Back to the Future: Episode 4 Review
Back to the Future is nearing its end. Telltale Games’ five-episode point-and-click adventure has made it through its first four installments, and by this time next month, the game will have concluded. And finally, in Episode 4: Double Visions, the story is starting to pick up the weight it needs.
If you’re looking for a spoiler-free experience, as we’ve been saying with the previous three episodes, you’re going to want to head back to the review for Episode 1. It’s also free to download now, so you can get a taste of Back to the Future on your own. If you don’t want to know what happens, stop reading here.
Back to the Future: Episode 4 (PS3 [Reviewed], XBox360, PC, IPad)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: February 15, 2011
For those of you up to speed, I’ll be doing my best to limit my comments so as to not blow the story of Ep 4 for you, but suffice to say that, finally, the actions of Marty McFly and Emmett Brown are starting to have some personal significance. Yes, up to now, Marty and Doc have ended up with alternate timelines and very real time-travel conundrums on their hands, but it’s only in Episode 4 that Telltale finally starts to ask some of the big questions that all this meddling keep raising — namely, whether the active sabotage and lying Marty is engaged in are morally wrong, and whether it’s okay to sacrifice a person for what he perceives as “The Greater Good.”
After finding himself in the alternate 1986 in Episode 3, Marty set about trying to repair the timeline, first by enlisting the help of the alternate Doc Brown. That ended badly in Ep 3, and in Ep 4, Marty awakens a captive in the police state Hill Valley, with Doc Brown about to get his brain washed in the Citizen Plus program.
The opening few minutes of the game concern Marty’s escape attempt, but the bulk of the episode is about repairing the timeline in the past. [SPOILER ALERT SERIOUSLY] Marty’s plan for doing this is to break up young Emmett and Edna Strickland, a proposition that requires some really underhanded tactics on Marty’s part — more so than he’s ever engaged in before in part of the Back to the Future canon.
This is where the story starts to get interesting. We can see it weighing on Marty that he’s manipulating the lives and emotions of others to meet his own ends — or at least, we can sometimes see it.
Unfortunately, Telltale never quite gets there, although we might be building up to a real change on Marty’s part in the fifth and final episode. He does have moments of clarity along the way as he basically steps over the bodies strewn in his path, but Marty never really has the realization that in forcing the repair of the timeline, he’s actually playing with the lives of the people of Hill Valley, although this is a growing conflict.
Meanwhile, moving through the episode is a breeze, with Episode 4 containing quite a few intuitive puzzles that are fun to solve but never really a frustrating drag — much like the puzzles in Episode 2. Back to the Future has struggled some with puzzle difficulty, fluctuating between being too easy and hard to divine, but those in Episode 4 clip right along and are somewhat obvious but still interesting.
Even the most involved puzzle isn’t too difficult to reason out, which is nice considering a few of the ones in the past haven’t really made intuitive sense. The biggest puzzle in the episode recalls the best one from Episode 1, although it’s not nearly as fun and is for some reason more involved than it really needs to be. It’s one of the only puzzles in the game so far that includes a lot more elements than are actually necessary to solve it, but even so, it works and makes sense.
“Double Visions” is taking Back to the Future toward its climax, and because of that, it’s finally stepping up and becoming a better story. It’s unfortunate that it’s taken this long for Marty McFly to really be challenged about the changes he’s making to Hill Valley and all the trouble he’s getting up to — and hopefully that trend carries over to make the climax as powerful as it ought to be. There’s a great story in this game that’s just barely starting to surface; it’s a shame that it took this long to become apparent, but we’re certainly not OUTATIME just yet.
After the dismal showing in Episode 3, Telltale has done a pretty good job of redeeming Back to the Future as it goes into its final act. The total package will likely be judged pretty heavily by what comes up in that last episode, and the potential the game has been giving off all along is still there. We’re just waiting for Telltale to really reach it, and there’s one episode left.
- Continued Back to the Future-y goodness
- Puzzles that make sense without being too easy
- Story is finally starting to have some real emotional weight
- Story still doesn’t the kind of stakes or dread seen in Episode 2
- Most of the game’s potential is left for Episode 5
- A touch on the boring side
Final Score: 75