Friday, May 13, 2011

Back to the Future: Citizen Brown Review

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

When I reviewed Back to the Future: Episode 2 – Get Tannen, one of my main points was how big the role of a new setting played in each of the Back to the Future films. It plays a similarly big role in the games, wherein the first episode, It’s About Time, you visit 1930s Hill Valley during the time of the prohibition. In Get Tannen, you visited the same setting with a few small additions, but overall it felt dull and repetitive. 2K Games’ BioShock 2 was criticized for the same reason. The city of Rapture was such a great place that revisiting it to tell a different story felt uninspired. Episode 3 – Citizen Brown takes place in an entirely different timeline, allowing you to interact with old characters with new personalities.

Citizen Brown picks up immediately after Get Tannen as Marty crashes into a Hill Valley billboard featuring Doc Brown ominously saying, “Relax, we have everything under control.” Marty soon learns that phrase is a little too true. Hill Valley has changed into the 1986-equivalent of Pleasantville, but with heavy Orwellian overtones. Under the eye of Doc Brown, known in this timeline as Citizen Brown, Hill Valley has become the country’s first gated community city, exempt from national regulation. Citizens must wear name badges and dogs are outlawed. Kissing in public, loud music, and alcohol all result in citations. Biff is now Hill Valley’s model citizen, a product of the Citizen Plus Program. Even Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer, has changed; she’s now a punk-rebel rocker in the vein of Joan Jet. Marty must find a way to convince Citizen Brown to help him change the past so the present can go back to normal

The Back to the Future formula is pretty solid by now, but Citizen Brown hits all the right notes in terms of voice acting. Not only do Christopher Lloyd and AJ LoCascio shine as usual, but Telltale was able cast the original Jennifer Parker actress, Claudia Wells, to voice her character in the episode. Jennifer is easily the most entertaining character in Citizen Brown. Her attitude is a complete 180 degree turn from what we’ve seen of her in the films, and she captures attention by being the only sane one in this version of Hill Valley. Doc is also thrown for a spin as he changes from his normal, scatter-brained, wily inventor to an iron-fisted, government head charged with creating the perfect city at any cost.

The alternate 1986 Hill Valley has changed drastically. Most of the businesses along the street are renamed to sterile names. The soup kitchen from the first two episodes is named SoupMo and serves, “Wholesome soups, fresh vegetables, and soy based imitation meats.” The police station is the Beareau of Discipline, the library is the Citizen’s Reading Room, and the barber is The Combformist. You’ll also get a chance to visit Marty’s house where George is keeping tabs on the town through surveillance for Citizen Brown.

The puzzles in Back to the Future are also changing, in terms of both quality and challenge. They seem to be around the level of difficulty as seen in Get Tannen, but hardly as frustrating. A few sequences, such as finding Marty’s mother’s flask, take some time to find how all the set pieces fit together, but it is a much more streamlined process than in past episodes. You often you won’t recognize a puzzle until after you’ve solved it.

Back to the Future: Episode 3 – Citizen Brown is the best episode yet, and it’s definitely not one you should skip. With that in mind, I’m fearful of the next episode, Double Visions. The pattern so far seems to introduce a new setting every other episode; It’s About Time showed us 1930s Hill Valley, and Citizen Brown introduced alternate 1986 Hill Valley. If we’re heading back to alternate 1986 Hill Valley for the majority of Double Visions, I hope Telltale can implement something different to compensate for the lack of a new setting.

No comments:

Post a Comment