Friendships are complicated.
But they’re especially complicated when one of you is a caped crusader hoping to rid the streets of crime and the other is an impressionable psychopath with homicidal tendencies.
This is the conundrum in which you find yourself in Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within.
Much like Telltale’s first endeavor into the world of the dark knight, The Enemy Within gives the player a certain flexability in the creation of these much obsessed about characters. But where the first series focused on Batmans’ abily, or lack there of, to avoid corruption, this second iteration allows the player to carve out the path of madness that creates the Joker.
When we first meet John Doe in Arkham, he’s far from the insane, manipulative super villain we know and love. He’s insecure, needy, easily manipulated and obsessively craving acceptance from anyone with authority. These trates have made him the victim of Harley Quinn’s influence (an interesting flip on the usual version) and frantically craving friendship from the great and powerful Bruce Wayne. It becomes a story of a dangerously impressionable man in the middle of two highly disfunctional and pretty abusive relationships.
I chose to be kind to John Doe – although my intentions were still pretty selfish and, as Alfred points out at one part of the game, manipulative of someone with obvious mental health issues. I liked the idea of Bruce and John becoming friends. It gave both characters more depth. One of my biggest issues with Batman in general is that he’s always portrayed as a loner when really he’s very codependent. Did I like feeling sympathy for the Joker? I was alright with it. In the end I felt it didn’t undermine his villainy.
But while the character evolution is undoubtedly an entertaining ride, I found the narrative of Batman: The Enemy Within pretty uneven.
One of the biggest downsides of the game is that it’s trying to tell too many stories at one time.
As I find is often the case with recent superhero tales, when you throw too many characters into the story, narrative focus falls to the wayside. And a lot of big baddies show up in this one – Bane, Riddler, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze … It’s a bad guy party.
Giving everyone close to equal play time is impossible, which is too bad because I’d love more attention paid to Batman’s other foes — no offence Joker. It was a large part of the reason I so enjoyed Telltale’s first Batman game.
As well, I found the dramatic ending of Episode 1 really put an abrupt hault to the narrative and it wasn’t until Episode 3 when the story started to pick up again. It felt as if the writers said – alright that’s it for Riddler … now what?
The answer, of course, was something about The Joker.
I found this pretty disappointing because Riddler has always been one of my favourite Batman villains and I’ve long felt he doesn’t get the screen time he deserves in video games. And making him into Gotham’s version of Jigsaw was a truly disturbing decision I wanted to see a lot more of.
But it wasn’t just the narrative that was disjointed. The gameplay seemed scattered too. One episode was high action, the next was more detective focused, the next was just narritive focused, one was just Batman standing around being confused about things. It felt more like cobbling together a combination of very different stories.
I would have loved the world’s greatest detective to have shown off more of his mental fortitude. The few times I got to roam around a room discovering clues were some of the more immersive and entertaining parts of the game.
Although the action sequences in Telltale games have greatly improved over the years, it’s still the point and click exploration and puzzle solving that I turn to these games for.
Over all, the game was pretty enjoyable and I’m curious if there will be a third instalment – especially consinder the final few choices in Episode 5. But it’s Batman so I’m sure there will be. And I know I’ll play it.
Final Score: 3 out of 5