do. I toyed with making this the first episode in which I choose to dive into plot points, but I’ve since changed my mind and decided to keep things spoiler-free. Now, let’s get into this jam-packed season opener.
Quite possibly the best thing about Batman: The Telltale Series is how bold Telltale was with their decisions to change established things in the Batman canon knowing how large the fanbase for the character is and if these changes weren’t embraced, they would never hear the end of it. As someone who has admitted in past review for Telltale’s Batman series that I’ve become weary of Batman saturation, I personally loved what Telltale did because I didn’t know what to expect from one episode to the next. This is something that is continued in season two, sub-titled The Enemy Within, and there’s so much in here that it almost feels like it’s an entire series condensed into two hours until you get the realization at the end that this is merely the beginning in what I’m sure will be another trying time for Gotham’s Dark Knight.
It’s interesting that to me at least that the opening episode of The Enemy Within brings back the same feelings as watching The Dark Knight for the first time, introducing us to a Batman who has just found firm footing only to have it pulled out right from under them again. The similarities don’t end there, as episode one, The Enigma, opens up with a very tense hostage situation pulled off by none other than the villain who was teased in the debut trailer: The Riddler. Telltale used characters from Batman’s rogues gallery in season one like the Penguin, Catwoman and, depending on how your choices went, Two-Face, each with their own unique spin put on them to differentiate Telltale’s take on the source material from elsewhere. This too is the same for The Riddler, but that being said he is the most comic book-y of the villains used in this series thus far with his question mark cane and green domino mask.
While his appearance and some of his personality traits read very Riddler: using deadly traps that require victims to solve a riddle and leaving a clue behind at a crime scene, his history in this universe is really quite interesting. Instead of rising to challenge Batman, the Riddler was operating at the time when Bruce’s parents were still alive and in his own ways, was seen as Gotham City’s first costumed vigilante, though Batman clearly sees otherwise. Riddler in many respects here is also trying to “save” Gotham, but doing so in a much more extreme way than Batman who still believes in the law despite operating outside of it. What better villain is there for a Telltale game, titles that require dialogue choices and answering questions than the Riddler? It’s just a shame that you don’t get to see that much of him in The Enigma, though his presence is felt throughout and he leaves a lasting impact for the Bat-family for the rest of the season, if not the series. I hope that at some point Telltale does a flashback sequence like they have done in Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series that shows Riddler operating in the days before Batman ever came to be while his parents are doing questionable things in Arkham Asylum.
Something that felt shoe-horned into the first season was John Doe, Telltale’s obvious take on the Joker, who didn’t radiant with the presence that you feel that character should. He’s used in The Enimga as well and still seems out-of-place, however at the very least it looks like Telltale has a plan for him going forward, most evident at the episode’s conclusion that had me VERY excited and it will be interesting to see if like certain characters, you can prevent “John Doe” from ever becoming the Joker like we know him at all. Another new character who was unveiled in the launch trailer for this season is Amanda Waller, and because of the Arrow TV series and last year’s Suicide Squad movie, that name holds a lot more weight than it ever did before. Again without getting into spoilers, it’s hinted throughout that Waller has either tried or is trying something Squad related, and her ability to alter both Bruce Wayne and Batman’s life in the series will perhaps make her the antagonist to watch going forward.
With the Batman license, it allowed Telltale to really have fun in their action sequences by using the character’s gadgets and martial arts skills in tandem. Things aren’t that different so far in The Enemy Within, but something that is welcome is the way in which scenes can play out. Using your drone in Batman: The Telltale Series, you scripted things almost like Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films where Batman would go over his plan with his visor before executing on it. You plan things out here much the same, but you don’t see the details so it makes it a surprise when Batman springs into action. You’re also given the opportunity to improvise within fights once you’re in the middle of them, choosing to pick one move over another mid-sequence. The linking sequences used to walk around a crime scene also make a return, only this time with the intent of deducing how to work around one of the Riddler’s traps. It’s as easy as it’s ever been, but also nonetheless empowering as you as the player are outwitting the Riddler.
There’s a lot of The Enigma that don’t quite work for me or feel earned, but to speak of them would be to give away parts of the episode and I would love to speak with others who have played this and season one to see how things played out here. Even with my grievances though, The Enemy Within starts off strong just as Batman: The Telltale Series did last year and I can’t way to see how the teases and hints in The Enigma play out doing forward. If you were sold on Telltale’s take on Batman in their first season, consider your season pass already purchased.