- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2016

The Dark Knight uses his alter ego to preserve the family’s legacy in the click-and-play adventure Batman: The Telltale Series (Telltale Games, rated Mature, reviewed on PlayStation 4, $4.99 per episode or $29.99 for the entire series).

The first of this five-part, episodic story arc begins with the “Realm of Shadows” taking a single player into Gotham City and in control of both Bruce Wayne and Batman.

A stellar 15-minute opening of the roughly 2.5-hour experience has the Caped Crusader taking on five masked mercenaries breaking into the mayor’s office and ending with an encounter with Catwoman.

The action, much like other of Telltale Games’ offerings, requires mimicking a series of onscreen commands by pressing the main controller’s buttons, moving the analog stick in the direction shown or a combination of both to allow a character to converse, use a gadget or strike down his adversaries.

Life for the player gets much more grounded after that exciting opening and finds the story more often focused on Mr. Wayne verbally interacting with legends such as Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Dent (a hulking pretty boy running for mayor), Selina Kyle (gal pal of Dent) annoying reporter Vicki Vale, crime boss Carmine Falcone and Oswald Cobblepot.

That’s right, he’s known as the Penguin in most pop-art circles, but here, Mr. Cobblepot is Mr. Wayne’s childhood friend and now a rich punk threatening a revolution with or without his old pal on his side.

A player answering timed, multiple-choice questions shapes pieces of the narrative and, according to developers, Batman’s level of hurt committed upon adversaries also adjusts how Gotham and its police force react to him.

For example, do I leak vital information, which is a huge decision, on a crime organization to Gordon or a reporter? Do I break an arm of a subdued sniper or let him come back to use that arm to steady a gun and kill again.

My Bruce ended up being stern but not sadistic, always remembering his family tragedy and why he became Batman. An updated Codex in the Batcave keeps track of my decisions and how they affect other characters’ perceptions of me.

By no means is this type of interaction as exciting as any of the third-person Arkham Asylum combat games released over the years, but it has intriguing moments throughout.

A player will not only talk and battle as the Bat but might twist a holographic map, extract a bullet from a corpse’s skull, link clues together to reveal the events of a crime scene and control a surveillance drone to lay out an attack strategy.

The visual design is also not that impressive or evolved when compared to playing the steady diet of Telltale’s “Walking Dead” adventures and could have used some fresh design concepts.

It still looks like a player is interacting within a cell-shaded, comic-book universe, but wouldn’t it have been cool if developers used a more classic Batman style crafted by legendary artisans such as Bob Kane, Bruce Timm, Neil Adams or Frank Miller?

The Bat suit is a highlight, taking its cue from a blend of the game “Arkham Origins” for body armor and the seemed cowl inspired by Jim Lee’s “The New 52” Caped Crusader and Ben Affleck’s Batman with glowing eyes.

I’ll admit “Batman: The Telltale Series” is off to a bit of a plodding start, but my confidence in Telltale Games’ formula bodes well for subsequent episodes as a plot to destroy the Wayne family name continues to evolve.

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