Like most geeks, I am a fan of the cult favorite movie trilogy Back to the Future. I was quite excited when I saw that Telltale Games was releasing an adventure game based on BttF. The episodic game is now at the halfway mark with the release of Episode 3 – Citizen Brown and shows no signs of slowing down. So set your cruise control to 88 miles per hour (about 142 kph for our metric friends) and strap in for the latest episode of Back to the Future: The Game.
When we last left young Marty McFly, he was under the impression that the previously broken time line had been fixed. But his hopes for a less hectic third episode were dashed as Doc Brown disappears from the DeLorean and Marty crashes it through a huge billboard. This episode begins with Marty attempting to escape from his precocious perch in the “Citizen Brown” billboard. In order to escape, he must enlist the help of his girlfriend Jennifer. Marty quickly discovers that Jennifer, like the rest of the town, is much different in this timeline. Doc, pardon me, “Citizen Brown” has become a dystopian leader straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. All of the townspeople are now observed with video cameras at all times of the day, and are assigned demerits when they break one of the numerous laws enacted by Citizen Brown. Marty determines that he must attempt to contact Citizen Brown, break his Orwellian streak and try to enlist his help in fixing the crashed DeLorean.
I must say that I find Citizen Brown to be much more entertaining than the previous outings. While Get Tannen! was a fast and furious romp through the prohibition era, this time the developers let up on the gas and give you a chance to take in this new timeline and environment. The player can learn about this new version of Hill Valley through the conveniently placed “Self Tour” podiums located throughout town. The world is believable, but still has that hint of Back to the Future humor and charm that makes the series popular. For example, alcohol and bubble gum have both been outlawed in Hill Valley. While the last two episodes were enjoyable, I could not quite find the big picture plot that Telltale was building up to. Citizen Brown remedies this problem quite well. At the end of the game, you have a pretty good idea where the main plot is going and you really want to dig in to the next episode. Unfortunately, it is not quite finished yet.
If you have missed my previous reviews (Episode 1 and Episode 2) I will run through the basics of how you play the game. This is a point and click type adventure, just like the Monkey Island series of games. You can control Marty with the mouse or with the directional keys on your keyboard. Moving with the mouse is an acquired taste, and after three episodes, I am still not a huge fan of it. You have to click and hold the left mouse button and steer Marty as he walks by moving the mouse around. I just cannot make myself like walking that way. It is not a game breaker though, so I cannot fault the game much for it. As for interacting with the environment, you click on the items or people you want Marty talk to or pick up. If it sounds quite simple, that is because it is. Something I have constantly praised the game for, and will continue to do it here, is the hint system. If you have played an adventure game before, you know that at some point you will encounter a puzzle that makes you sit and stare at the screen like a young boy and the Victoria’s Secret catalog. Should you get stuck, you can click on the hint button and the game offers you three levels of hints. The hints range from what I call a “nudge nudge wink wink” to a more obvious “go to X do Y” sort of hint. Once again, I tip my hat to Telltale for this handy feature.
The game continues to shine with the stellar voice acting of A.J. Locascio and Christopher Lloyd as Marty and Doc Brown. Christopher sounds just like he did way back when in the movies and A.J. could fool Michael J. Fox’s mother with his Marty McFly voice. The slightly exaggerated and cartoony look of the character models and environments are still around this time and they fit the somewhat real, yet corny nature of the series. While it looks good, you will not need a Cray supercomputer to enjoy this game. Some of the animations are a little strange though. For example, the golf carts move a little strangely when rolling down the road and there are also a few times that the characters move a little oddly. Do not think those few little hiccups break the experience though, as they are few and far between. The costumes of the Hill Valley residents in Citizen Brown are also quite entertaining. Since it is Thursday in the game world, it is Polo Shirt Thursday. This little bit of tongue-in-cheek humor reminded me of my last two years of high school where I had to wear just the same outfit every Thursday. Thanks for the nostalgia Telltale.
If you have been on the fence about the game, now is the time to make your move. Since a onetime purchase gets you access to the entire episode run, you get to play this episode and the previous ones without delay. Then again, the huge “To Be Continued…” ending of every episode makes the waiting a little more difficult when the rest of the episodes are still a little ways off yet. That being said, Citizen Brown is clearly the best of the three to be released so far, and if Telltale meets the bar they set with this episode, the rest of the series will be just as entertaining. Great Scott, what are you waiting for? Get out there and play Back to the Future: The Game!
Back to the Future: The Game logo is copyright Telltale Games and used here for purposes of review.
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