Back to the Future: The Game Episode 3: Citizen Brown

Posted by Erik-André Vik Mamen.
First posted on 10 April 2011. Last updated on 30 June 2011.
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Back to the Future Episode 3: Citizen Brown
The new Doc calls himself Citizen Brown!
Back to the Future Episode 3: Citizen Brown
LOGO exists as a computer program in any timeline.
Back to the Future Episode 3: Citizen Brown
Marty must battle against a rival in a guitar duel.
Back to the Future Episode 3: Citizen Brown
The town of Hill Valley is full of invisible walls.
Back to the Future Episode 3: Citizen Brown
Marty and Jennifer are flirting, again.

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

Tampering with time has its consequences! This must be the moral of the story in Telltale Games' Back to the Future: The Game. Like the previous (second) episode, Marty must travel in this (third) episode back to the future (pun intended), or rather back to the present, to 1986. Once there, he discovers yet again that his muddling of the past has had enormous consequences in the present for the town of Hill Valley and its citizens.

This time around, Marty cannot simply return to the past and figure out what has gone wrong. It is because the flying DeLorean which he uses to time travel has crash-landed and fallen into pieces. If you are not a fan of the series, I am sure that this part of the story will just sound absurd to you! If you are a fan of the series, on the other hand, I am sure that you will find it plausible that a flying car from the 1980s will also work as a time machine! Regardless, when Marty discovers that he can no longer return to the past to fix the alternate timeline, his only chance is seek out Emmet "Doc" Brown from this timeline for help.

What terrifies Marty even more is that, somehow, Hill Valley has turned into a closed police state ruled by an egomaniac named "Citizen Brown". As Marty tries to get help from others whom he knows as his friends from his own timeline, he discovers that their personalities in this timeline are rather different compared to what he remembers of them. Biff Tannen, who frequently bullies Marty, is now a harmless obedient wimp. Jennifer Parker, Marty's girlfriend, is now a rebellious punk who paints graffiti. He also learns that Martin, which is what he is referred to in this timeline, is an honor student and a nerd.

Fans of the movie franchise will be pleased to learn that Claudia Wells has reprised her role as Marty's girlfriend (she played the role of Jennifer only in the first movie and was replaced by Elisabeth Shue in the second and third movies) in the game. It is great to see that Telltale Games has put in great effort to secure some of the original cast of the movies, though such effort may seem unnecessary in hindsight. For Wells, this is especially true because she has only a very small role in the original movie. Even if fans remember her voice from the movie, they will not likely recognize her voice in the game which has changed a lot after 25 years (from the time of the movie's original release). Rather than an "innocent" teenager in the movie, she now sounds more like a "mature" young adult in the game. The juxtaposition is particularly jarring when her character interacts with Marty, who is voiced by newcomer voice actor A.J. Locascio. It also makes Locascio's performance that much more impressive, as I am pretty sure even Michael J. Fox himself (he played the role of Marty in the movies) is unlikely able to deliver the same lines any better today!

This episode shares more of the same flaws of the previous episodes. Invisible walls are plenty and inexplicably prevent Marty from going to some parts of Hill Valley, including those that are previously explorable. A few other parts of the town are also blocked off at the start of the game, but they become accessible eventually. As well, Marty cannot walk into the open road unless he uses a crosswalk. This may make sense in the context of the story, but it is just absurd when Marty is blocked in the middle of a street!

Marty's main goal is to gain an audience with Citizen Brown, Doc's counterpart in this timeline. To do this, Marty has to break all sorts of ridicules rules that all citizens of Hill Valley are supposed to obey. These acts include kissing in public as well as possession of contraband items such as bubble gum and even electric guitars! Alas, these supposedly rebellious acts are mostly boring to execute and rather predictable. The only motivator to get through them is seeing the humorous responses Marty gets when his plan to cause trouble goes wrong. It is somewhat interesting to learn how the different characters from previous episodes have change in the alternate timeline in this episode. Understandably, speaking to any of them often draws out a long conversation (and a lengthy scene), as each character has a lot to tell about life in the new Hill Valley. Even so, you may not dare to skip over these conversations, lest you may miss an important clue or even a dialog puzzle.

For most gamers, the clues given in the dialog and cut scenes are generous enough to solve all of the puzzles in this game. If you still are stuck, you can make use of the game's robust hint system. An objective will be revealed first, followed by a series of progressive hints. There is more or less no chance that you can get stuck in this game for long.

While each of the previous episodes is somewhat self-contained in its narrative, this episode does not seem to wrap up much of any of its own. Further, it seems that the story in this episode is just stalling to make room for the story in the next episode. With the exception of the scenes when Marty finally meets Doc, the story unfolds mostly in a boring and not a rewarding way. At times, I seriously wonder if watching a well trimmed machinima will be more entertaining than playing through this game with the same story.

While Back to the Future: The Game Episode 3: Citizen Brown has its moments, the episode is a low point for the series. The puzzles are not very challenging, and the storytelling ultimately falls short in the end.

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