“Okay, Doc, let’s see what kind of nightmare alternate timeline I’ve landed in this time.”
That, one of the opening lines of Back to the Future: The Game‘s third episode, basically sums up the plot arc of this installment.
Note: we’ll try not to spoil the plot of the third installment, but don’t read further unless you’ve played the first two. Rest assured, it’s not a good jumping-in point and there’s no reason to play it before the initial episodes.
Marty has crash-landed in this alternate 1986, into a world where Edna Strickland changed Doc’s life from that of an eccentric scientist to one full of, in true Strickland tradition, discipline. He’s the man behind the curtain, and you spend most of the installment trying to gain an audience with him in this locked-down police state.
If you’re looking for technical observations like visuals, controls or structure, this is the wrong place. It’s clearly just another chapter of the game, so we won’t cover all that again.
In Citizen Brown, the writing team seems to be transitioning from the earlier episodes’ awkward placement of movie quotes and new character dialogue to a more cohesive flow of lines that are variations on themes from the films. The alternate timeline has wiped out Marty and Doc’s film adventures, so there are a lot of items reminiscent of the world found at the beginning of the first film. That’s interesting, as while we still find the first episode’s immersion to be more fun, it could only reference the altered world with successful McFlys and such.
In reviews of previous episodes, we had talked about the awkward inclusion of original characters, particularly Edna. While this one makes the others no less awkward, you can see where they were going with the inclusion, and that’s helpful.
While the story finds a rhythm, the game does too, but in a not-so-great way. Each little problem to solve seems like something we’ve done before, whether it’s the “move left or right” action scenes or the “here’s the time when we give you a list of three things to do and let you wander around until you stumble upon a new conversation” structure before the big plot point. The game throws in more dialogue options that do absolutely nothing, but what we really like are the ones that seem like they could help if part of a big chain. That’s what the genre’s for! We’d at least get more movie references stuck in here and there, and it’s a big reason people are playing this. It’s a good thing the story’s compensating for the tedium of progressing through it, but we hope there’s a bit more variation in the last two parts.
Ultimately, people who think Back to the Future Part 2 is the best film in the series will enjoy the story’s turn in Citizen Brown. We say stick it out and keep going. At least for now.
Pros: Story becoming more cohesive, still the same game
Cons: Gameplay becoming more stagnant, still the same game