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Gameplay Analysis: Episode 2

posted by Rather Dashing on - last edited - Viewed by 566 users

This thread is dedicated to talking about gameplay, and gameplay only, within the second episode of Back to the Future. Much like a story discussion thread or one about the game's music, this doesn't quite fit in a "review" thread, especially since this is less a "review" than it is an analysis meant to be read by people who've already played the game. In this thread I go into great detail when it comes to the gameplay design of Episode 2 and I'm not using spoiler tags, so continue at your own risk. This thread is meant to discuss puzzles and interactive elements.

Due to my thoughts on Episode 1, and feeling like they weren't well-substantiated as an argument, I took some notes while playing Get Tannen. I analyzed every puzzle as I completed them. Below, you'll find my assessment of every interactive sequence in the second episode. Feel free to discuss them, or to post your own assessments.

What's the officer, Problem?
The first puzzle consists of picking up what is right in front of you. If you are against moving yourself, the game actually pushes you along until you are in front of the thing you are intended to hit. This gameplay element actually got pretty annoying, as whenever I tried moving on my own the cop was “alerted” or annoyed, and pushed me to the next segment of the car.

Dog's Best Friend
The second puzzle comes along when Einstein is alerted to your presence. You essentially have two options: Throw the stick randomly, or throw it at Edna Strickland. In case only having two things to click on isn't obvious enough, she makes sure to walk right up to you to say “I HATE DOGS. WINK WINK. NUDGE NUDGE. THAT DOG IS ANNOYING TO ME. MAN, IF THAT DOG WERE TO APPROACH ME, WELL, YOU WOULD HAVE A DISTRACTION ON YOUR HANDS NOW WOULDN'T YOU?”

Courthouse
This puzzle is “You want to go to the courthouse. How do you get there?” The answer is, apparently, “The front door”. What's the point of making it this way? What's the point of playing it?

Chase After Tannen
The next bit of gameplay is literally just walking to a cutscene. Considering the urgency of the matter, the somewhat clunky movement controls would probably be better replaced with a cutscene here, as the player makes no real contribution at this juncture.

Speakeasy and Carry a Big Stick
The next puzzle is to get into the Speakeasy. Kid Tannen yells “GET THOSE CRATES INSIDE WINK WINK”. While in the alleyway, you essentially have the ability to interact with two crates. One can't be opened. WHAT A CONUNDRUM.

Take out the Three Idiots

Zane needs to be taken out first. You can interact with Zane, an ink bottle, a sign, and a Chloroform bottle. Zane sneezes, the ink bottle and sign get one-liners from Marty, and the Chloroform can be snatched. I WONDER WHAT I AM SUPPOSED TO USE HERE. And with what?! Chloroform with sign? Oh! On Zane directly! Well, that didn't work. I guess I better give up.

The next puzzle consists of “flip this switch, then flip that switch”. There's also using a bottle to knock out a guy, but if you didn't think you were supposed to use that bottle specifically in this scene, you're pretty dense. Since there is no item combination, you can only use the bottle with the two switches and the new element, guy reaching behind counter. Who sat there wondering what to do after using the bottle with Switch #2 didn't work?

Fight with the Tannen Brothers

This one is extremely simple. Dodge one screen over, or one screen over in the other direction. The middle action is context-sensitive, so once you're on the right screen you can't actually perform the wrong action. The only cue you need is “I need to do something on this screen”. Here, the crate(and the special “Jump!” action) is pretty good at telling you this, and then a new action popping up(as well as the giant glowing device over your head) shows that you need to [context action] there again.

Saving Einstein

If you dick around in the town center, you'll end up doing this first. Pretty simple structure here. You need to get Einstein down with some help(cue pan to Doc Brown so you don't miss him and know he's the help), go talk to him. “Yeah, sure, just go distract me first.” After exhausting all ofthe dialog options with young Emmett, the only other figure in the town center can be sent to mess with him. This is also heavily hinted by the fact that she's always been “very DISTRACTING”, that this mirrors the puzzle to send her off to another screen from the last game, and that this is the only story that she'll actually follow up on at this point(two of the options actually have him mutter “I can't say that! He'll get in trouble!” out loud and in front of her, with no attempt to save face when he's obviously arguing with an invisible force that is trying to direct his actions).

Swordfish

This one is actually really cute. Swap the last syllable of the last word. It's a bit annoying that the game starts to work the pattern out for you when you mess up twice over, with a guy that literally says the last word out loud before saying his line, which kind of directs your line of thought in an obtrusive way. This is another puzzle, like the “word puzzle” from Episode 1 in the scene with Emmett's argument with his father, where subtitles make the whole thing a bit easier. This one is better than that one in some ways, in that the telling the player what exactly to do is far more subdued and capitalization isn't used to indicate importance, and this improvement is actually appreciated, but it seems like too few steps in the right direction.

