Episode 2 of Telltale’s foray into the world of Hill Valley encompasses all that there is to like about the episodic distribution model for games. It ups the ante from Episode 1, offering new characters, more interesting scenarios, and an air of the development team “hitting their stride.” In general, this episode is simply more engaging and manages to draw you into the story even more effectively, thanks to its great humor and excellent character interactions.
The game’s graphics and music are essentially the same as Episode 1, and although it features a nearly identical playing space, the developers have cleverly managed to expand and tweak certain areas to make 1931 Hill Valley remain fresh. Somewhat expectedly, the controls are the same, meaning that they are frustratingly imprecise and the haphazard movement of the camera makes it difficult to move in the direction you want. Additionally, the invisible walls have become much more evident. Rather than being able to walk across any part of a street, the automatic camera and invisible walls will shepherd you to the one section where the developers have decided you may do so.
Episode 2 picks up immediately where the first ended, with Marty in danger of fading out of existence due to his actions the previous day. What follows are essentially the next two chapters of the story. First, players must reset events to assure that Marty’s grandfather remains alive and healthy in order to prevent the destruction of future generations of McFlys. The developers clearly used Back to the Future: Part II as the inspiration here, as Marty must not only be sure not to tamper with the denizens of 1931, but also to not get spotted by himself from the day before as he went about his business rescuing Doc from jail. The entire sequence is fun, and although there is absolutely no sense of danger (due to both the lack of options for failure and the ease with which the problem is solved), it still succeeds in moving the story along enjoyably.
Where the story deserves special note, is in the characterizations. There seems to be a lot more dialogue in this episode and it all lives up to the witty and charming standard set by its predecessor. There is more banter between Marty and the residents of 1931 Hill Valley, more chatting with Doc Brown, and lots of humorous dialogue choices that showcase Marty’s character as well as actor AJ Locascio’s mastery of the voice. The only problems here are the astounding number of typographical errors and misspellings in the subtitles. For a professional-quality game, it comes off as rushed and sloppy. Also, there are several instances where the subtitles do not match up with the voiced lines. While not a giant issue, it still contributes to that sense of unprofessionalism. I sincerely hope that Telltale quickly patches these small snafus and spends the necessary time to ensure that they do not crop up again in Episode 3.
The overall vibe from this episode’s structure and story is that the developers have hit their stride. The jokes come off naturally, the gameplay is smooth and the puzzle solutions are logical yet clever (if incredibly simplistic). Most importantly, it seems that Telltale has managed to avoid the pitfall of simply rehashing key moments from the films with new settings, which was a concern after the events of Episode 1. The ending, while leaving Marty in seemingly less dire straits than that of the first episode, demands the player’s curiosity and most definitely has me excited to see what happens next.
Ultimately, Back to the Future: The Game: Episode 2 is an excellent follow-up to the original that offers more humor, more story, and more creative situations. The same small flaws still exist but, overall, the game feels more polished and cleaner than Episode 1. This series is going strong and Telltale has proven they have the momentum to keep it moving forward and feeling fresh and fun.