"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it". It's an old saying from the philosopher George Santayana that many of you were probably introduced to by a history teacher trying to answer that immortal school question, "why do we have to learn this?". Maybe it's the extreme use of the phrase that has dulled it over time, but considering its practical warning you would think that more people would take heed of it. Especially companies making games about time traveling. And yet, Tell Tale games has chosen to stick by the basic design of Back to the Future: Episode One for "Get Tannen", which sadly includes most of the flaws of the original installment. Chief amongst these shortcomings are puzzles that are still way too easy and result in this game being another one hour adventure. Along with having painfully obvious solutions (sometimes the answer literally hits you over the head), the puzzles just aren't that creative overall. As much I understand that this is supposed to be point and click for everyone, it's still hard to believe that some middle ground can't be reached from the complex and thought provoking (and often times absurd) puzzle solutions of old adventure games and the ones presented here. Many of the games challenges do not involve you interacting with more than one or two characters at a time to solve them, and they almost all take place on the same screen in the same general area. In fact, the one time I had to use a level one hint on a puzzle was when it was making me go from one area to the next, a move the game hadn't made in so long I gave it no credit for being able to do so. Also, there are two puzzles in the game with the exact same solution, which was also used in the first game. In a game that can be measured in minutes, that is simply lazy.Another big problem with the gameplay is the lack of scope. The series has yet to really explore the possibilities of time traveling within the game, and suffers for it. While playing I kept thinking back to an adventure game classic, Day of the Tentacle. One of the time travel puzzles in there made you use multiple character in different time periods to accomplish one goal. It required thought as to how one action for one character would effect the world for the next. I'm really shocked that the game hasn't gone in this direction at all. In fact, the only time you get to interact with the Delorean (and therefore time travel) is through cutscenes. Yet as disappointing as some of the game's aspects are, this series overall still has some things going for it. The graphics are bright and vibrant, keeping the cartoon style alive and the sound and voices are as good or better than the first. However, there is a problem with the conversations not being as funny or varied as they could be. I wish there were more side characters in the world to add humor and variety, as the main characters are often used mostly for advancing the plot. Also the prohibition era Hill Valley makes a return from the first and is the game's dominant setting (aside from one notable stop). The time period is entertaining and logical as it represents a nice middle ground between old west Hill Valley, and the traditional 50's model.
The real winner in the game though is its story. The plot starts off in typical Back to the Future style with something gone wrong from a previous time travel that must be corrected (lest there be a time paradox of course), but really does flow nicely and takes some fun turns from there. I would say overall the plot of this title is much more active than the first one as your mission is both more clear and more dire. The narrative flows at a good pace and keeps you into things even if you will be rolling your eyes at some of the puzzles in the process. I also liked how a couple of little events from the past game did carry over and have an impact on this one (it's the ripple effect!), I just wish there was more of it. It has to be said though that the ending to this episode is absolutely awesome and sets up the next title incredibly, as the story looks to be venturing well beyond the conventions of the film. Hopefully with it, the puzzles will be following suit.
I know this is a shorter review, but there really isn't much to be said about this game in comparison to the first one. Its one step forward for the story, and two back for the gameplay. Is it still worth getting into the series? I still tentatively say yes, but only for true Back to the Future fans who don't mind easy adventure games. I could also recommend it to any younger gamers interested in the genre or the films. For everyone else, until the series starts thinking more fourth dimensionally in its design, I see no reason at the moment to rush into the series.
7 out of 10
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