“Double Visions” is a huge step backwards, as it relies too heavily on repetition and some recycled elements.
Back to the Future Episode 3 was in my opinion, the best episode of Back to the Future’s first season so far. Its story was really well told and it felt much darker and edgier, especially when compared to the two first episodes. As a consequence of this approach, Episode 3’s ending was pretty much perfect and the cliffhanger left everyone wanting for more. Now, a month later, “Double Visions” comes out, but unfortunately, it seems like a huge step backwards as it falls into some clichés and repetitive elements.
The last episode ended right after Marty convinces Citizen Brown that he comes from the future and he desperately wants to go back. Soon enough, Brown’s wife captures Marty and imprisons Doc for lunacy and anti-social behavior. This seemed like the perfect closure for the best episode so far and “Double Visions” picks the story immediately after that. Most of the characters you know and love come back (like Jennifer, Biff, Marty’s parents), though most of them feel extremely underdeveloped and even one-dimensional. At the beginning of this episode, you have to escape Edna’s brainwashing facility, but after you do so, the story takes a really unfortunate twist, requiring you to go back to 1931.
Once you go back to the prohibition era you see that the developers are once again relying too heavily on elements already established on previous parts of the game, and repetition (mainly seen in the setting and characters) quickly becomes a distinctive feature. The same characters are reused, most of the environments are completely recycled, and the puzzles are still really simple. Only one new place is featured, Hill Valley High School, where the annual Science Exposition takes place, but it regrettably happens to be an extremely boring one.
Furthermore, all the other features included seem extremely inadequate and are starting to wear thin at this point. It appears that developers didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks; this is understandable as we’ve passed mid-season, but considering that the game is becoming one of Telltale’s best franchises, it would have been reasonable to see some changes. The game’s hand-holding approach feels extremely dull, and the gameplay desperately needs a change as it’s extremely slow-paced and sometimes doing something really simple takes more time than it should. Also, the story has a tendency to show many flaws, mainly because there are many parallel timelines and possibilities. These make the plot feel pretty inconsistent overall. The hint system still works extremely well, but it’s probably unappealing to hardcore adventure gamers. In any way, this feature is included to make sure that anybody who tries the game can finish it without much trouble, but the main problem with this approach is that while many movie enthusiasts would tend to overuse it, fans of the genre would probably feel alienated by the dumbed down puzzles. This wasn’t so problematic before because the amusing story made up for issues like this one, but now some of these decisions are unacceptable.
In addition to this, there are many references to the films and especially to previous games of the season, so it would be quite unreasonable to think that anybody would be interested in trying this game without having played all the previous ones. The unique sense of humor has been lost almost completely, and this is a shame because it was something really proper of the original movie trilogy. Not only is the game unfunny, but jokes are also poorly delivered. This feels quite diminishing and it detracts from the whole experience, making the game flat and uninteresting.
Some of the puzzles though, are creative and allow you to use more than one element of your inventory to complete them, but as in previous episodes this is obtuse because they rely too much on trial-and-error. The gameplay has pretty much remained the same, you can use either the WASD keys or the mouse to move your character and through several shortcuts you can use things like your inventory or the sometimes useful hint system.
Graphically, the game feels much more polished and runs smoothly. I’ve only encounter some issues, but these were so minor that they didn’t affect the core experience I had with the game. From a technical aspect most loading times are really short and the game isn’t very demanding from a hardware perspective. The cartoony looking graphics are reused once again and feel more than suiting to tell this type of story. It should be noted, though, that some places where completely recycled. The use of sound is really good, but voice acting didn’t feel as passionate as in previous episodes and some of them even feel inappropriate. The good voice acting isn’t enough to sustain the whole game and unless Telltale starts blending them in seamlessly like before, the result won’t be satisfactory. The game is one of the longest of the seasons so far (around three hours), but as the story isn’t as good as previous ones this doesn’t represent a strong point at all.
The episode feels really disappointing overall, especially as it doesn’t feel like a suiting follow-up to “Citizen Brown”. Some of Telltale’s decisions when developing this game seem quite unfortunate, but to be honest I still want to see how the story ends. “Outtatime” seems like the perfect opportunity to make a strong conclusion. But for now, Double Vision simply feels like a weak, poorly delivered episode which was rushed out and maintains that feeling that you are playing an interactive movie instead of a game. The problem this time around, is that the movie isn’t a good one.