Fri 11 Mar 2011
So, the second installment of Back to the Future: The Game has arrived! I have to say, I was a little disappointed by the first episode; has Telltale delivered this time around?
We rejoin Doc and Marty where episode 1 ended, with Marty flickering in and out of existence. It appears the duo’s messing about with time has led to the premature death of Marty’s grandfather, Arty McFly. The set-up feels distinctly more Back to the Future than It’s About Time. The “avoid future/past Marty” mechanic leads to all the kinds of silly, convoluted situations that we know and love from the films. Knowing all this at the beginning, however, I was worried Get Tannen! would be a rerun of the first episode; reusing the same characters, locations and events. Happily, this is not the case. Yes, the first section of the game, which acts as essentially an extended, interactive cutscene, does tread over old ground but it’s not long before we are jetting off through space and time.
The gameplay, at its core, is the same basic, age-old adventure game format we saw in episode 1 and indeed in most of what Telltale offers. For example, swapping sheet music around to get information out of someone, by changing the mood, is nothing Telltale hasn’t done before. That said the puzzles appear fresh because they are presented in such an impressive way. The developers have clearly had a think about how the Back to the Future spirit can be injected into the game – something I thought was a bit of a miss first time around. Many of the conversations in Get Tannen! have had action or comedy (or both) elements added, which do well to add some of the slapstick, witty Back to the Future humour to a somewhat tired format.
On the whole, episode 2 feels fun and dynamic. A lot of this is owed to the presentation of the game. At its core, Get Tannen! may well be a standard adventure game but it’s at the surface that it shines. There are a lot of cutscenes in Get Tannen! and I could honestly watch them all day long. Direction in games is often overlooked but Peter Tsaykel has done a stellar job here. The whole presentation feels very cinematic and, whilst having plenty of character of its own, the direction has obviously been undertaken carefully to mirror the films. Episode 2 may well take place (mainly) in the same Hill Valley as It’s About Time but the place feels a lot more alive. This is mainly down to a few new locations you get to explore. The addition of Kid Tannen’s speakeasy, for example, adds a lot of character to 1931 Hill Valley by taking advantage of the prohibition vibe.
It’s not just the locations that have been given a better chance to shine; the supporting characters – some new, some old – are far more developed than in episode 1. With the job of appealing to nostalgia and re-familiarising us all with Marty and Doc over and done with in episode 1, the new world within the Back to the Future franchise that Telltale has created is given room to grow. New characters such as Officer Parker and Edna Strickland now feel pivotal to the events of the episode. The visuals, models and acting are all as stellar as last time, if not better due to the direction and, if I’m not mistaken, some tweaking to fix the lip-synch issues.
After my fairly damning review of a nicely presented but slow first episode, I apologise for coming back this time with a glowing review, essentially void of criticism. The thing is though, I really enjoyed Get Tannen! So much so that it made me feel guilty for not liking episode 1 more. The game is faster paced, has a more unique character and just feels far more like Back to the Future. In short, I highly recommend this game. Furthermore, judging by the little preview I was treated to at the end of this one, the next episode can only be better still!
Mark’s Score: 4/5 starks
(yes, they have delivered)