Back to the Future: Episode 2 Review

WARNING: This review contains significant spoilers of Back to the Future: Episode 1, so don’t read it if you intend to play the first installment.

Like Back to the Future II, Telltale’s second episodic installment of its point-and-click sequel to the Back to the Future franchise has time getting all twisted. At the end of the last chapter, Marty had saved Doc Brown from impending gangster assassination at the hands of Kid Tannen (Biff’s organized crime boss father) and was set to head back to 1986. But things never go according to plan.


Back to the Future: Episode 2 (PS3 [Reviewed], Ipad, PC)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: February 15, 2011
MSRP: $0

Episode 2 concerns all the repercussions of messing around with time. While Marty might have saved Doc Brown from his fate back in 1932, his influence — dealing with young Emmett Brown, rescuing Doc from the paddywagon, serving the subpoena to Artie McFly — has the rippling effects on time that Doc Brown always fears.

The story is what Back to the Future is all about, so I won’t go into any further detail there, except that Episode 2 starts to expand the story pretty substantially. Where Episode 1 concerned basically one incident, Doc Brown’s murder by Kid Tannen, Episode 2 starts to play with consequences in a much bigger way than even the film franchise has yet dealt with. The story gets stronger and adds more characters — by the end of the episode, you’ll be wishing it was March already for the release of Episode 3.

The things that limited Episode 1, however, are back in Episode 2. For as expansive as the implications of what’s going on become, Marty is limited to basically hanging out in two adjacent locations for the majority of the game. Most of the game just concerns Tannen’s 1932 speakeasy and the park in the center of town, and all the characters that need to be interacted with are basically in those locations.

The rest of the game bounces around at a few other locations, though, which are definitely refreshing. The episode starts with a jaunt back to 1986 that’s definitely a good time as well as more new territory for the series, and even though much of the game takes place in the speakeasy, the characters there are pretty well fleshed out and interesting.

Puzzles still haven’t really hit the right stride in Episode 2, just like in Episode 1. In the first installment, the game struggled to make its solutions obvious enough, and hitting up the in-game hint system was often the result. Those puzzles were a little more multi-step in nature and could be tougher to parse out. In Episode 2, it’s easier to see the goal — for example, a puzzle in the speakeasy concerns changing the music being performed in order to affect the mood of a character and get him to speak to Marty. You can figure out what’s necessary to move forward pretty quickly, and then it becomes a matter of figuring out how to get the character to do what you want. There are fewer full-stop speed bumps, which is nice.

But on the whole, Episode 2′s puzzles are a little too simple and therefore lack challenge. Where the last episode got a little bit irritating because how to solve the puzzle wasn’t made clear, this time, you get all the hows, but the puzzles themselves don’t require a ton of thinking. It keeps the episode clipping along, which is nice, but it also reduces portions of Episode 2 to jamming on the arrow key, trying to get Marty to move faster so you can hurry up and finish with an obvious situation. It’s really nitpicky of me, I know — but the difficulty of play still just doesn’t feel right.

Still, that’s not a big deal. Lots of the puzzles are enjoyable even if it’s pretty clear right off what you have to do, or if in pressing to see what solutions might be available to you, the puzzles end up solving themselves. Production values stay high in Episode 2 as far as acting is concerned, with a few new characters added to the mix, and the game continues to nail the Hill Valley Back to the Future vibe.

Episode 2 clips right along as it digs further into the Back to the Future world, and it definitely picks up the strength of the first episode and builds upon it. The game still edges a touch over the line into cartoon, but it hits some strong comedic notes and is overall a greatly enjoyable experience. It also leaves off with the promise of an Episode 3 that could be severely cool. Grab this one, as it’s a great continuation of Telltale’s solid work so far.

Pros:

  • Expands the Back to the Future story in some interesting ways
  • Makes more use of time travel
  • Story crosses familiar territory while still hitting on new things
  • Great production values abound
  • All the strengths of the last episode

Cons:

  • Puzzles seem too easy somehow
  • Story isn’t quite so enthralling as Episode 1

Final Score: 80

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