Getting out of the Speakeasy

“I NEED PROOF THAT YOU BELONG TO THIS CRIME FAMILY SPECIFICALLY. YOU KONW, THE ONE MENTIONED IN AN EARLIER CUTSCENE WITH BIFF. YOU EITHER HAVE IT ON YOU OR IN HERE, BECAUSE YOU CAN'T LEAVE.” Your mileage may vary but I found this to be really simple. It didn't help that I tried using the lighter on stuff before(dicking around brings out my pyromaniac tendencies), only to have Marty say “I don't want to pull that out in here UNTIL IT IS VERY IMPORTANT, WINK WINK, YOU'LL NEED THIS LATER, IN HERE SPECIFICALLY”.

Finding Arthur

So after speaking with Trixie, you have to find Arthur. She gives you the pipe, so you know it's important. Do anything with the pipe, and Marty will say there are only a few people(or one or two ANIMALS) who would be interested. If you didn't realize this was an Einstein sniffing “puzzle”, the game really wants to make sure you know it's an Einstein sniffing “puzzle”. Just in case you forgot that the solution to “Find [person]” in the first game was Einstein, a few times over. I've already saved Einstein, so it's just a matter of walking to the dog and giving him the pipe. Now I've been directed back to the hotel. This bit of gameplay is another “just go walk to [place]” that isn't really gameplay, just interaction through the use of a couple prolonged button-presses.

Getting Arthur to go to the Speakeasy

...I don't know how I did that.

A shot in the Dark

A conversation tree later, and you have to go out again, look at the one thing that is different, go back, go through another conversation tree, and we're onto the next bit of gameplay.

Proof Against Kid

This puzzle...I really like. An item is used in a way that it wasn't used for before, the hints are pretty sparse, and in the course of solving it I walked off and snagged the lyrics to “You Should Care” before talking with Doc Brown and heading back to the speakeasy to figure this one out. Not much in terms of complaint here.

Officer Parker

This is kind of cute too. Simple little mechanic, but it's technically a puzzle, and of course the lyrics for “You Should Care” could potentially throw a person for a loop if they didn't snag them before this point. Overall, pretty simple, but not particularly insulting, though I figured it out extremely quickly.

Find Kid Tannen

The objective is “Find [Person]” and Einstein is inexplicably sitting right there. I WONDER WHAT I AM MEANT TO DO. THE MECHANICS OF THIS PUZZLE COMPLETELY ELUDE ME.

Fight Kid Tannen

Move to one of three spots, the only one with a thing you can click. Use the thing you can click. You have to make the leap that hooch is flammable, established pretty strongly in the first episode. You also have to distract Kid Tannen....by saying “Hey! Over here!” a bunch of times. Pretty weak for a final conflict.

Fight Kid Tannen(Hostage Situation)

When I saw this build-up, I got kind of excited. “Oh! That wasn't the last one at all! I'll have to do something here!” This excited line of thought, one in which I entertained the idea that I might actually get one REAL, truly engaging puzzle, was killed off when clicking the first thing I saw solved it. That was....a bitter victory, to be sure.
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Overall, I'd say this game spends a lot of its time playing itself, and the rest of the time being very easy. I played the game on the lowest possible hint setting, never used the gigantic Hint Button that is an incredible waste of space. From pressing "Play" to the end of the Next Episode Preview, I spent 3 hours and 55 minutes, at least some of which was spent writing these flow-of-consciousness puzzle assessments and a couple minor tasks on the side. I was also on a phone call for the majority of my playtime with Get Tannen, so I'm sure a wholly focused person who wasn't taking notes or washing out a few dishes in the interim could finish it in a more speedy fashion, though honestly not much focus is required. I think that this game, like its predecessor, fails in a way that is spectacular to behold. The gameplay is broken by design, this is completely intentional, and it's pretty insulting.

28 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • Yup. I have bought every single TellTale game since the very beginning, with the exception of Wallace & Grommitt, and I'm finding myself astoundingly disappointed with these new BTTF games.

  • After playing through episode one and then reading Dashing's comments on how it wasn't really a game because the puzzles played themselves I thought he was overreacting. After taking his comments into consideration and playing through the second episode I have completely changed my opinion. Dashing is right, these games are laughably easy!

    There isn't even a real puzzle until about halfway through the episode and even then the game babies you so badly it's painful. When young Doc needed to get Einstian down from the roof and the camera zoomed in on old Doc in the hotel window I just groaned. That is TERRIBLE!

    I'm not someone who is asking for intense difficulty but I beat this game while drunk and barely had to use my brain at all. This is not a comment or critique on the other aspects of the game such as story, sound etc, but the gameplay is just so easy it is just absurd! I really hope the difficulty picks up in the later episodes because so far the puzzles are just plain lacking.

  • I completely agree with the OP. It is silly to see the game alternating between obvious puzzles and cutscenes. I can deal with puzzles being easy, but this could just as well not have been a game, given how automatically it all plays.

    I've noticed people enjoyed the Swordfish puzzle, but this was as obvious as all the others, given the fact that you could pick up an enormous sheet of paper in the speakeasy that detailed the password system. Also, for those who played their classics: it was a not-so-imaginative copy of the number puzzle in Monkey Island 2 (which you also needed to enter an illegal joint).

    Further than that, I have little to add to the original analysis: this game is a continuous barrage of obviousness. I am not expecting future episodes to differ - the choice to make this game mind-numbingly easy and repetitive was made deliberately. A real shame, it ruins the good name Telltale build up with Sam & Max and Monkey Island.

