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Review: Back To The Future Episode 5 – Outtatime

Posted by on August 9th, 2011 | 2 Comments | Tags:

At last, the climax of our adventure. Telltale’s taking on of the Back To The Future franchise was certainly risky, with such an instantly recognizable cast of characters’ history in video games well documented by the flotsam and jetsam of failure so often associated with movie licenses. However, Telltale has managed to instill something special in these games, something that makes them feel like a true installment in the franchise. However, in sticking so closely to what made the films great, a problem has emerged, that problem being that you just can’t make a video game out of everything, no matter how hard you try.

The trouble with Back To The Future is that the entertainment in the films comes from the characters, and how they interact with the unfamiliar surroundings they find themselves in. In the films, Marty McFly is a catalyst, an accelerator of everything around him. He isn’t always the cause of trouble, but it does either follow in his wake or spring up everywhere around him. The trouble with previous episodes of Back To The Future is that you sometimes didn’t feel like Marty McFly at all. You felt like a time hopping errand boy, embarking on a fetch quest to aggravate the three mystical policemen, as it were. Perhaps that’s what makes Outtatime feel like such a breath of fresh air for the series, making me feel that Telltale has realized where their weaknesses lie. They have seemingly thrown their traditional three act puzzle structure to the wind, replacing them with what might just be the cleverest puzzles I’ve seen in an adventure game from the company in quite a while. Each puzzle feels like a genuinely interesting mechanic, with the player being tasked to perform some exceptionally strange stuff in order to attain their goals here. Sometimes the puzzles feel a little too clever, but the game’s hint system soon sorts out any troubles you might be having. What makes these puzzles truly special here is that with every task you perform, you genuinely feel like you’re moving the story ahead by a significant margin. There’s no “filler content” here, so to speak.

Earlier in this review, I stated that you can’t make a video game out of everything. Now, looking at that score over there and reading all this praise, you might be a little confused. Allow me to elaborate. You can’t make a video game out of everything, but you can disguise the video game parts well enough that it doesn’t matter if you’re playing or watching. Outtatime’s story is absolutely remarkable in the way that it manages weave an exceptional narrative around the puzzles it throws in the player’s way. It’s hard to explain why without delving deep into story spoilers, but that should tell you just how well the puzzles and narrative feed in to each other. The story itself answers questions, delivers moments of unexpected emotional impact, all while packing in fan service of the highest order, culminating in a cameo that, while announced, is incredibly satisfying if you don’t expect it, so I shan’t spoil it for those of you who have remained spoiler free.

I won’t deny that Telltale’s take on Back To The Future, while initially impactful and satisfying, has become somewhat duller in retrospect. I’ve been overzealous with some of my scores in the past, especially with the middle episodes, but I’m not mincing words when I tell you that Outtatime is everything I could have possibly wanted from a Back To The Future adventure game. It’s wonderfully written, extremely well paced, but above all it feels like it was made with so much love for the source material. It’s a wonderful romp through time, and while there may be a few bumps in the road, when it hits that magical 88 miles per hour, it soars.

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.

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  • Some other puzzles are just too obtuse at times