Review: Back to the Future: Double Visions

May 4th, 2011 by | 5 comments

I think a good reviewer should be well informed and should have no emotional attachment (positive or negative) to the product or the people he is reviewing. I don’t know if I am a good reviewer but I do know that it hurts to say this: Episode 4 was not worth the wait.

I know what it means to work your butt off on a project, I know what it means to work with several leaders, each with his own decisions to make which undoubtedly will conflict with yours, I know what it means to take on multiple projects at the same time… fortunately I also know when to stop and focus on just one. To have a basis for this review, these words will not be repeated twice: the Telltale Games Team is a group of brilliant people which are admired and respected by many fans around the world. That being said, I have just played the worst episode yet.

Feel free to jump into the discussion and prove me wrong. I always admire a good debate! Here are my arguments/points… with a tint of spoilers. (nothing major, you’re safe) 🙂

My hopes were raised during Episode 3, the series seemed to be back on it’s track… and now we get boring dialogues, futile dialogue options, broken animations, bad puzzle and room designs, broken hint system, soundtrack taken from other episodes, bad timing in cutscenes and an overall sense of rush.

Let’s just start with the good things…thing… one thing: the intro. Good camera work, good dynamics, good start…even the soundtrack was good as the theme rendition fell nicely into place. After that, everything fell…apart. Don’t get me wrong, it is playable and it does have interesting ideas. The way those ideas were implemented left me wanting more… More bug-tests, more drafts on the script, more attention to important scenes etc.

Point 1: The invisible walls I was telling you about in my last review, remember those? Well, now we got invisible tunnels! Yup, there is actually an instance where you are not allowed to turn left or right. Does anything interesting or exciting happen in that instance?

No…you just walk.

Point 2: The Episode has only 4 locations… pardon, 3 and a quarter. I liked the fact that they introduced a new location, the high-school, but for some reason controlling Marty was extremely difficult. Not to mention that, at one point, each time I bumped by mistake into Trixie, the dialogue would start out of the blue! Skipping the dialogue (for the 9th time) I finally get out of there and BAM into the wall. Stupid wall, I’m just trying to reach the DeLore– ah, not Trixie again!!

Trying to give an item to Edna, oh! Well, that’s nice… the camera shows me a wall during Marty’s line. It happened on many “show-item-to” occasions, so I got used to it.

Point 3: Marty’s walk may be squiggly, lucky for us the rest of the game is as linear as it gets. You cannot complete puzzles except in a certain order. This frustrated the hell out of me. Trixie wanted something I couldn’t find. Okay, I said to myself “After all these years, here I am, stuck on a Telltale game. Fine! Let’s use the hint system”.

Hint 1: Trixie wants something.   – yeah, I know that. Is this even a hint?!

Hint 2: Look around. What she wants is not in plain sight.  – Are you kidding me?!

Hint 3: Go to the “Hill Valley’s Past” tent, you’ll find what she wants there.  –  The tent is NOT open! Where do I go? What do I do?!

Hint 4: Use Doc’s formula with the item, then give the item to Trixie. – What formula?? What item?! What’s going on?!?

The hints were paraphrased, mostly to avoid unnecessary spoilers, but you get the idea. The game could not detect what I needed to know. Since the cursor could be activated by characters that were standing BEHIND objects, the entire scene was a mess. Add a broken hint system to that and you got yourself a nice way to kill neurons. Don’t even get me started on how useful the hints were in later puzzles which involved pictures of people you don’t know.

Point 4: Let’s go back to the high-school.  Oh, Doc is having a conversation with Marty. That’s nice, oh it’s an emotional one! I wonder how it’s going to– wait, that’s it? It’s over already? What happened? Why did Marty poke Doc? What?!

The pacing of that particular scene was really awkward. I’m trying not to spoil anything, but at one point Marty was literally poking Doc, without talking. You would expect a physical touch to be used when one wants to emphasize his point of view… but when one is not saying anything, it’s just “poke the penguin“. The music was…absent, I think, I can’t remember if there was music in this scene… The environment was nice and green and fluffy and…completely not okay for this part of the story.

I understand the characters’ motivations but this scene was so rushed that I couldn’t empathize with any of them. It’s like having the serious scenes from Tales of Monkey Island on a sunny beach, in the middle of the day, with little red boats floating in the distance. A scene has to be prepared, you can’t just throw it in there and hope for the best. Your actors may be brilliant, but they’re just 50% of a shot. Dialogue is important…ah, dialogues, right!

