Back to the Future: The Game - Outatime




Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    TellTale Games & Universal Studios

Released:  June 2011

PC Requirements:   Windows XP/Vista/Windows7, Pentium 4 2.0 GHz or 100% compatible CPU 512 MB RAM, 3 GB available hard disk space , DirectX 9,0c 






by Becky


OUTATIME is the fifth and final episode in the Back to the Future: The Game series. The story begins with Marty asleep in young Emmett Brown's lab. Later that day, young Emmett is planning to exhibit an Electrokinetic Levitator at the 1931 Hill Valley Science and Technology Exposition. To do so, he must sneak out while his father is unawares, set up the exhibit, and avoid the shapely but pushy Edna Strickland. Emmett asks Marty to bring the (now fully charged) static accumulator for powering the Levitator -- no easy task when the device starts to operate in "zoom exuberantly out of control" mode.

After Marty manages to get into the Expo building, you can explore the other indoor exhibits -- among them an underwater bathysphere, a Future of Law Enforcement booth, and a House of Glass.

Since Episode Five begins shortly after the end of Episode Four, it's important to play the previous episodes before attempting OUTATIME. (For a review of the first episode, which contains some story background, click here.)

"I wasn't planning on visiting the 19th century today." Doc Brown, Professional Time Traveler

This episode is roughly twice as long as each of the previous episodes. It begins in 1931, jumps back to 1876 and then leaps forward to Hill Valley in 1986 where (and when) Marty first left to rescue Doc. OUTATIME brings a satisfying resolution to the game's story, and drives home some of the themes that have been gradually developing -- including the importance of knowing and being true to oneself. The final episode is partly an amusing exploration of the exasperating paternal habit of being either too demanding or too disengaged. (Does anyone have a father whose style manages to be "just right?"). The list of plot twists gets even longer, including a "To Be Continued" message at the end that implies that Back to the Future: The Game is Season One of an ongoing series.

This game contains many confrontations, some of them brewing since the early episodes. Most of these dramatic incidents occur during cut scenes. The cut scenes contain some interactivity -- dialog choices must often be made at certain points in most of them. I was swept up into these scenes, with their revelations of character and surprise appearances, disappearances, reconciliations, reversals, etc. -- and didn't realize how elaborate they were until I played through the game a second time.

"You don't know me like I do." Citizen Brown, Social Scientist

By this fifth episode, the gamer finally understands Emmett Brown in his various iterations. It's pleasing to see young Emmett undergo formative changes that lead him to become the beloved, crazed scientist of the Back to the Future films. (With potential timestream changes registered at game's end, of course.)

Marty has stepped up into an even more commanding role in the series -- partly because events in the game have such a significant effect on Doc. Familiar characters from previous episodes reprise their roles: Trixie Trotter as Techne, Muse of Progress (belting out a new song), and Artie McFly, Marty's easily intimidated grandfather. New characters also appear: Erhardt Brown, Emmett's judgmental father, and Jacques Douteux, with his fishy French accent. Marty's great grandfather Willie makes his first appearance. Willie's character is plain-spoken and gutsy -- not unlike Marty himself. (Willie is voiced by Michael J. Fox, who played Marty in the Back to the Future films.) Apparently true grit skipped a couple of generations in the McFly family.

Voiceovers are uniformly excellent. This episode is dialog heavy with abundant character interaction. Close-ups of the characters' expressively animated faces, along with intriguing camera angles, enliven the conversations. Dialogs can be clicked through, though you probably won't want to, as they explain much of what has been going on behind the scenes in the story.

"Is it glowing?" Young Emmett Brown, Science Geek

Graphics are 3D, bright and appealing. They aren't photorealistic, but they aren't really cartoon-like either. The environments are varied, and include the Hill Valley Expo in the high school gym, the California desert at sunset, and an Old West saloon at night. The final car chase boasts some eye-catching special effects.

