In August 2020, Warner Bros shared the first trailer for Robert Pattinson’s debut as the caped crusader at DC FanDome. Attentive fans noticed that during that trailer, the Riddler carefully wrapped up a greeting card for Batman, posing an initial challenge: “What does a liar say when he’s dead?” The card went on to say “Haven’t a Clue? Let’s Play a Game, just Me and You…” before devolving into a series of nonsensical characters. Nonsensical, at least, until a fan decoded the script to complete the macabre puzzle: HE LIES STILL. A fun, throwaway easter egg that has since returned, launching what looks suspiciously like a new alternate reality game leading up to the March 4th release of The Batman.
Known cipher letters: EHILST
The Batman (Cipher) Returns: Finding the Rabbit Hole
Last week, fans started to notice an enigmatic message at the bottom of movie standees at their local theaters. Using the letters uncovered from the prior easter egg, the message spelled out ??? ??E EL ??T? ?L???. Incredibly, fans were able to piece together the context clues to spell out YOU ARE EL RATA ALADA – a message that doubled as multi-lingual accusation of being a “winged rat”, as well as a clue to check out the URL “RataAlada.com“. At the time, visitors were greeted with a glowing green question mark, and nothing more.
Known cipher letters: ADEHILORSTUY
A New Round of Riddles
Earlier today, RataAlada.com unlocked with a series of riddles, designed for players to prove themselves, kicking off with the message “Let’s play a game just me and you?” If you’re here looking for hints, the answers have been shared, in ROT-13.
- “What’s black and blue and dead all over?” ONGZNA
- “I can be easy or a dead end. Careful when you cross me.” N FGERRG
- “Those who make me are likely to break me.” YNJF
While the chatbot serves a highly utilitarian process in the experience, it hides more than a few delightful surprises to taunt players who try and get creative with the challenge. Checking the source code reveals a console.log message “Nice try. You won’t find anything here”, while navigating away from the page triggers lighthearted taunts: upon return, you might be greeted with the message “you scour the internet for truth, but you still need to answer me”, or “you search for the right answers, but you need to look deeper.” Wrong answers can lead to even harsher admonishments, with the chatbot’s chiding going so far as to say “with answers like that, no wonder Gotham suffers.
Once all three riddles are answered, the site’s chatbot rewards visitors with a JPG featuring a series of three sketches Pattinson’s Batman, with the beginning of an additional coded message hidden in the URL. Returning to the site, visitors are posed with a new question: “Have you ever been to the Iceberg Lounge?” Whatever the response, visitors are given the link to one final reward: a final ciphered message from the Riddler, along with a message: “That’s all I have for now. I’ll be back with more soon. Just stay vigilant.” The message doubled as promise of more to come and decoder ring for the final puzzle, as those final words were the key to unlocking more letters of The Riddler’s cipher.
Around the same time RataAlada.com went live, DC’s Twitter account shared an animated gif that translated the site’s opening prompt of “Let’s play a game just me and you” into the Riddler’s cipher text. The looped gif only replaced previously identified letters, but served as additional reinforcement for prior solutions.
Known cipher letters: ADEHILNORSTUVY
Does This Mean We Finally Have a New Batman ARG?
While it was easy to write off the Riddler’s initial coded message as an easter egg, the launch of RataAlada.com paired with the promise that the Riddler would be “back with more soon” makes Batman’s return to the world of alternate reality games all but certain.
It may not be as expansive as Why So Serious‘ multi-year campaign leading up to the release of The Dark Knight in 2007-2008 – their ability to do everything from a live event enlisting SDCC attendees into the Joker’s heist crew to holding Harvey Dent campaign rallies and hiding burner phones inside cakes was predicated on having over a year to roll out the narrative beats, and the release of The Batman isn’t too far off. But it does look like Warner Bros is returning to familiar ARGish territory to help welcome Robert Pattinson into the cinematic Bat Family, and the experience has promised more to come in some form.
So stay vigilant, and keep your eyes peeled for more signs and ciphers of things to come, on RataAlada.com and other dark corners of the world (both real and virtual). After all, with prior entries coming from both official trailer and in-theater promotional materials, who knows where we might next find the Bat’s signals?
