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Batman: The Telltale Series: Episode 2 - Children of Arkham
Score: 85%
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Introduction:

If Telltaleís history is any indication, second episodes are incredibly difficult to get right. And in most cases, they fall somewhere between decent and mediocre. This is especially true of Telltale games. I never envy them at this point; while first episodes are often exciting introductions to new worlds and conflicts, the follow-up is often comparatively subdued and slow. After all, as far as Telltaleís formula for serialized interactive drama goes, there needs to be a fair bit of table-setting. Slow burning is necessary for the seasonal format to work as a whole. Batman: The Telltale Series: Episode 2 - Children of Arkham has its share of deliberate pacing and carefully-structured buildup, but it sneaks in a couple of incredible shocks along the way, making it a stronger-than-usual second episode.

The Terrible Trio:

Episode 1 Ė Realm of Shadows ended with a furious Bruce Wayne confronting Alfred about some incredibly unsettling information regarding his father. Given how some of these stories tend to go, I was kind of skeptical about how Telltale would choose to handle this subplot. But that skepticism was unfounded, as the thread proves to be neither a red herring nor a cop-out. Episode 2 - Children of Arkham doesnít bother with any ambiguity; indeed, Thomas Wayne was involved with two of Gothamís most sinister figures, mob boss Carmine Falcone and the irredeemably corrupt Mayor Hamilton Hill. And with Thomas no longer alive to answer for his lack of scruples, the weight of all of his atrocities falls squarely on Bruceís shoulders.

This turns Bruce into a liability for Gotham mayoral hopeful Harvey Dent, who is forced into a terrible situation; while he very much values Bruceís friendship and relies heavily on his funding, he nevertheless has to drag the Wayne family name through the mud to save face. Combine this with the budding rivalry/romance between Bruce/Batman and Harveyís apparent squeeze Selina/Catwoman (who, for the record, know each otherís identities), and youíve got a recipe for some intense personal drama in the future.


Gentleman of Crime:

Bruceís childhood friend Oswald Cobblepot made a personal call in Episode 1: Realm of Shadows, to warn his old pal that something big was in the works and to ensure that he is on the right side when the storm hits. In Episode 2 - Children of Arkham, that storm hits. Turns out, he has crafted himself a new identity: the Penguin. His mission: to right the grievous wrongs perpetrated by Gothamís political elite. His tactics: terrorism. And what better venue for his debut than a convergence of Gothamís political elite? The televised debate between Hill and Dent is sure to be one for the books.

Penguinís incarnation in Batman: The Telltale Series is strikingly different from all of the ones Iíve seen to date. Completely lacking in physical deformities and possessing all the swagger of a modern punk, heís essentially a hybrid of Che Guevara and Johnny Rotten. Why heís chosen this identity is something of a mystery in this world, but I suppose at this point, itís best to just go with it.


Conclusion:

Batman: The Telltale Series: Episode 2 - Children of Arkham is a fine continuance of one of the most adult-oriented interpretations of the Dark Knight to hit any screen. Its blend of dialogue-driven storytelling and quick-time event laden action is a better fit for the series than previously thought. Perhaps its greatest triumph is in its treatment of Bruce Wayne as a person rather than an alter ego. Then again, this isnít surprising; Telltale has always been primarily interested in the human aspect of its stories, and Batman, above all else, is a tool and a symbol. If itís dark, character-driven drama youíre looking for in your superhero stories, this is a series you should be keeping up with.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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