Stay on target I’ll always appreciate what Telltale has done for the adventure game genre. Classics like Grim Fandango and Maniac Mansion have some of the funniest writing and thoughtful storytelling in a video game landscape more obsessed with dumb action. But they ruined their own flow and fun with frustrating arbitrary puzzles. Even a loving throwback to that era, Thimbleweed Park, was smart enough to make that design much smoother. But Telltale was brave enough to completely rethink the form.Founded by former LucasArts employees, Telltale Games initially made adventure games that followed in the old-school tradition. But its true breakout title, the 2012 debut season of the landmark episodic adventure game based on The Walking Dead, elegantly streamlined the genre into something enjoyable without qualifications.Not only it is the best piece of art based on the shambling zombie corpse of The Walking Dead franchise, but the way it turned narrative elements like dialogue choice and managing character relationships and branching storyline outcomes into gripping gameplay mechanics in their own right was revolutionary. It’s great for couples, too.However, even after adopting this rock-solid framework as its new path forward, Telltale’s post-Walking Dead output became shockingly spotty. Follow-up Walking Dead seasons failed to capture the original spark, especially since the main creatives left to form Campo Santo and develop Firewatch. Folks seem to generally like The Wolf of Among Us and Tales From the Borderlands, but games based on huge #brands like Minecraft and Game of Thrones and Guardians of the Galaxy seemed more interested in said #brands than in being good games.Imagine my surprise then that a modern Telltale game based on one of the biggest #brands around has now become the team’s strongest work since, well, Walking Dead season one. I’ve already talked at length about how the first season of Telltale’s take on Batman is great Caped Crusader comfort food. But The Walking Dead started strong as well, before running out of gas. However, now that I’ve finished the second season, Batman: The Enemy Within, it feels safe to say that Batman is now Telltale’s best franchise.Like the first season, Enemy Within takes advantage of just how much stellar stuff there is in the Batman mythos for storytellers to play with. Amanda Waller (voiced here by Debra Wilson) and the Suicide Squad. Lucius Fox’s whole family of tech geniuses. Catwoman’s ambiguity. Mr. Freeze’s tragedy. Jim Gordon and the less-than-stellar cops he has to work with. Alfred! Batman’s criminal alias Match Malone! (Even if he isn’t called that) Recent botched adaptations have made us forget this, but the core of Batman’s world is just so good from the start. One chef’s kiss of a dialogue prompt lets you to choose to passive aggressively grapple away instead of responding to the feds.The Enemy Within also somehow finds an original and compelling take on that most overexposed part of Bat-lore: The Joker. Following up on the first season, freed Arkham inmate and proto-Joker John Doe develops a creepy yet endearing friendship with both Batman and Bruce Wayne. But his needy yet violent nature leaves him torn between his obsession with Bruce and infatuation with a refreshingly take-charge version of Harley Quinn. And fulfilling the promise of Telltale’s branching narrative design ethos, the story can go in all sorts of directions subverting expectations of folks familiar with the comics and movies. The finale has two completely different potential takes on the Joker, villain or vigilante, even if bragging that the combined script is longer than the whole Dark Knight trilogy is a little much. Christian Bale Shares Cheeky Batsuit Advice for Robert PattinsonRobert Pattinson Describes Trying on the Batsuit for First Time Batman: The Enemy Within even manages to look and run way better than a typical Telltale game. The company gets a lot of flack for relying on increasingly old and broken and technology. The breakneck episodic release schedule makes it tough to re-examine something as fundamental as the underlying engine. But at least on PC where I played it, Enemy Within features significant visual upgrades compared to its predecessor released just a year previously.I’m still not entirely sure about the future of Telltale. After rapid expansion, late last year the developer laid off a significant amount of staff. Next up on the release calendar is the final season of The Walking Dead and sophomore seasons of Game of Thrones and The Wolf Among Us. But these two seasons of Batman, and teases for more (Justice League???), have reignited my interest in both this developer as well as this style of story-driven adventure game. Batman really is one of the World’s Finest.Purchase Batman: Telltale Series Season 1Purchase Batman: The Enemy WithinLet us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.
MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Okay, to get it out of the way: Yes, I am on the side that feels Guillermo del Toro’s two Hellboy movies were highly underappreciated in their day, and that the fact we never got a third one (and thus he never got to finish up the story arc he was telling therein) is a great loss for popular culture and modern film. But it wasn’t caused — at least not directly or with malice — by the people making or starring in this reboot, so it’s unfair to hold the absence of Hellboy 3 in our lives “against” David Harbour, director Neil Marshall etc., or to judge the reboot more harshly for simply existing in its place. This new Hellboy isn’t a bad film because it’s not a continuation of the previous Hellboy… it sucks entirely on its own merits.Playing out like it was very much intended (at least at some point) to be a sort-of psuedo-sequel to the previous films and then awkwardly rewritten into a reboot, the new Hellboy is less a “film” than a pile of producer’s notes, mandatory trailer-moments and “stuff we think will pop in a comic-con sizzle reel” mashed together into something like a story; ostensibly culled from fragments of Mike Mignola’s original Hellboy comics that hew marginally closer to the edgy tone of their inspiration than Del Toro’s penchant for gothic fairytale whimsy but lack the sweeping imagination or narrative skill of either previous creator. It opens in-media-res, seemingly expecting that the superhero/supernatural/horror/alt-history/scifi/pulp-adventure mashup subgenre is now mainstream enough that Hellboy’s basic setup doesn’t require a formal origin story… but then spends the rest of its runtime cramming every other scene with tedious exposition lying out the origin story of other every minor character, scrap of world-building and gratuitous fanservice shout-out to other Mike Mignola comic character that wanders into frame until it starts to feel like a version of Buckaroo Banzai that isn’t joking about how absurd pulp continuity can be.In the story proper, Hellboy (a demon from Hell conjured to Earth as a child and *probably* also some version of The Beast and/or antichrist but raised to be a good-guy beer-drinking wisecracking monster-fighter for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) is dispatched to the UK to help thwart a shitty version of the storyline from The Kid Who Would Be King from earlier this year: Milla Jovovich’s ancient medieval “Blood Queen,” once sealed away by King Arthur himself, is about to be resurrected and unleash a monster-plague on humanity, so Hellboy has to team up with a young psychic with whom he has history and a boring guy who hates monsters but also has to keep taking weird medicine so guess where that’s going. And yes, he’s also grappling with whether or not he’s fighting on the wrong side because he himself is also technically a monster and also whether or not he’s destined to eventually become The Beast and unleash the end of the world no matter what he does and several other plot beats, character-arcs and entire scenes that anyone who’ll bother trying to watch this will have already seen done better in the previous movies. But now they can drop F-bombs and do mildly-bloody gore FX that are *maybe* a tiny bit more extreme than an average episode of The Walking Dead so… worth it, apparently?Even if that sounds straightforward enough, getting there is a jumble of needless location swaps, conflicting loyalties, flashbacks, betrayals and pointless digressions for gratuitous cameos from The Nazis, Rasputin, “Lobster Johnson,” Baba Yaga and others mainly on hand for no other reason than to unsuccessfully make the whole thing feel less like the small, unimaginative retread that it is on a narrative scale or to justify how often it punches above its weight on the production side and comes off looking shockingly cheap for a theatrical feature in 2019: There’s some interesting set design work and the execution of a mostly-practical half-man/half-pig monster is pretty impressive; but the rest of it calls to mind nothing so much as Mortal Kombat: Annihilation — terrible compositing and weaksauce CGI are the norm, especially in big mostly-animated cutscenes featuring armies of creatures or towering kaiju with no real story presence other than “looking like a thing for the trailers.”The only halfway-notable thing it has going for it are some clever classic-rock needle drops during the action scenes — though the execution doesn’t really fit the tone and mostly feels like an attempt to co-opt the energy of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. But with apologies to director Neil Marshall (a nice dude who I like and who, despite seeming to have lost control of this one pretty early on can still direct the hell out of people in monster suits punching each other) … he’s no James Gunn. And for that matter, Hellboy actor David Harbour is no Ron Perlman — though he seems to be making a game effort despite an underwhelming makeup prosthetic that renders his features all but immobile and unable to convey any real expression (which you’d think would be important for the title character…)Hellboy is a genuine disaster of a movie. It has a handful of decent monster-makeups lounging around with nothing interesting to do and what passes for almost a plot is equal parts a bad version of things yanked from other genre films and very bad versions of things done better in prior Hellboy films; featuring some of the most uneven special effects and pointlessly bloated runtimes in recent memory. It’s ugly to look at, a chore to try and follow, hard to remember from scene to scene and a dreary slog to even bother with; and for all the talk of it’s “faithfulness” to its comic book origins, the execution puts it much closer to something like the Stallone version of Judge Dredd or the Crow sequels. Avoid like the plague. Stay on target