Back to the Future: The Game Episode 2: Get Tannen!

Posted by Erik-André Vik Mamen.
First posted on 22 February 2011. Last updated on 30 June 2011.
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Back to the Future: The Game Episode 2: Get Tannen!
Marty's grandfather is in danger, again!
Back to the Future: The Game Episode 2: Get Tannen!
The DeLorean prepares to travel back in time.
Back to the Future: The Game Episode 2: Get Tannen!
The speakeasy gets shut down by the police.
Back to the Future: The Game Episode 2: Get Tannen!
Kid means business wielding a machine gun!
Back to the Future: The Game Episode 2: Get Tannen!
Marty speaks to Trixie while in disguise as Mr. Corleone.

Back to the Future: The Game

The season is comprised of 5 episodes:

Episode 1: It's About Time

Episode 2: Get Tannen!

Episode 3: Citizen Brown

Episode 4: Double Visions

Episode 5: Outatime

After a short hiatus, the next episode of the Back to the Future series from Telltale Games is finally here! Once again, Marty McFly heads into unknown times to fix both the past and the future. His mentor, Emmett Brown (or Doc), is once more in some kind of trouble, thus leaving most of the adventuring alone to Marty to save the timeline and himself.

Fans who have played the first episode of the series may remember a mini-trailer at the end of that game for this episode. As revealed in the trailer, Marty has to return to the time period of the first episode to fix some future complications. The storyline is clearly inspired by Back to the Future Part II, where Marty has to return back to the events of his first time travel from the original Back to the Future. In both the movies and the game, Marty has to take great care to avoid meeting himself while muddling again with the timeline. This is not the only recycled plot element, though. Again, as in Back to the Future Part II, Marty and Doc travel back to the present (which is mid 1980s), only to learn that the town of Hill Valley is far from being back to normal. It appears that their tampering of the past has caused to the present to be very different from the original timeline.

Back to the Future: The Game Episode 2: Get Tannen! is the second episode in the series. The majority of this episode is set in 1931, the same year as the previous episode. Most of the characters from the first episode, such as Edna Strickland, grandpa Artie McFly, and young Emmet, are naturally present in this episode. As well, many of the plot elements introduced from the first episode are still important in this episode. These include the speakeasy, the arson, the organized crime, and (of course) time travel.

Experienced adventure gamers may set their brains on autopilot and fly through this game rather fast. I am unsure why Telltale Games has decided to make the puzzles in this game so easy. My best guess is that, given the game is based on the movies and the movies themselves are not interactive, the developer has chosen to focus on just telling a story. This allows the game to drive itself, while allowing the player to explore around a bit until the player decides to move forward in the story. In this sense, perhaps the game is being targeted primarily at "movie fans" rather than "game fans" who may be new to adventure games. Still, for a company that has done so much to revive the adventure game genre, it is worrisome that this game may lose its appeal to veteran adventure game fans who long for more challenging puzzles.

A possible solution is to implement different difficulty levels in the game. The story will remain the same. In the harder level of difficulty, however, the player will need to complete a few more puzzles in order to progress. This will surely make the game more complicated to develop, as many more different paths on which the player can take must all have to be thoroughly play tested. The game can then keep the current robust hint system to help the less experienced players. After all, the in-game hint system works really well, but it is just rarely needed at present.

While the challenge of this game is in dispute, the entertainment value of it is not. The game pays heavy homage to the movies, from the iconic flying DeLorean time machine to the memorable theme music by Alan Silvestri. Much of the game's humor is also inspired by the movies, such as when Marty uses the name "Mr. Corleone" (from Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather) as an alias when he tries to infiltrate the mafia family run by Kid Tannen (the grandfather of Biff Tannen) to look for Trixie Trotter, a singer at the speakeasy who knows Artie. Likewise, Doc uses the name "Carl Sagan" as a disguise in the game. Fans of the movies will surely remember Marty calling himself "Clint Eastwood" in Back to the Future Part III.

What has puzzled me a bit is that, so far, Marty has yet to be called out for being a "chicken". This is a running gag and an important plot element in the movies, wherein Marty will usually retort back by saying "Chicken?! Nobody call me chicken!" before engaging in some actions that he will soon regret. At the end of the movie trilogy, it is hinted that Marty has finally stopped falling for that trick. Still, the mere fact that none of the characters in the game thus far have even tried to trick Marty once is a bit strange.

Graphically, the game pays special attention to mimic the special effects used in the original movies. This is especially true when the DeLorean flies through the air and suddenly disappears, leaving behind its signature burning fire trail. The scene is pure eye candy for any Back to the Future fan. On the other hand, the cartoonish appearance of the game characters helps to distance the game from the movies and avoid the pitfalls of the uncanny valley, a term used to describe artificially created beings when photorealism is so close to real living beings that the human mind sees only differences rather than resemblances. Obviously, it also helps to have actor Christopher Lloyd back to voice the role of Doc. Alas, the voices of the Tannen characters do not resemble at all their movie counterparts. Still, the general quality of the voice acting in this episode is rather good.

There is little new in gameplay that is introduced in this episode. There are no mini-games or optional quests. All of the surprises are found in the story. As with the last episode, a hint of what is to be expected in the next episode is shown in a mini-trailer at the end of the game. Sadly, fans of Back to the Future who do not have a working flux capacitor will just have to wait until the next installment arrives!

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