Updated 1/27/2022 to add: The RataAlada.com website has been updated, with three new questions (answers in ROT-13, easily readable through websites like Rot13.com):
- “The more I’m revealed, the less I exist” – FRPERG
- “It sinks and swims. It can be rotten even when it’s all dressed up” – VPRORET
- “Payback comes to all who accept one” – OEVOR
Answering those three questions unlocks an additional image from the film, as well as another block of cipher text adding the letters B, M, and W to the Riddler’s alphabet. Thanks to JC Denton in the comments for flagging the update!
Updated 1/30/2022 to add: The update frequency has increased, with an additional batch of questions:
- “When the game is on, what corrupts absolutely? – CBJRE
- Without a doubt, Gotham’s elite live here – between light and dark” – FUNQBJF
- Underneath the bridge the tarp has sprung a leak. It’s okay to eat the fish because they don’t have any…what? SRRYVATF
Updated 2/18 to add: A new batch of questions dropped:
- “When I fall, I rise. Though I am not human, some say I have a heart.” – QNEXARFF
- “I’m Greek. I’m Latin. I’m 500 Years Old. I speak in riddles. What am I?” – RAVTZN
- “Giving you this would be giving you the answer” – PYHRF
Updated 2/25 to add: One more batch of questions:
- “From birth to death. From boy to man. All things change, but htis is one thing he will always be.” FBA
- “The end is the middle, twice. Test your mind and try not to get baffled by me.” CHMMYR
- A man worth billions, in a manor of speaking.” JNLAR
Updated 3/2 to add: With this potentially final round, things got a little more complicated. The first step: solving an initial batch of questions:
- “What was new, is new again. Rebirth. Restoration. Reformation.” – ERARJNY
- “I am first a fraud or a trick. Or perhaps a blend of the two. That’s up to your misinterpretation.” – PBASHFVBA
- Fear he who hides behind one.” – ZNFX
After solving those three riddles, a password protected file named What_Am_I.zip is provided. To open it, players must solve a final riddle, contained in the URLs of all the prior files:
I’m not an imposer
Rearrange your jumbled
Do not break me
Updated 3/6 to add: After the film’s official premiere on Friday March 4th, the website was updated with traceroute-based references to past Batman comics, a new block of cipher text and a “loading bar” incrementing approximately once every 2 hours. The loading should be completed at some point around Friday March 11th.
Updated 3/11 to add: Once the loading bar hit 100%, the site was updated with a file download for know_what_i_know.zip, containing images from the Riddler’s surveillance as well as an excerpt from his journal. The new block of cipher text that came along with it should be a familiar teaser, for fans who watched the film.
Updated 3/18 to add: We’re back to traditional riddles, with a new round of questions:
- “No city is eternal. Not even Gotham. An empire falls, but this word still rings true.” – IREVGNF
- “The famous crave me. Others protect themselves from me. No matter how you define me, I always end with certainty.” – RKCBFHER
- “While it shouldn’t be a controversial policy, many of Gotham’s elite prefer to do the opposite of what is best.” – UBARFGL
This unlocked an illustrated image of the phrase The Riddler – Year One (a new comic coming to DC) framed by a pair of spectacles, paired with a countdown to six days from now. It also led to an additional block of cipher text, providing the final letter of the Riddler’s cipher (as well as a second, barely legible message on the bottom of the page).
Updated 3/24 to add: After the countdown finished, a new set of questions popped up, with a strong theme running across the questions:
- “It’s not a joke, but sometimes you have to shout it twice to really mean it” – UN
- “To wit: a wild card in the truest sense” –WBXRE
- “Once you’ve been set up, it hits you at the end. Straight on.” – CHAPUYVAR
Completing this round of riddles unlocked a deleted scene from the film.
If this really is the end for Rata Alada, there’s a certain narrative resonance. Why So Serious‘ alternate reality game opened with a pixel-by-pixel reveal of Heath Ledger’s face as the Joker, before launching into a months-long campaign that brought players into the world of Gotham. So having Rata Alada close out events with a deleted scene introducing Barry Keoghan’s Joker to DC fans brings things full circle, in a way.