By Marty Mulrooney
Guardian of Gotham is the penultimate episode of Batman: The Telltale Series, a five-episode adventure game from Telltale Games (Tales from the Borderlands, The Walking Dead). Following Bruce’s complete mental breakdown at the end of the previous episode, the disgraced millionaire playboy wakes to find himself an inmate of the infamous Arkham Asylum. Luckily for him, he’s about to make a new friend…
After being injected at the end of Episode 3: New World Order and brutally beating Oswald Cobblepot to a pulp in front of the media, Bruce Wayne wakes in Episode 4 to find himself trapped inside a padded cell. His identity as Batman is still a closely guarded secret (for now), but plenty of his fellow Arkham Asylum inmates have a reason to hate the former CEO of Wayne Enterprises.
Bruce has only been a guest of the facility for mere minutes before a bribed prison guard lets two inmates into his cell to ‘welcome’ him… with a Taser. Usually they wouldn’t pose a problem – even without the Batsuit – but Bruce is still suffering from the effects of the mind-altering drug coursing through his veins. The first few quick time events go off without a hitch. Then, suddenly, he’s on the floor being repeatedly kicked.
Help comes in the most unlikely of forms. Telltale has made no secret of the fact The Joker would appear in this episode, but what we end up getting is totally unexpected. A maniacal looking, green haired, pale skinned young man comes to Bruce’s aid and disarms the attackers with violent glee. In Telltale’s version of the Batman universe, Bruce has never met The Joker before. Here, he’s introduced as a patient who has never told his real name to anyone – they simply call him John Doe.
The short first act of Episode 4 takes place in the asylum’s ‘break room’, with a few instantly recognisable inmates loitering nearby as rain patters against the windows. Newcomer Anthony Ingruber does a splendid job as The Joker/John Doe, mixing moments of borderline insanity with surprising lucidity. It appears his character has got the doctors fooled too, as they believe he’s been making great progress.
Sadly, despite offering an exciting new take on Batman’s most famous adversary, this first act often feels like a distracting detour from the main narrative. Perhaps if the entire episode had been set in Arkham Asylum, with room for John Doe to grow into The Joker we fully expect and want him to become, things would have felt more coherent. The main plot could still have been advanced from inside this location, with Bruce’s frustration at being locked up and under the influence of a drug he doesn’t fully understand building to breaking point.
Instead, he gets out with fairly little effort, creates a cure and then it’s back to business as usual. It’s hard not to assume that Joe Doe was merely introduced here to set up The Joker appearing in full force in an eventual Season 2, but it would be wonderful for this theory to be proved wrong in the final episode. The remainder of the game is for the most part by the numbers, with Bruce trying to convince the increasingly unstable Harvey that military rule is a bad idea and stop Cobblepot from hacking into his tech.
If the above all sounds a bit harsh, rest assured this is still an enjoyable episode that has some truly great moments. There is yet another ‘crime scene investigation’ that, although simple, is great fun to solve and the decision-making is getting harder and harder (in a good way), with a final choice that should significantly impact the experience of the last episode for each individual player moving forward.
Despite a few technical bugs – Bruce walking through a closed door, Bruce walking through an Arkham Asylum inmate, Bruce’s mouth not moving sometimes when he talks… get your act together Bruce! – Guardian of Gotham offers another short yet engaging slice of well-acted interactive fiction. In truth, it does feel like it’s treading water at times, but hopefully the final episode will wrap everything up in a satisfying manner. After all, the ultimate fate of Gotham City – and this series – depends on it…
7.5 OUT OF 10