Monday, February 28, 2011

Back to the Future: Get Tannen Review

Back to the Future: Episode 2 – Get Tannen
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Platforms: PC, Mac, and PlayStation 3

One of the things that made the Back to the Future series so memorable was the setting. The first film took us back to the 1955, when hamburgers were a nickel and soda shops were the hang out spot. In the second film, we were transported to the future, a world where 3D holograms came alive and cars (and skateboards) flew. In the final film, we took a trip to the old west, where Indians and cowboys were a common sight, and duels at high noon were someone’s final stand. In each of these backdrops we saw different versions of the same characters, jokes, and charm. Marty would get called a chicken, a fight would break out, and Biff would get a face-full of manure.

So it becomes a disappointment when Back to the Future: Episode 2 - Get Tannen, doesn’t feature any of these. The story picks up immediately after the end of the first episode, It’s About Time. After saving Doc and getting Arthur McFly to testify against Kid Tannen, Marty begins to fade out of existence. He takes the DeLorean and goes back in time a few days to save his grandfather from being murdered by Kid Tannen. In the process he meets up with characters from the first episode, including Edna Strickland, young Emmett Brown, and two new characters, Trixie Trotter and Officer Danny Parker (who is alluded to as Jennifer Parker's grandfather).
The characters all have their same appeal, but the lack of new setting didn’t spark my excitement as it did for the first episode. The town is the same as before with only a few small additions. These small additions are where a majority of the gameplay occurs, so there is little motivation or reason to explore and see all the nooks and crannies this time around. The whole episode seems to reflect the second half of Back to the Future Part II, where Marty goes back to the 1955 and retraces his steps. The problem with this is that the second half of Back to the Future Park II wasn't the part that majority enjoyed. The part the appealed most to audiences was the future, where robots served Pepsis, pizza could be fully cooked in only a few seconds, and wearing two ties was fashionable.

An improvement Telltale did focus on greatly was the game’s puzzles. After the seemingly effortless puzzles found in the first episode, Telltale stepped up the difficulty in Get Tannen, using more realistic logic rather than off-the-wall adventure game logic. One puzzle has you answering questions to get into Kid Tannen's speakeasy, but all the questions and answers are in code. Listening to each question carefully will reveal the answer, but only if you pay attention to the sound of each question. Once inside the speakeasy, Officer Parker wants to tell you about his problems, but only if he is in the mood. Changing the music to right tune might get him talking.
Ultimately, the game was fun, but if your backlog is already overflowing, this isn't a game that demands your attention. The next episode, Citizen Brown, looks like it has much more of a distinct direction. Citizen Brown will introduce a new dystopian-type Hill Valley, similar to the alternate history Hill Valley seen in Back to the Future Part II, where Biff owns the city. However, this time Doc Brown is rules over Hill Valley, where swearing makes others uncomfortable, Jennifer breaks up with Mary, and Doc has a shaved head. If you play through Get Tannen, you can probably guess why all this is. Citizen Brown will be available in March this year.

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