Back to the Future: The Game “Outatime”Â
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: 06/23/2011
After seven months we finally reach the end of what might as well be considered Back to the Future IV. Marty’s been back to 1931, then to a dystopian 1986 and back to 1931 again. I’ve already talked at length about the previous episodes and will cover the same ground in this review in addition to giving my thoughts about the whole series, so reading the previous reviews are not necessary (since buying the episodes one by one is now an impossibility).
So how does the final chapter stack up?
If there’s one thing that Telltale have captured in these games is the storyline; this truly feels like Back to the Future 4. Telltale have always been great storytellers but also having Bob Gale as a story consultant cemented the authenticity of the storyline.
The previous episode “Double Visions“Â ended in a huge twist: Doc Brown is actually working against Marty rather than with him! All during Outatime you have to not only fend off the series’ main villain, Edna Strickland, but somehow mend the relationship between Doc and Marty which has been completely unshakeable in the past.
The characterization and writing is all top notch. All the characters act exactly how you expect them to and the writing is tight and every event is designed to move the story forward much like the movies that they’re based on.
You’d think that the ending for the final episode would be pretty airtight, right? Actually, you have a surprise ending that beautifully sets up a sequel! While I liked the ending, I can see how it muddles things and how some people might just consider it advertising a new game before they even started making it.
Story/Modes rating: Classic
While the graphics are nice, bright and cartoony and never clash with the game’s narrative I still feel they are technically weaker than previous Telltale efforts like Sam and Max Season 3 as they just don’t have the same dynamic lighting and shading and other buzzwords that stretch the power of your graphics card. I’m not saying that Telltale should license the Cryengine, but at the very least the graphics should not take a backwards step. Citizen Brown’s office in episode three would have looked amazing if it has just some dynamic lightings and HDR.
Graphics rating: Decent
This is always a sure winner with any Telltale title and I believe they’ve done the best job of any of their series which is quite an achievement when you consider the quality of Telltale’s voice acting.
AJ LoCasio takes the prize as best voice actor. He plays a young Michael J. Fox perfectly and it’s like Marty McFly never left. Christopher Lloyd is of course the only person who can portray Doc Brown though his voice has gotten a little deeper over the years but you really can’t blame him for that.
The big surprise was that Michael J. Fox is back to actually portray two characters! One of them is fairly minor but the other makes perfect sense and will have you chuckling.
The only missing voice actor I would love to have seen is Tom Wilson as the various Tannen characters, but we can’t have everything I suppose. That’s not to say Kid Beyond is a bad Biff, but it’s just not the same.
The music is just perfect, lifted straight from the movies and cements the feel that this is truly a new part of the Back to the Future series.
Sound rating: Amazing
The biggest flaw in the Back to the Future series is the control scheme. You might be wondering how the control scheme in a point n’ click adventure game can be problematic but that’s because it doesn’t actually use a point and click system! To move Marty around you click and drag to get him to move around. If you want him to run you have to hold down “Shift”Â in addition to dragging around which as you can imagine is an incredibly cumbersome system.
The reason for this is simple: The system was designed for use on PSN and iPads, not PCs. I plugged in my wired Xbox 360 controller and the game became much easier to control, but honestly, what was wrong with just point and click? It is far superior to even using a gamepad to control the action, and since double-clicking on objects causes Marty to move there it’s obviously not a path finding issue, so what gives Telltale?
Some of the episodes give you multiple dialogue choices which would seem to indicate branching pathways but in reality they offer nothing and are just red herrings. At times the game doesn’t even acknowledge your choice and continues to pretend you chose what it expected you to, so what’s the point?
The puzzles over the series were rather on the easy side, and with the hint system it’s almost impossible to get stuck. While this may annoy veteran adventure game players it makes sense considering that Back to the Future is a huge franchise and Telltale wouldn’t want to alienate players new to adventure gaming, I hope the sequel to this game series would offer a higher level difficulty.
Control/Gameplay rating: Poor
Like most adventure games, there really isn’t any reason to go back and Outatime again unless you forgot part of the story and Back to the Future is especially bad at this. Strong Bad’s Cool Game 4 Attractive People had sidequests and minigames to occupy your time and Sam and Max games are at least 3 hours long.
Back to the Future has no sidequests or post game activities to increase gameplay length so once you’re done with the game then that’s it.
Replayability rating: Dreadful
As mentioned before, the entire Back to the Future series has a difficulty more geared to newbies to the adventure genre rather than veterans, so anyone who’s played through the old Lucasarts games (and ESPECIALLY the old Sierra games) will have no trouble completing each episode in under two hours each.
With a hint system in place, they could have afforded to make the game at least a bit more difficult.
Balance rating: Below Average
As far as game mechanics go, Back to the Future: The Game offers no real advancement in the point n’ click formula and many of the puzzles are quite straightforward and offer no real twists like the psychic toys in Sam and Max Season Three. In fact, you rarely ever have to open your inventory as the majority of puzzles are solved by simply manipulating the environment!
Each episode usually also reuses the same locations with some changes and I do NOT want to see the year 1931 again anytime soon. Luckily, the final episode does add some cool new locations when time travel messes up Hill Valley…again!
Originality rating: Very Bad
The short length of the game generally increases the addictiveness and there are no hard moments that will put you off the game so you can mostly finish it in one sitting. If you’re a fan of any of the Back to the Future movies you’ll probably sit down and finish it in one go since the writing and voice acting is excellent and the multitude of challenges that Marty faces will keep you at the edge of your seat.
That being said, each game leaves you feeling unfulfilled at the end due to the short length and this is really one of the downsides of episodic gaming.
Addictiveness rating: Enjoyable
I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that Back to the Future is Telltale’s biggest selling series ever and it’s no surprise why: people have been clamouring for Back to the Future Part IV for years and this is the closest we’re going to get to that movie. Thanks to their success with Back to the Future Telltale have managed to secure other big licenses like Jurassic Park and The Walking Dead.
For an indie studio, that’s a really impressive series of licenses.
Appeal Factor rating: Great
Episodic gaming was once seen as a way to improve a game as it went along and to help independent developers afford the cost to make huge AAA games, but now you don’t even have the option to buy individual episodes and are forced to buy the “season pass”Â for the privilege of getting a game in pieces two months apart with no visible gameplay or graphical improvements.
Drop this format, Telltale, and just offer full games from now on.
Miscellaneous rating: Pretty Poor
Short Attention Span Summary
Outatime finishes off the Back to the Future game in grand style, but it doesn’t solve the fundamental control and difficulty issues that plagued the series since the start. The excellent writing and voice wor, however, should make this an essential purchase for all BttF fans.