Review: Back to the Future: Outatime

July 13th, 2011 by | 3 comments

It took a while for this review to see the light of day mainly because I wasn’t sure regarding ways to approach the subject.

The Final episode of Back to the Future: The Game has been launched almost a month ago. I can remember awesome things like Edna’s behavior (trying not to spoil anything, of course) or the brilliant nostalgic feeling you get when you hear Michael J. Fox’s voice again. I can also remember the disappointments I had… and my expectancies were actually very very low this time.

Either way, let’s dig right into Outatime!

First things first, the music. Jared Emerson-Johnson could have easily re-scored the original BTTF trilogy and nobody would notice. He’s brilliant. I did not hear any re-used tracks from previous episodes so I actually enjoyed exploring the environments without being distracted by repeating tunes.

As soon as you start the game you are thrown right into the middle of it. Or so it would seem… a short dialogue and then a bunch of clicks which advance the cutscenes. Yup… we are faced with another “Stop/Play Movie” situation. This is even worse than the Quick Time Events in other games… at least in those you actually DIE if you don’t press the button on time. Here…the game is just waiting for you. And I found myself waiting for the game to move along.

The camera work was good, really good. We even had a classic “Cam through glass” effect at some point. Can’t argue here, it was really thought out and very well made.

The dialogues in this episode were… hmm… okay, some were really awkward. For example, those who already played the game will surely remember the “Therapy Session” where the player is actually placed in a situation where he has to deliver messages from one character to another. It was too long… it was unnatural (nobody has a breakthrough in 5 minutes) and completely unnecesary. The result did not change anything… well it did, but it wasn’t breathtaking or relevant in any way!

Not to mention that Telltale really needs someone to check all their dialogues. This is the Nth time where I could read the subtitles but I couldn’t hear voices in certain dialogues. Also, it feels like the dialogues are there to explain stuff for gamers… stuff that are obvious or, worse, that cannot be explained through the story. Show don’t tell? First rule of a good script? No? Okay…

I don’t want this review to appear as being harsh, but you guys know best: If you praise someone for doing something less than he/she is capable of, that person will be satisfied with less than his/her best work. Do we need to criticize Telltale? No, but we can tell them what we think they could work on more.

For example: This is hardly a spoiler… Edna is revealed to be the speakeasy arsonist. Alright… but half the forum already knew that from Episode 2! Some were actually discussing her reasons to do that. Why are the characters so surprised in the game when they find out that she was the arsonist?

Then again, there is a scene with a bathysphere which was very well made… albeit a bit too early in the game. You’ve got small nods towards the movies (“Enlightment under the sea” – nice). Then again, you have a complete lack of people at the Exposition… and no matter what options you choose in some dialogues, you get the same outcome.

Ah, dialogues again… alright, last time I’m mentioning them, but in other games (like Sam and Max or Tales of Monkey Island) you are presented with various dialogue options, some funnier than others…all going in the same general direction. In BTTF you literally have options like “Yes” and “No”, but it doesn’t matter what you choose, you get the exact same result. Why tease us with this if we know it doesn’t matter in the end?

“We have to bring this story to a climax, fast!” – this is a line which was going through my head at some points in the game. The Edna bit with the lost memory was awesome… Telltale really has talented people working on these games! They give you ideas and visual images that you never thought about…and then whack you with a silly plot hole that is fixed with a simple line from Doc: “So you were the SAME Marty!”. Yeah… the same Marty you met 30 years ago… and also the same Marty you met (for the first time) in your youth. You met him THREE times already and he looked the SAME! Doc is either really forgetful or really stupid.

The Ending itself was…cute? I guess… but, story-wise, it was messed up. I’m all up for fan-service, but that was too much.

Two months waiting for a 2Hrs game? Hm… advertised as “a chase through Hill Valley’s Past, Present and Future”? By the way, where was the future part in all that? Hm… no… no no… no.

I am giving it a 7 out of 10. It had some very good ideas, very good cam work, very good choreography, very good music, and a surprising cameo from Michael J. Fox. You can actually see the amount of work Telltale put into this… but the general direction was not okay. Weird/unnecessary dialogues, not as epic as advertised and a weird feeling of children playing at the end. I am praising their work, not the end result. The overall story was okay-ish, but it feels like there was not enough build-up for an epic finale. Then there’s also that “Stop/Play Movie” going on…

Let me put it this way… as a 3D interactive movie, it’s good. As a gift for your kids? It’s perfect. As a nostalgic element? It’s brilliant.

As a game? No.

Telltale can do a lot better.

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3 Responses to “Review: Back to the Future: Outatime”

  1. Lombre says:

    It’s almost scary how much this mirrors my thoughts on the episode. It was pretty much just a back-and-forth between amazing moments and utter disappointments.

    I gotta say though, that Edna’s lost memory puzzle you mentioned was probably the highlight of the season for me, along with the bit following it. A great thought-provoking puzzle as well as an excellent look at Edna’s character. 😀

  2. Hande says:

    Snobbist review is snobbist.

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