Tag Archives: Telltale Games

2018 Game Review Haiku, #10 – Back to the Future: The Game

Doc’s life needs saving
Back to prior Hill Valley
Fun story, a cinch

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

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A new time-altering adventure for Marty McFly and Doc Brown

Funny enough, the day after I finished the last episode of Telltale’s Back to the Future: The GameBack to the Future Part III was on TV. I haven’t seen it or the other parts in several years now, probably not since reading Justin Peterson’s Very Near Mint and realizing there’s a bunch of Easter eggs in there related to Marty McFly’s journey through time. And if I’m cutting to the heart of the matter, the third film in the trilogy is the one that I like the least, with Part I and Part II being my favorites, in that order, because that’s generally how I like my trilogies, including Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. I figured I’d get that out there in the open at the start of this post because…

Back to the Future: The Game is better than Back to the Future Part III. Don’t immediately call me a butthead. It’s also a thousand times better than Jurassic Park: The Game could ever imagine, but that’s not the hardest goalpost to hit in comparison to that pile of dino droppings. Right. Moving on.

Allow me to set up the plot, as best as I can: it’s been about six months since Marty McFly last saw Emmett “Doc” Brown, and the bank has decided to foreclose on Doc’s home. While helping sort through Doc’s possessions, Marty is surprised when the iconic time-traveling DeLorean appears outside of the house. Inside the ride is Einstein, Doc’s dog, as well as a tape recorder with a message from Doc explaining how the time machine would return to this present should Doc ever run into problems. Mm-hhm. Anyways, Einstein helps track down Edna Strickland, the elderly sister of Marty’s school principal and a former reporter for Hill Valley’s paper. At her home, Marty reads through her newspaper collection to discover that Doc had been jailed in 1931 and killed by Irving “Kid” Tannen, Biff Tannen’s father. With that knowledge firmly in hand, Marty and Einstein zip back to 1931 to prevent Doc’s death.

This new time-altering adventure spans five episodes–namely “It’s About Time”, “Get Tannen!”, “Citizen Brown”, “Double Visions”, and “Outatime”–multiple decades, and even copies of characters. Good guys become bad guys, bad guys become good guys, and even Marty ends up a little square (well, in Jennifer’s eyes). Bob Gale, who worked on the films, assisted Telltale Games by writing the game’s story, and it shows, feeling like a natural fit in terms of plot, pacing, humor, direction, and so on. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd also lend their likenesses, which helps greatly with immersion and feeling like you are really them wandering around Hill Valley, and Lloyd voices Doc. Alas, Fox was unable to voice Marty, but A.J. Locascio does a phenomenal job imitating him and his sarcastic quirks.

Gameplay is pretty straightforward and same-y across all the episodes. You play as Marty and explore a limited number of screens, examining objects, talking to people, and solving somewhat easy, mostly logic-based puzzles to progress the plot forward. Occasionally, there are some things you’ll need to do, such as choose a specific line of dialogue or visit an area first, in order to trigger an event that’s required to complete the puzzle, but it’s not always clear what that action is, which resulted in me brute-forcing my way through sections of the game, trying out everything. There’s an in-game hint system, and the more complex a puzzle, the more hints you can view, but I only used it once or twice by the end, and I never felt like I used my inventory as often as one generally does in an adventure game, with a lot of things just being carried around with no purpose, like that photo of Arther McFly. The whole affair is relatively simple, focusing more on nostalgia than challenge, and for some, that will be a deterrent.

In a critique certainly only related to my experience, I found going back to get some missed Achievements in Back to the Future: The Game extremely frustrating. You often had to replay the bulk of an entire episode for some of them, and you could only skip specific bits of dialogue, but not all, definitely no cutscenes. It also crashed a few times on me for seemingly no reason, and I spotted a few glitches here and there, which is fairly common with these adventure games, where animations are wonky and jittery.

In the end, I enjoyed Back to the Future: The Game, so long as I didn’t think too hard about all its time-twisting, paradox-defying derring-do. The puzzles never got too complex and there was sometimes too much reliance on lengthy cutscenes or conversations, as well as revisiting the same locations with minor changes, but the magic we all felt watching those original films pops up now and then, and that’s more than enough for me to push past some mediocre gameplay and eat up a story full of twists, turns, and treachery. If you are at all a fan of Marty McFly’s time travels, you’ll probably have a good time here, but point-and-click adventure gamers might not find enough challenge to keep their brain occupied. Still, if my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shit.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #30 – Tales from the Borderlands, Episode 1 “Zer0 Sum”

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Vault key deal goes south
For Rhys, Fiona, and friends
Zer0 loves haikus

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #21 – Batman: The Telltale Series, Episode 1 “Realm of Shadows”

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Batman and Bruce Wayne
One man, two lives–each in strife
Expose his parents

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #15 – Minecraft: Story Mode, Episode 1 “The Order of the Stone”

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EnderCon goes wrong
Find legendary people
More like Choicecraft, hurr

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

The Wolf Among Us is where wolves fear to prey

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I got through a decent chunk of The Wolf Among Us last year during my Extra Life event, sleepily playing it in the wee hours of the morning after I found myself walking off ledges too frequently in Dark Souls. Part of me suspects the reason I picked it is because, if I nodded off momentarily during a conversation scene, the scene can keep going, selecting “…” as Bigby’s appropriate response. I guarantee this happened a few times. I gare-run-tee it. I’m also fine with my Bigby being a bit shy or passive in his interactions with some people, even if later I made him ultra assertive and demanding when push came to shove. You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette, y’know.