  • I thought the puzzles were better this time around than in episode one. There was one point where I actually used the hint button...although I felt stupid after reading the first hint.

    I liked the password puzzle because at first I misinterpreted the clue to mean something else (I was thinking "Eye/I" and "Low/Low" were referring to a secret knock where you knock high, then low), so it took me a second to make the password connection.

    Granted, I keep finding video playthroughs of people who are struggling and frustrated with the episode *one* puzzles, so maybe very gradually easing into more difficult territory wasn't the stupidest idea on Telltale's part. :P

  • Yep, this is the weakest point of the series for sure, No thought required at all. The "puzzles" are a joke, almost to the point where you wonder why the even bothered "obscuring" the answer at all. The hint button is a joke too. Its like telling someone to walk a straight line and then giving them directions.

  • Dashing, I'm in total agreement, except that you actually went easy on it. There were several points you didn't mention, such as the chloroform bottle, where the game specifically zoomed in and held for a couple seconds on any items you needed, and each and every one felt downright insulting. There was also a couple of points where the design just felt plain broken, like when you have to get Edna out by clicking on Tannen repeatedly.

    Also, I'd like to note that I did Officer Parker before Trixie and without asking Edna about her song or even playing "I Don't Care" in the speakeasy, and it was still incredibly obvious that I had to go back outside and get the song from Edna, so no, that wasn't a sticking point at all if someone didn't do it in the order you did.

    Honestly, if I wanted Back to the Future: The Movie Experience, I'd watch the damn movies. I want a GAME.

  • While the puzzles ARE so easy I actually overlooked most of them at first, I quickly realised that it's the only way telltale can make these games if they want to keep them entertaining enough, the mouse/keyboard controlls are so broken and quirky that more difficult puzzles would actually cause people to drop the game after 5 seconds...

    COME ON GUYS!!! I have this thing next to my keyboard that is used in plenty of adventure games before... it's called a MOUSE and it works like this: you move your "mouse" and a cursor moves all over the screen... you seem to have got this part figured out allready....
    now check this out... What if you could use your "mouse" to POINT out a place on the screen and when you CLICK, your character will walk there... WITHOUT EVER TOUCHING YOUR KEYBOARD :| WOW.... that would be SO awesome and would totaly fix all those invisible walls in most of your games. (I should patent this... there might be more game-dev's who will want this tech....).

    But seriously guys: Get rid of the guy who comes up with your controll schemes... he's holding you back. It's like playing an action FPS... but without the action... and the FPS.

  • I just played the first episode (waited for the freebie) and totally agree that gameplay is horrid. No way am I paying real money for the full series. Hell, I wouldn't even pay pretend money for this pretend game, because I don't have any pretend time to waste on it.

    @Rather Dashing said: I think that this game, like its predecessor, fails in a way that is spectacular to behold. The gameplay is broken by design, this is completely intentional, and it's pretty insulting.

    If the second episode is as bad as the first -- and I trust Dashing's judgment that it is -- then, yes, there is no question now that this is the kind of "game" Telltale wants to make. No excuses about how it's just the first episode, how they have to bring newcomers along slowly, how the hints-even-when-hints-are-turned-off are due to programming bugs, etc.

    (It's not about the control scheme, either. That ship has sailed. If you're enjoying the exploration and puzzles, then the control scheme fades out as a consideration.)

    I made the following statement in a Jurassic Park thread:
    I don't deny that "interactive experiences" are a legitimate form of entertainment, that there appears to be a growing market for them, and that gamers who don't care for them will just have to get used to the fact that the gaming industry is moving to satisfy that market.

    It is frustrating and disappointing. I don't get it (I routinely flip through the cable guide and put a handful of movies on my DVR that are ten times better than anything -- movie-wise, ie. not counting the gameplay -- ever made by any gaming company). But I accept it. It's just especially disappointing that it's Telltale, the company that not only brought back the much beloved Lucasarts style of gameplay, but improved it in many ways with a new spark of creativity. Even the less taxing puzzles of Wallace and Gromit were delightful in their own way.

    I think the only question left is, will they make any of their future titles with fun and challenging gameplay? Do they even want to?

  • Hmm, I know how I feel but I'm not sure how to explain it too well.

    Firstly, I can understand that you might have a lot of story to get through, and would want to hand control to the player even though all they can do is trigger the next the cutscene. Heck, RPGs do it all of the time. Depending on your preferences it can either detract from the Gameplay or add to the immersion of being that character or being in that world.

    However I think too many of the "let me trigger the next cutscene" bits were where a puzzle normally was, or had an insultingly easy puzzle when no puzzle might have been better.

    Personally I felt it was worse in Episode one; something felt wrong in that Episode. But even though it still suffered from some of the same problems, I enjoyed Episode 2; I felt the game shifted gear quite well between the fast plot movement and the slower sections with less plot movement but more puzzles.

    It might of helped that the plot behind what you were doing seemed a bit more interesting in the second Episode.

  • I have to agree. While playing this I felt like I was watching a cartoon sequel of the film. Really need to amp up the difficulty.

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