Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Back to the Future - The Game: Episode Four -- Time to go Back to the Drawing Board

As I stated in my review of the last episode of Back to the Future: The Game, by this point in time, if you haven't already purchased the game you're either not going to or waiting until you see whether the whole package is worth it (or maybe hoping for a sale). While episode three in the series did, unquestionably, have many an amusing moment and add to the overall fun of the title, episode four fails to do so.

"Double Visions," as the episode is entitled, features Marty escaping from the alternate Hill Valley of 1986 and heading back in time to good old 1931 in order to stop Edna and Emmett Brown from falling in love. That's all fine, the plot is not the problem. It may be somewhat goofy, but it fits in perfectly with what's come before.

No, while the problem with the game is two (or maybe three) fold, the plot isn't one of them. It is, however, related to one of them.

The first problem with the episode is that said plot is often delivered in speeches that are far too long. There are moments during "Double Visions" when you will unquestionably want to get up, take a nice stroll around the room, and then return to see if you'll now be allowed to play. These moments are not Metal Gear Solid long, but are still far too long and occur far too often. Each episode of the game doesn't take all that much time, and it almost feels as though Telltale has tried to lengthen this one with unnecessary dialogue in which you do not participate.

Then there's problem two, and it is far worse than problem one – the puzzles simply aren't that much fun to solve. Perhaps the best way to describe them is "cumbersome," the puzzles are cumbersome. On a fairly regular basis puzzles titles have issues like the ones I mentioned in episode three, where you have a perfectly valid way to solve the problem, but the game would like it solved differently. Here, while that occurs, it isn't as upsetting what the obvious and correct solutions sometimes require.

As an example, one puzzle forces you to go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and—you get the picture—in a single room, altering the same two things over and over again until you've done it enough times to complete the already pretty silly task. There needs to be some sort of shorthand employed, because as it stands, it's just kind of annoying and takes far too long.

That potential third issue, isn't quite speechifying nor is it cumbersome puzzles, but it's cumbersome game development during plot advancing chats. In episode four, you will find yourself talking to someone and once the conversation finishes, magically, things around you will have changed subtly – areas that were previously unavailable are now available… for no good reason. Your conversation in no affected the changed areas, no one in what was visible in the background was seen working near or around the changed areas, no one has announced that the area has changed – it just has. And, if you're not paying terribly close attention, you will have no idea what to do next because there is absolutely no reason to think that anything has altered around you during your brief chat.

In short, from start to finish, Back to the Future: The Game – Episode Four is a frustrating gaming experience. If you already have a season pass, it's worth playing the episode for completion's sake, and if you intend on getting a season pass later I wouldn't skip the episode, but if you're on the fence, this one just may find you opting to not purchase the game.


Back to the Future: The Game - Episode Four is rated RP (Rating Pending) by the ESRB but previous entries have been rated T (Teen). This game can also be found on: PS3.




Article first published as PC/Mac Game Review: Back to the Future - The Game: Episode 4 on Blogcritics.

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