There is an argument that episodic videogames shouldn’t be reviewed one episode at a time. With a release schedule staggered over months, if not years, the true meaning of an episode may not be apparent; this was true of Episode 3 of The Walking Dead: Season 2, perhaps the most tepidly-received release since Telltale began their creative renaissance with the first The Walking Dead, and it’s also true in Episode 1 of Batman: The Telltale Series, “Realm of Shadows.”
The ponderously titled Batman: The Telltale Series is the latest videogame I have been drawn to in my quest to recapture the magic of The Walking Dead: The Game. All of Telltale’s output is based on other artist’s work, adapting characters and scenarios to serve the original narrative they want to tell in that setting. I am able to enjoy The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us on a fundamental level because I am detached from their source material entirely, exempt from expectations and preconceptions about characters or events.
Batman, however, is a Telltale franchise I’m already familiar with (except Tales from the Borderlands, which is more a sequel than adaptation and thus doesn’t really count), and is a franchise that’s been adapted and reinterpreted to death for over seventy years. I doubt there’s a person out there with access to some form of mass culture who isn’t familiar with the Batman origin story. So Telltale has quite the job before it: Adapting a character who has been a comic book character for eighty years, featured in innumerable radio series, big screen serials, television series, and at least ten Hollywood movies, and doing something new and original with it.