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February 17, 2011

Thoughts on Back to the Future The Game – Episode 2

Today the 2nd episode of BTTF:The Game was released which was a pleasant surprise. I had been interested to see how it would turn out giving my impressions of Episode 1. One of the first things I noticed that I didn’t last time was that the installer extracted files for the QT Toolkit. This seemed strange as I can’t imagine the toolkit is sued much in games, but perhaps it is.

So this episode started off with Marty and Doc having to evade a police officer. This was somewhat annoying as you had to move around a car several times and watch an animation of the officer and Doc marching backwards, which after 4 or 5 times became quite repetitive. It was after this where we went back to our own time that the timeline had been altered, although apparently only to the extent that the Tannen’s never left the McFly’s alone, resulting in the McFly kids moving away and protection money needing to be paid.

So, back to 1931 we did go. This seemed interesting as it was in the spirit of BTTF Part 2, although there really wasn’t enough of doing things while scenes from the first episode were in progress to maintain that feel and it ended up feeling like a longer stretch of Episode 1. I also noticed that while in the first game Marty’s pseudonym has been hardcoded as Michael Corleone yet here it seems to be hardcoded as Sonny Crocket. If you’re going to ignore the players choice and hardcode a name, why not do it consistently?

I also noticed the save ad load option is now prominently in the menu, although you can only save after key checkpoints which isn’t overly useful. There seemed to be some delays in this episode between initiating an action and watching the resulting animation. It could be something with my PC, but since Episode 1 still plays fine I think it is unlikely.

Due to the story in the game Marty starts to fade out and has to fix something to stop that happening. What I found odd was that he started to fade out wholly at once…I felt it would have been nice if it started with just his hand as in the movies. A minor thing, but it was the continuity of the minor things that helped to make the movies so great in my opinion.

One of the more aggravating things is that Marty still nervous, a great example of which is the fight with Biff’s gang. It isn’t the same Marty I know and love from the movies, and what’s more seems like a missed opportunity. No accusations of being chicken, no actual fighting of any sort. In fact, one of the lines of dialogue is “Can’t you pick on someone else, really?” which seems totally out of character. I suppose this isn’t going to change anytime soon though.

I finished the game in just slightly over two hours, taking a bit longer as it was not obvious that I had to taunt Kid Tannen at the end. This part of the game also had one of the most gratuitous uses of pocket space I have seen in a long time, where an entire barrel of booze manages to fit into Marty’s pocket, complete with the animation. It was an entertaining two hours but given the time Telltale has had to work on the game, I hoped it would be closer in characters and minor touches to the movies. Although I’m still hoping for a scene or puzzle involving a skateboard, be it makeshift or hoverboard.

I thought it would have been interesting to see more of the changed timeline instead of being stuck in 1931, although it appears the next episode will be in an entirely different timeline that we have seen yet. The end of the game was interesting and given what happened I am surprised the DeLorean didn’t disappear. Perhaps it is because it is a copy and somehow exists outside of the normal continuum? Something I wish had been expanded on further. Despite everything I am enjoying the game and look forward to the next episode, where it seems the story will really progress.

January 13, 2011

Thoughts on Back to the Future The Game – Episode 1

So a few days before Christmas I was browsing IRFree as I sometimes do to see what has been released, when I saw Back to the Future: The Game Episode 1 was available. What was this? Given that it was only some 350mb or so, I thought it must be a rerelease of an older game or something. Nope, it was apparently a brand new game with a new story set over 5 episodes, with input from Bob Gale and Christopher Lloyd voicing Doc again.

My beloved trilogy had returned! I was always kind of put off that the trilogy ended with the DeLorean being destroyed and Doc going on to having further adventures with his new family. It was actually a pretty nice ending as far as endings go, but I always felt there were so many more stories that could be told, so that it should not have ended. Unlike most trilogies the BTTF universe is quite rich, and there was still plenty that could be done with it. The first thing that became apparent from playing this game is that it is not Back t the Future IV, but a game set in that universe.

I think the developers do a good job of making a story set in that universe after the films, although some things are not adequately explained. The presence of the DeLorean is somewhat glossed over, as the lightning storm at the end of the second apparently resulted in a duplicate machine. The time train is not mentioned at all. The DeLorean is programmed to go back to Doc’s warehouse if he gets in trouble, allowing Marty to go and save him, and thus start the storyline.

The story is pretty simple being set in Hill Valley in the 1930’s, with the Biff of that era being a mobster and we get to interact with a young Doc Brown, which is nice. The voice acting is top notch, with Christopher Lloyd reprising his role and the voice actor for Marty capturing his voice perfectly. The visual likeness suits the game, but is also limited by it appearing far more cartoony than I would have liked.

I like the start of the story, which has Marty’s father overseeing the auction of Doc’s possessions as they are considered abandoned, and Marty dealing with the absence of his friend. I was not expecting this to be an adventure game when I played it, so was somewhat put off by the puzzles wanting much more of an emphasis on story, however the game cannot be faulted for that. Early on we meet Strickland’s sister which I thought was an interesting character addition. Why not use Strickland himself? I also thought it odd that if you were going to use a Strickland character not to have them say all.

After we go back in time we have to choose a pseudonym, and the choices are all based on gangsta movies from that period. This seemed a weird choice for me, as the BTTF series appeals to children and adults equally and it is unlikely children will have seen The Godfather or Dirty Harry. Although of the top of my head I don’t know what would be better for alternatives. It doesn’t really matter, as the game seems to have a bug that the game assumes you had chosen Michael Corleone as your selection.

Young Doc Brown is done well and is perfect for a continuation of the story. One thing I thought was odd was that 30’s doc refers to Marty as Einstein as a synonym for Genius, although I don’t think Einstein was so established at that time. I like the idea of Marty’s grandfather having Crispin Glovers likeness, although I wonder if this contradicts with the male McFly’s earliest ancestors in Hill Valley having Marty’s likeness. One thing I noticed about Marty in the game so far is that whenever he is talking he always seems nervous, while I always felt Marty from the films was confident. Indeed, that was a major point in the first film, so for them to characterize him as nervous seems strange.

There are a few bugs in the interface and gameplay mechanics however. In addition to Michael Corleone being hardwired as a pseudonym above, it can be awkward to move around as the movement keys do not adapt to changing camera angles. Sometimes I might have to walk left to go up, which is easy enough but still awkward. I thought the animation was somewhat odd at first however I got used to it. For some reason it was not obvious and did not occur to me that I could change the resolution and quality, and after making the game match my widescreen it was a lot nicer to look at.

I did not see any way to save the game obviously, and am unsure if the game automatically saves or has a checkpoint system. Save games are mentioned, so it must be possible somehow, although it would be nice if it was more intuitive. I also found the cursor quite annoying, being in the shape of a flux capacitor is a nice gimmick although makes it more difficult to be accurate than it should be.

After playing DCUO for a while the loading screens for BTTF Episode 1 seemed quite bland, and it would have been quite nice if there was some nice art of the DeLorean and characters akin to the various movie posters. I didn’t play the game all at once, alt+tabbing to it at various stages however I think the game length is probably between 2 or 3 hours. The game is still a lot of fun, and for $25 I think it is worth the price and to support the developer. One thing I do hope is that in some of the other episodes we get to go to a different era in the future, as I’ve had enough of the past. Of course, this is just the beginning and there are still four episodes to go, and things are definitely off to a good start.