The Wolf Among Us, which I constantly wrote incorrectly as A Wolf Among Us in its game review haikus, is a prequel to Bill Willingham’s Fables comic book universe, of which I’ve read not a single page. Bigby Wolf, formerly known as the Big Bad Wolf, is the Sheriff of Fabletown, which is a hidden community of fairytale characters located in New York City in the 1980s. After receiving a phone call from Mr. Toad, Bigby saves a young prostitute from an intoxicated and extremely vulgar Woodsman. He escorts her away to safety. Alas, later that night, Bigby is shocked to find the woman’s severed head left on the doorstep of the Woodland Luxury Apartments. Deputy Mayor Ichabod Crane orders him and Snow White to investigate her death.

I’ve had problems with these adventure romps from Telltale Games since basically the first mainstream one I touched: season one of The Walking Dead. I enjoyed that one a great deal, even if I saw that it was more adventuring than pointing and clicking and had a couple complications, but this was a different beast, playable first on a console and designed for a controller and distinctive pace. I’ve stopped referring to these as point and click adventure titles. They are dialogue adventures. Season two of The Walking Dead was a whole lot less game, and this carried over to Game of Thrones. I’ve not tried Tales from the Borderlands, Minecraft: Story Mode, or Batman: The Telltale Series yet, though I do have their first episodes downloaded and ready to go, but I suspect I won’t find anything new to love there.

In The Wolf Among Us, players control Bigby Wolf, who is investigating a murder. You’ll “explore” various environments throughout Fabletown, such as apartment buildings, a bar, a butcher’s shop, etc. I used quotation marks because you are extremely limited in where you can walk, and there are only so many things to interact with. Many are just there for lore and to unlock entries in your Book of Fables guide. Occasionally, items of interest are stored in an inventory on the side, but you don’t access this like you would in a more traditional point-and-click title; instead, if you have the item, it can come into play at a later time automatically. Gameplay ultimately boils down to talking with a host of pretty memorable characters, with conversations presented in the form of dialogue trees and responses on a timer. Depending on your choices, these will have a positive or negative effect on how people view Bigby, as well as larger plot-points down the road. Many scenes are heavy on action, requiring players to respond rapidly through QTE prompts, such as fighting off bad dudes or chasing after a vehicle speeding away. I failed a couple of things here and there, but unlike Shenmue the story thankfully moves forward regardless.

Here’s where The Wolf Among Us shines, obviously: the writing. It’s an entertaining, complex story, with a cast of characters that are fun to recognize and see how they fit into this alternative realm. Bigby is a villain trying to live a better life and help who he can, struggling to shed his past skin. That comes through strongly in the story, and his interaction with Snow White, at least the ones I saw and decided on, spoke volumes without every directly saying what each person thought of the other. I also liked the interaction between the fairytale characters that could pass among humans versus the ones that couldn’t without using expensive treatments called glamours, such as Mr. Toad. The real villains are villainous, and I found the Crooked Man to be profoundly striking, using his smarmy, distrustful words and loyalty of his goons to get his way. Spoilers: I let him talk for a good while before deciding to alter his form for good. That said, I think the end conversation between Bigby and Nerissa was meant to be more profound, but it came off as plain ol’ confusing. If you want to read some theories, here’s a good starting place.

I had the luxury of playing The Wolf Among Us mostly back to back after getting the whole thing at once from Games with Gold in April 2016, but for those that experienced it episodically, spread out over nine months, I can see some episodes not really satisfying or feeling like enough. The action scenes are few and simply a bunch of button presses, and I found it hard to sometimes see what was going on because I was more concerned with which button to hit next. That’s the most gameplay you get, and the rest is Bigby lone wolfing it on the streets of Fabletown, talking to people and responding accordingly. There are parts of the game where you can only go one way or another due to time restraints, which theoretically leads to replay value, but I don’t like replaying these things from Telltale Games because, to me, my first go-through is my only go-through. The decisions I made, the words I spoke–like real life, there’s no do-over.

Wait, remember earlier when I said that the writing was the best part of The Wolf Among Us? I was wrong. I forgot that the intro title sequence is amazing, using shadows and purple neon and deep, pulse-laden electronica music to set mood like nothing before, save for maybe Stranger Things. Even if that feeling doesn’t last for the entire episode, it certainly kicks things off on a great, furry foot. Let’s end this post on a highlight, on that. If Telltale Games doubles down on ambiance and atmosphere for season two, if there is to be one, I might return. I might.

Grinding Down‘s readers will remember that.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #82 – The Wolf Among Us, Episode 5 “Cry Wolf”

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Bigby, his true form
Helps bring in the Crooked Man
For justice, hard calls

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.