Back to the Future: The Game: Episode 3: Citizen Brown
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: 3/28/2011
Now we’re three episodes into Telltale’s Back to the Future series and I must say, so far I have been disappointed with the output. The storyline and voice acting have been great but the actual gameplay and puzzles leave much to be desired. Citizen Brown is the episode I was most looking forward to simply because it references Citizen Kane and was about a dystopia that was somehow created by Doc Brown (how can you NOT get excited about that?) so hopefully this will change my opinion of the series.
So finally, Marty manages to fix things with his grandfather and safely get back to 1986 alone. Unfortunately, the final event of 1931 (Doc Brown’s 18 year old alter ego watching Frankenstein for the first time) did not happen and instead of using his scientific genius to create wacky inventions, Doc Brown instead decides to use both his intellect and family resources to socially engineer Hill Valley to become a 1984 style utopia with himself as “First Citizen Brown”Â. To make matters worse, Marty completely destroyed the DeLorean and can’t go back to 1931 to fix this mistake.
Out of all the episodes so far, Citizen Brown is by far the best storyline wise as it doesn’t introduce anymore side characters and feels a lot more personal to Marty as his family is pretty much also back to their old ways from the first movie. It also helps that my favourite part of the BTTF movies is the hellish 1985 from the second movie when Biff gets rich off the Almanac and this game puts you in a situation that’s almost completely different (Very well run, clean Hill Valley as opposed to Anarchy) but feels similar in the challenge it gives Marty.
That and the fact that I was getting tired of 1931.
Story/Modes rating: Great
As can be expected, the graphics of course remain unchanged from previous episodes. On the positive side, we finally have a new set to see after two games with nearly the exact same locations and 1986 Utopia version of Hill Valley certainly looks nice, especially Citizen Brown’s imposing looking office.
Some of the character models though look rather off and too cartoony next to the models based on real actors and for some reason, George McFly’s model looks way too cartoony and almost nothing like Crispin Glover.
Graphics rating: Decent
The cast of the game continue their great voice work in this installment as well. I’ve already waxed lyrical about Christopher Lloyd’s and AJ LoCascio’s depiction of Doc and Marty respectively in the series so I won’t repeat myself and just say that they do a great job. Now that Marty is back in 1986, we can see some more voice acting by Michael Sommers as George McFly and Aimee Miles as Lorraine McFly and they do a great job staying close to Crispin Glover’s and Lea Thompson’s depiction of the characters. Michael Sommers especially nails George McFly’s dweeby voice and Jenniffer, Marty’s Girlfriend, is played by Claudia Wells, the original actress from the first movie so everything voice wise is great.
I still miss Tom Wilson as Biff though.
Sound rating: Classic
The controls are still piss poor like in the previous episodes and I hate it. Now that we’ve gotten that particular detail out of the way I can move on to the puzzles.
Thankfully, the difficulty has been moved up somewhat for the puzzles. It’s not a huge difference but I definitely scratched my head a few times trying to figure some of these out and most of them are pretty interesting as well and not just “Use item X on object Y”Â puzzles. As always, there’s a hint system that you can use if you’re stuck at any time. You’re also tasked in the middle of the game with three different quests that you can do in any order you want so you’re given a little freedom in roaming around and picking what puzzles to do in Hill Valley.
That being said, nothing in the game is terribly exciting either and I feel Telltale are really focusing more on the upcoming Jurassic Park series rather than Back to the Future which they’re almost phoning in at this point.
Control/Gameplay rating: Poor
As usual with these sort of games, there is almost no reason to go back and play through this game again unless you really like it that much or perhaps like to figure out all the time paradoxes in the series like some sort of mad scientist.
Replayability rating: Dreadful
I was disappointed that “Get Tannen!”Â seemed to be actually easier than the first episode “About Time”Â but thankfully, this third episode increases the difficulty of the puzzles to a more reasonable standard. Unfortunately, it’s not a huge increase in any way so if you’re an experienced adventure junkie, don’t expect something that will fry your logic circuits.
I wish Telltale would up the difficulty as with a built in hint system, they shouldn’t be afraid of alienating newer players.
Balance rating: Decent
As in the old episodes, “Citizen Brown”Â doesn’t really do anything to advance adventure games in any way at all and is in fact somewhat of a step back overall in that the third season of Sam and Max tried to innovate with its psychic toys and that came before Back to the Future. I guess we’ll see if Telltale are trying to blow their load on Jurassic Park instead.
Originality rating: Dreadful
The story in Citizen Brown is much better than previous episodes and therefore more addictive. You’re also given pretty much free reign to walk around the Social Darwinist version of Hill Valley and tackle objectives in any order you want at your own pace so you always have something to do and you’re never far away from advancing the plot or solving a puzzle; Excellent pacing here by Telltale.
The game is only a bit longer than previous episodes though so don’t expect to be sucked in for too long.
Addictiveness rating: Good
I wonder how sales of Jurassic Park are going to be next week considering that Back to the Future is the bestselling Telltale game to date. Reviews have been rather mixed since the release of the series and that may hurt further sales. This is a shame because Citizen Brown is the best episode yet and is somewhat of a return to form.
Appeal Factor: Very Good
While there is a sense of improvement in this episode, I still feel that Back to the Future is simply something of a stepping stone for Telltale that’s already moving on to bigger things. Jurassic Park is going to be out even before this series is finished and I’ve never seen the company splitting their attention between two simultaneous games before.
Miscellaneous rating: Poor
Control and Gameplay: Poor
Appeal Factor: Very Good
FINAL SCORE: Decent Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
In terms of story telling and puzzle design, Citizen Brown is the best episode yet in the series and I hope this quality continues despite the fact that the same old control “click and drag”Â control system is in place and the impending release of Jurassic Park splitting Telltale’s workforce.