A riddle, wrapped up in a mystery, wrapped up in a game, wrapped up in a novel
Alex Irvine’s new novel ‘The Riddler’s Gambit’ brings us the Riddler spotting a gap in the villain hierarchy following the death of the Joker. Written as a prequel to the newest game release ‘Arkham Knight’ this book follows Batman and Robin as they work against the clock to stop the Riddler killing the innocent population of Gotham City.
This was a genuinely fascinating book. I had never read a prequel to a video game and I have to admit that I was mildly sceptical but as a Batman fan I had to give it a chance. I was expecting an adventure in the style of a ripping yarn with lots of fights and action but potentially not much else.
Instead I discovered a truly satisfying experience cerebrally that also met my need for some great action sequences.
I have read books that are so expertly evocative that they inspire a clear set of characters and landscape provoking a movie to play in my head as I read. This is the first time I have played a game via a book. The book opens with a sequence from local media which sets the scene which as usual questions whether Batman is a solution to the threat to Gotham or a provocateur of the danger its citizens find themselves in daily. This was so reminiscent of the way one starts a game when the short intro sequence plays, that I was immediately entranced and ready to buy in.
Robin and Batman are set up to solve problems set by the Riddler, Robin in constant jeopardy and Batman is on the move using his tech and expert fighting skills to help Robin solve the puzzles. Just like a game, each new problem solved introduces us to a famous nemesis who has played his part in creating the conundrum to be solved at that moment. The villain must be defeated in order to move ahead. I found myself following Batman and Robin chapter to chapter but also, in my subconscious, level to level in the most compelling way. I still pitted my wits as I would playing a game figuring out who the villain would be but also the solution to complex problems. In the same way as playing a game logic, reason and observation were all necessary as well as good old fashioned fighting to accomplish completion of the level and it was a genuine pleasure to follow the characters through.
Each chapter is broken up by a sequence from Vicki Vale or another media source. This is expertly woven in showing the gamer that the next level is about to be commenced in the fashion of a traditional game but also showing the reader how the media is moving on with the progress of the story and offering its own layer to the narrative.
Even if I had not known that this was a prequel to a game, the nuance and interpretation is unavoidable but never distracts from a book that can be read simply as an expertly woven thriller it simply adds a really satisfying extra element of totally immersive gaming via the written word.
GS Rating: 5/5
GS Blogger: The Aviator