Back to the Future, Episode 2: Get Tannen!

I feel it’s important to clarify this at the outset: I’m a huge Back to the Future fan. There’s a mosaic poster of the DeLorean DMC 12 above my bed. I bought the DVD trilogy three times (for marginal differences in the various releases). And of course, my Blu-ray set is the limited tin-edition, complete with OUTATIME licence plate, sports almanac replica and McFly family photo. With that in mind, I may not seem to be the most neutral individual to review this.

Don’t worry, though, I do know my adventure games. Not only have I played through almost every one of Telltale’s recent offerings, I grew up playing classics like Day of the Tentacle and Fate of Atlantis on my Amiga 1200. Now that we’re two episodes into this five-part series, is Back to the Future a time-trip worth taking?

When we last left Marty McFly, he had successfully rescued Doc Brown from a 1931 prison cell by means of a rocket-powered drill. Unfortunately, in the process, he also managed to jeopardise his very existence. Episode two, “Get Tannen!”, opens with Marty trying to fix these mistakes by going back in time to the events of episode one, “It’s About Time”, all-the-while avoiding himself (for threat of a paradox), recalling some of the most memorable (and confusing) moments of the movie trilogy.

This is also an excellent excuse for Telltale to try its hand at more action-oriented, timing-based puzzles, which see their way peppered throughout this episode. They’re definitely welcome. Once things calm down, you’ll have more time to take in the surroundings of Hill Valley, where the game returns to classic adventuring roots with simple item-riddles. The point ‘n’ click controls work just fine for guiding McFly around as you talk to local denizens, gather information and try to take the crooked Kid Tannen down.

If you’d told me a year ago that a Back to the Future game could work without the voice of Michael J. Fox, I’d have called you mad. But just as before, AJ LoCasio does an outstanding job filling his shoes, while Christopher Lloyd settles into the role of Doc Brown in no time. Even though most of the characters and environments are lifted verbatim from episode one (a classic Telltale trademark in speeding up development time), this actually works in the game’s favour; 1931 Hill Valley now feels like an established entry in the BTTF canon, as we discover more about Marty’s grand-parents and Doc’s youth. There are even some twists to what we believe is the truth – contradicting relationships, blooming romances – and the episode concludes with a fantastic, 1984-inspired cliffhanger which had me dying to continue.

That said, episode two has its issues, mainly concerning difficulty and length. Perhaps I just know all the standard adventure game tricks, but I didn’t struggle to figure out a single solution, even with the game’s extremely generous hint-system completely disabled. I finished the adventure in one three-hour sitting, leaving little to replay. The episode effectively comprises a single linear puzzle section capped at either end by action set-pieces; overall, I just didn’t feel like I’d done nearly as much as “It’s About Time”.

But I don’t want to sound too down-beat. After all, “Get Tannen” has the difficult job of closing one story-thread and passing us onto another, which it achieves while packing-in some moments BTTF-geeks will love; from Doc Brown explaining to a bewildered Marty the logic behind time (time-lines “A” through “E” since the start of episode one), to Marty confronting a 1986 Biff and his cronies outside his home.







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