Point 5: Dialogues are painful in this episode. Long, sometimes boring… but the most annoying part is the “Choose this!” sequence. You have this dialogue-tree with multiple options…but you end up using the one that the designers want you to use. We are not talking about having three different options and the character says the same thing, no matter what you choose. Noooo… We’re talking about having options A B C D E…and you cannot advance the story until you choose option E. It’s also dialogue-locked, as in you cannot just press the right mouse button to exit the dialogue.

It’s called a Forced Cutscene. Yeah, I just named it. Put it up there along with “Pause/Play Movies”. Remember those from Episode 2? When a Mommy “Pause/Play Movie” and a Daddy “Pause/Play Movie” love each other very much, they make a “Forced Cutscene” baby!

If in episode 3 you tried to figure out a dialogue strategy to get Citizen Brown to trust you…. well in episode 4 you can just relax and click away, it makes no difference what you click on: the story will either wait for you to click option E, or repeat itself till it bores you to death. Tunneling in a whole new form.

Ah, I have achieved my goal… I convinced a character to do something. That’s nice– what? Blue Screen of Death? What?!? What did I do?! Wait, what?! Ok, it’s ok… load game, there we go… The character, good, now I’m convincing him again to…WHAT?! -Blue Screen of Death-

Yeah, apparently I had to set my video settings to a minimum to be able to complete the game. May I remind you that my PC is capable of rendering Full HD movies. A Telltale game should pose no problem…yet it does, and not only to me. I’ve seen complaints on the forums as well.

Since I’ve reached my Point 6, I might as well just throw it in: When you have someone as talented as Jared Emerson-Johnson composing your soundtrack, re-using the same tracks for a different part of the story (even if it is the same time period we already saw in previous episodes) it’s… not cool. I was going for a different term here, but I don’t know the internal situation at Telltale and how Jared prefers to work.

From a consumer’s point of view, it’s lazy.

Okay, got it to work, did this, did that, I wonder if– End Credits? already? …sigh… It’s even shorter than usual.

I’m not disappointed. I can’t be disappointed. I love these people…and I honestly think they should be disappointed and take a moment to reorganize their priorities. Expanding the company is brilliant, postponing Jurassic Park is a brave thing to do… but don’t forget that we like you guys and we like how you make your games. If you postponed JP, why not postpone everything and make BTTF better? We’d rather have one good game, than 10 mediocre ones. This episode was below your capabilities.

I’m sorry to give this episode a 4 out of 10. I have subtracted one point each for reused music (or too bland to be noticed), redundant dialogue-trees, tunneling (physical and puzzle-wise), the entire high-school environment with bugs and interface issues, the really bad hint system and, of course, the bad drama-dialogues with everything around them.

I’ll ignore the Blue Screen of Death since that’s a first… but it shouldn’t be there. One last issue: Double Visions? What double visions? Old Doc and young Doc? Or what? Is the title connected to this episode or not?

Pictures: source (thank you aganim, Jwab, puzzlebox and Bloody Eugene)

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5 Responses to “Review: Back to the Future: Double Visions”

  1. doggans says:

    I didn’t encounter any of the bugs that everybody else had trouble with. Am I special?

    I can’t disagree with most of your complaints (especially not invisible walls), but I didn’t notice them being any worse here than in any other Telltale episode. It did bug me how you had to do things in “the right order”, though.

    Also, Episode 3 felt much shorter than Episode 4 for me, largely because Episode 3’s “boss fight” with Biff was incredibly anticlimactic.

    But since I’m playing these for the story, the fact that Episode 4 was the first thing in the history of the BTTF franchise to directly address the ethics of time travel, not just the danger, really excited me.

    I’m not sure, but I presume “double visions” refers to Marty’s vision of what the timeline should be vs. FCB’s vision. Or perhaps Marty’s vision of Emmett vs. Edna’s. Or something along those lines.

    • Scott says:

      I agree in that the ethics of Time Travel was a very good new element to add to the story. I actually enjoyed this one but agree the tunneling was annoying in front of school. I don’t totally disagree with all the problems noted by reviewer, I just found the game pleasant and fun despite these handicaps. Considering the price we paid for the entire length of the whole game series, its a pretty good deal and I dont expect C B Demille

  2. Bloody_Eugene says:

    I 100% agree with you.

  3. HaydenWCE says:

    Well, this is all I need to completely dissuade me from playing the rest of this disappointing series.

    • SilverWolfPet says:

      Umm, I don’t regret buying it and playing it. It IS fun! …but it’s like playing with LEGOs, you know? It’s not fun for your age, it’s fun for all ages. 🙂

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