It's been two months since Back to the Future finally made its long-awaited return. Helmed by Telltale Games, the company behind Sam & Max and Tales of Monkey Island, this adaptation of the movie franchise is similarly split up into five episodes, of which the second has now arrived. Get Tannen! sends players back to 1931, an era already explored in the enjoyable yet tepid It's About Time, and more or less closes out that story arc, albeit setting up a few new ones while it does.
It's About Time ended with Marty McFly rescuing Doc Brown from jail in 1931, but finding himself fading out of existence. So, the first order of business in Get Tannen! becomes ensuring the safety of Marty's grandfather from mobster Kid Tannen, which involves a Back to the Future Part II-like revisit of the first game's events. After that's out of the way, upon returning to the present things spiral out of control even further, as Marty and the Doc create yet another alternate timeline (that's about number ten we're on now), and have to return to 1931, a few months after they left, to set things right.
Whereas the first episode was focused on the teenage Doc Brown, Get Tannen! largely goes about the business of tying up the Kid Tannen storyline which didn't receive as much attention the first time around. Marty is placed in a lot more danger this time, which results in a faster paced, more interesting, and much more exciting episode. There are parts where the familiar theme music swells at a climactic moment, where you think to yourself, "Yeah, Telltale get it now. They really get what Back to the Future is about."
What's he so afraid of? All that will happen is he'll pass out. Or a paradox could destroy our galaxy.
We still have a few problems with the storyline, such as the presence of Edna Strickland. Her role is diminished, but she does get an awful, awful song about caring that you're required to listen to. Granted, it's intentionally awful, but it's still torturous. On the other hand, Kid Tannen has a much larger role this time, and while he's still doing the standard-gangster shtick, he is given a few opportunities to show genuine menace. One of these is undercut almost immediately afterwards, but overall he is a stronger villain. Our final gripe is the emotional climax of the first episode, involving the betrayal of one young Emmett Brown, is completely glossed over, and has no lasting impact whatsoever.
Get Tannen! moves at a brisk pace, and you'll probably have it finished within 3 hours, tops. As you'd expect, it's very linear, in fact so linear that in some sections if you try to leave to go somewhere else, Marty will start fading from existence. The puzzles are somewhat more difficult this time around, although the hint system is still far too lenient (you'll have more than enough information from the 'wink wink nudge nudge' style of the first hint level), and once again Einstein (Doc's dog) is used a little too often as a puzzle-solver. There are also some puzzles which we feel like we've seen before in Telltale games, in fact there's a record-swapping puzzle very reminiscent of one in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People (and, come to think of it, Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse).
Some really obvious hints are meted out during regular gameplay as well, especially during the first hour, where you'll often hear a character say his piece, then add "Oh, and remember to [Insert Puzzle Hint Here]" before leaving. The low overall difficulty of this episode will most likely appeal to Back to the Future fans who aren't adventure game players, and just want to see the story. However, if you're a Back to the Future and an adventure game fan, you'll be disappointed with the simplicity of the gameplay. If you're not a Back to the Future fan... what are you doing playing this game?
The stylised graphics remain impressive, and there's a lot more opportunities to see the DeLorean's famous time travelling effect (as well as something else that will please fans). However, the presentation suffers somewhat from some noticeable glitches, which can see characters teleporting from location to location, or getting stuck in objects. The animation seems to have improved, in so much as the fact that we didn't notice any glaring moments of jerkiness, but this could be due to the camera, which often stays very close to Marty's back. There are also some odd moments where Telltale seem to be avoiding wide shots, by keeping the camera close to Marty and allowing the player to pan the camera around to look for clues. The voicework is overall excellent, with both Marty and Doc sounding brilliant, and Artie McFly sounding enough like Crispin Glover to be suitable but not inviting a lawsuit. Tom Wilson is noticeably absent, and missed, as Biff, however.
Get Tannen! spins a more exciting yarn than the previous episode, and despite the revisit to 1931 Hill Valley, actually endears the time period to us a little more. Locations like the speakeasy actually offer some more of the flavour of the era, and the gangster storyline is resolved in classic Back to the Future fashion. With this all said, this episode is still an easy ride that won't have anyone reaching for their nearest walkthrough, and its linear nature keeps it feeling more like an interactive animated movie. Nevertheless, it captures the film franchise's atmosphere better than any of its other videogame adaptations so far, paving the road for some hopefully fantastic future installments.