The orchestral background music is reminiscent of that in the original film trilogy. It features variations on themes from the films, including a country music variation at Edna's cabin. Trixie's peppy tune, "The Future is Coming Today," plays in the gym, along with individual themes for many of the exhibits. Speed chases, crashes, and an armed confrontation are accompanied by suspenseful music and ambient sounds.

"Keep your distance, fancy pants." Beauregard B. Tannen, Saloon Owner

Now we must pause to look back over all five episodes and discuss the little matter of (drumroll, please)... Edna Strickland's wardrobe. This is the first time I've devoted an entire review section to a character's clothing. Most adventure game characters wear the same outfit. Forever. Well, forever in the game. If, ten minutes in, the character is dressed in a white shirt, blue pants and yellow hat, the chances are extremely good that, fifteen hours later as the final credits roll, the character will still be dressed in a white shirt, blue pants and yellow hat.

Not Edna Strickland. Young Edna's wardrobe is so delectable that, by the fifth episode and for precisely 0.68 seconds, I actually contemplated becoming Edna Strickland just to wear her clothes. Her taste, unfortunately, deteriorates with age. (The pink sweater with the paw prints on it, for instance.)

Admittedly, costume changes are essential in a game that is set in various time periods. Still, kudos to whomever designed Edna's wardrobe.

"This is your cue to skedaddle." Willie McFly, Patriarch

Puzzles in this final episode are varied. Though you do still use the inventory, most of the items' uses are obvious, rather than non-intuitive. Challenges include using or ill-using the Expo exhibits (including a maze in the Glass House), dialog triggers, memory association puzzles, and positioning items before initiating a sequence. An endgame car chase requires you to synchronize three flux devices -- this (as well as the catch-the-static-accelerator challenge at the beginning) is mildly timed. The challenges are suitable and clever; in terms of difficulty, they fall into the "easy to medium" territory. If you are looking for hairpulling puzzles you won't find one in the final episode. Puzzles that aren't obstacles bringing the story to a dead stop are actually a positive contribution here -- the dramatic urgency in many of the scenes is consistently maintained.

As in previous episodes, OUTATIME has three options for navigation: mouse (click-and-drag), keyboard (WASD or the arrow keys) or a game controller. Either I'm adjusting to the click-and-drag technique, or it's getting easier to use. In this final episode, there are so many interactive areas that it's possible to forego click-and-dragging and move around almost everywhere just by clicking on hotspots.

I experienced a glitch that disabled the door handles in the House of Glass. The glitch was resolved by uninstalling the game (while retaining the saved games) and reinstalling.

Quick List for Back to the Future: The Game -- OUTATIME

The fifth and final episode in the series, featuring Emmett Brown -- a man of many names, times and places -- and Marty McFly -- a brash kid trying to keep everyone focused and everything sorted. Hill Valley, California, in colorful 3D and three different time periods. A complex plot, excellent dialog and voiceovers, multiple confrontations, and a satisfying ending. Close-ups and facial animations make character interaction unusually engaging. To understand the story, you should play the previous episodes before this one.

Inventory and dialog challenges, setting the scene and then triggering the right hotspot. No sliders, no sound puzzles, no color based puzzles. One maze. Two of the challenges are mildly timed. None are in the "dastardly difficult" category. You can't die.

Third person perspective. Three options for navigation: mouse (click-and-drag), keyboard (WASD or the arrow keys) or a game controller. The Options menu provides access to different graphical and auditory tweaks, plus hint features. Dialogs can be clicked through; they contain occasional spicy language. Appropriate for older children and up.

No problems with installation. One glitch that required uninstalling and reinstalling the game (previously saved games worked fine after the reinstallation). About six hours of gameplay.

Aimed at fans of the Back to the Future films and those looking for a polished game with memorable characters, comic dialog, and a twisty, satisfying plot.

Final Grade: A-

What I played it on: 

Dell Studio XPS 8000

Windows 7 Home Premium

Intel Core i5-750 processor


1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220

Soundblaster X-Fi

Back to the Future: The Game can be purchased via download from Telltale Games.

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