|System: PC, PS3|
|Dev: Telltale Games|
|Pub: Telltale Games|
|Release: March 28, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Robert VerBruggen
The problem with meddling in the past is that no matter how you change things, they never turn out quite right. That was a main theme of the Back to the Future movie trilogy, and not surprisingly, it's cropping up in the new game series by Telltale, too.
The main story point in Episode 3, "Citizen Brown," revolves around Edna Strickland. In the timeline we started with back in Episode 1, the woman was harmless, and even humorous and endearing. In the 1931 scenes, she's a newspaper reporter and the leader of the Stay Sober Society, a group that supports Prohibition. In 1986, she's a grouchy old woman who sits at her window, screaming at neighborhood residents over minor infractions. Her younger self's plucky, wide-eyed Puritanism, as well as her older self's caustic hatred of anything disorderly or impure, was a source of much of the first two episodes' humor.
However, at the end of Episode 2 (spoiler alert), Doc and Edna hit it off in 1931. As Marty and the older Doc returned to 1986, they decided not to worry about it; Doc wasn't set to meet his future wife for a few years, so a fling with Edna shouldn't disrupt the timeline too much, right? Unfortunately, that's not always how romance works: When Marty arrives in 1986, Doc is nowhere to be found. It turns out that Doc married Edna, and his life took a very different course. He never even started going by "Doc"—he's known by his real name, Emmett, or "Citizen Brown."
Why "Citizen Brown"? Because when Doc's genius joined forces with Edna's authoritarian instincts, the two rose to power and took over Hill Valley. The town is an Orwellian dystopia, with Citizen Brown, Edna, and a gang of government thugs watching over everyone, handing out "demerits" for such antisocial behavior as wearing the wrong style of clothing. Marty's father, unfortunately, works as a peeping Tom for the regime, keeping an eye on a network of cameras from the family garage. Marty's mother is an alcoholic (as she was in the very first timeline in the Back to the Future films). Oddly enough, Marty's mild-mannered girlfriend, Jennifer, is a rebel in this timeline, running around with dyed hair, listening to punk music, and spray-painting graffiti on the town's walls.
To make matters worse, the DeLorean crashes into a billboard upon reentry to 1986, rendering it useless. Marty has to fix things without time travel, and the only way to do that is to meet with Citizen Brown, explain to him that his true destiny lies in time travel, and hope that this alternative version of Doc can figure out how to fix the original version's design. To do this, however, he has to meet with Citizen Brown—the very busy leader of an oppressive regime. As Marty explores the town for a little bit, he discovers a way to get a meeting: If he gets enough demerits, he'll be called to Brown's office for "treatment."
All of this amounts to an amazing plot setup, but unfortunately, it's a setup that goes absolutely nowhere in terms of gameplay or, much worse, story. As I've mentioned in reviews of previous episodes, in this game, story normally takes precedent over gameplay. Point-and-click games are inherently boring to many folks, and the second episode didn't even have good puzzles. The biggest draw is simply that it's so much fun to finally have a new Back to the Future tale.