There have been more than a few adaptations of Batman’s story. Many of them have touched on the same things; Batman’s parents, and the Joker. In this sense, the Batman Telltale series is no different. The first season focused on his parents, and The Enemy within revolves around Batman and Joker’s relationship. The difference however, is in how Telltale decides to portray those familiar stories and change the way we think about them.
Batman: The Enemy Within picks up right where season 1 left off. Gotham is seeing a declining crime rate after Batman took down Lady Arkham and cleared the streets of any remaining criminal scum. This all changes when Riddler shows up in episode 1, and the story takes off from there, bringing with it plenty of twists and turns.
Just like season 1 of Telltale’s Batman though, The Enemy Within takes a different approach to many of Batman’s allies and most famous villains. If the first season’s biggest change was the fact that Thomas Wayne was really a criminal lord of Gotham, then season 2 uses the Joker’s origin to great effect. We don’t see the Joker like we have in past adaptations, at least not for a long time. Instead he is known as John Doe, and he is a friend of Bruce Wayne throughout the 5-episode series. Depending on the choices you make and how you treat him, John Doe’s story can play out in unique ways.
If you haven’t played a Telltale game before, they are essentially interactive, branching narrative games that are based off popular licensed properties, like Batman or The Walking Dead. Much of the games are set up like a movie of sorts, with quick time events and some investigation to fill the gaps. The biggest draw though, is dialogue options. Many of the things you choose to say or do in a situation will be remembered and will affect the rest of the game, changing the narrative you get to see.
In this sense, even after years of different games from Telltale, The Enemy Within still doesn’t stray from the typical formula. The only difference I even found was in some of the interactions. Instead of choosing beforehand how Batman will take out a room of thugs, you choose as the fight progresses in a quick time event. Small things like that were the only game changes Telltale made from season to season. However, that isn’t necessarily all bad. After all, Telltale fans are usually in it for the branching story and spectacle, not the gameplay. The art style of the game is still pleasing, and fight scenes with Batman are a lot of fun to watch and press buttons along to.
What Telltale sets out to do in its games, it does very well, and The Enemy Within is no different. Each of the five episodes had me hooked all the way through and there was a lot of great writing. The dark and crime filled world of Gotham is perfect, along with a true to form Batman. The Enemy Within takes a few more risks in terms of story, and has you spend much of the middle act as Bruce Wayne under cover in a criminal syndicate. It’s in these moments where you see the different paths that Telltale wrote for old villains. Harley seems to run the group with John Doe wrapped around her finger. Bruce Wayne is more manipulative and calculated in a borderline villainous sense, and John or Joker are good hearted for much of the game. I realized just how much had changed with the characters when Bruce was driving around Gotham with Joker and Harley as they drank slushies. These familiar characters keep their personality and stories in some fashion, and even more so by the end of the season, but the journey there is what makes this Batman adaptation unique.
For every new element that Batman: The Enemy Within adds to the story, an important and familiar element is kept. Batman and Catwoman still have their playfully violent relationship. Bruce Wayne still faces the familiar self-conflict of which lines he can cross, and if his code is worth it. Most importantly, the game leaves players wondering if it is the very existence of Batman that brings all the insanely exaggerated villains to Gotham City, like the Joker.
As a Batman fan myself, I was enthralled the entire time as I got to revisit Batman’s story with some added twists. I tend to be critical when it comes to Batman adaptations, but Telltale pulled off a great story with their own unique mark on it, and all without ruining what makes a Batman story so compelling.