Since the beginning of the science-fiction genre of moviemaking, fans everywhere have been overwhelmed by feature films sporting advanced cinematography techniques and special effects. In 1985, Robert Zemeckis partnered with Universal Studios to unveil a memorable classic.
Back To The Future was a trilogy that not onlysolidified the career of breakout actor, Michael J. Fox, but also became known as a highly popular franchise that would remain profitable long after its release. In 2011, Telltale games took their patented episodic gaming formula and infused it with the newly acquired licensing rights to the series. The result is an impressive five-part story arc that recaptures the essence of the films while spotlighting key characters from one chapter to the next.
Episode 1: It’s About Time opens the series on a high note. The premise takes place several months after Back To The Future III and revolves around Marty McFly tracking down the whereabouts of Doctor Emmett Brown. His journey leads him to the controversial Prohibition era of the 1930’s, where he must rescue Doc while keeping the core balance of the time and space continuum intact. We are also introduced to Edna Strickland, an outspoken activist, and significant part of the whole story.
Episode 2: Get Tannen focuses on Marty’s dilema of trying to prevent his grandfather’s assassination by the ruthless criminal Kid Tannen. The bold decision to alter time leads to Marty crossing paths with more family members and Emmett developing a new relationship with Edna.
Episode 3: Citizen Brown further elaborates on newfound partnerships by showing how the past events negatively affect the current. Instead of exercising his passion for inventing, Emmett becomes wrapped up in using his gifts to shape society. As a result, Marty is left to confront Emmett on his ambitious decisions.
Episode 4: Double Visions is easily labeled as an escape chapter. After experiencing the negative ramifications of time travel, Marty and Emmett must work together to fix both the past and present.
Episode 5: Outatime caps off the series nicely by tying up all the loose ends of the story and promising more to come from future games. It’s also worth noting that Michael J. Fox returns as a character to give some added star power to an already stellar cast.
Overall, Back To The Future: The Game is a solid effort from Telltale. The gameplay system is designed to be an easy interactive, click and play title that allows you to examine objects, solve puzzles, and engage in multi-layered conversations.The addition of a mystery storyline can be easily compared to plots found in the infamous Sam and Max games.
The only difference here is in the length of authenticity the studio has gone through to pay homage to the movies. The voice acting is on a completely different level and only benefits further because of the decision to include the original cast in the creative process. Voiceover newcomer, AJ LoCascio, is brilliant as Marty and is extremely believable to audiences familiar with the character.
Graphically, the game carries on a stylized cartoony art style that greatly suits both the subject matter and comical misadventures of the characters. Signature cast favorites like Biff Tannen, and George McFly make appearances and factor into solving some of the puzzles via conversational pieces.
For example, in Episode 1 Biff captures a detailed book of Doc’s experiments that you are tasked with getting back. I was under the impression that these puzzles would all remain repetitive, but was happily surprised to see the range of options. They nailed the concept by making the task of problem solving a balanced and equally rewarding experience.
Diehard fans of the films will have to pay close attention to their surroundings and the events leading up to the exchange to successfully complete each objective. There is also an option to turn on notifications or hints in the menus, which aid in making things much easier overall. Lastly, there is a robust inventory system that helps to store new items, which will come in handy as you progress through the game.
While the full game offers dynamic set pieces and a great story, there are a few annoyances that have me concerned about the future episodes. For starters, the scope of each 3d environment appears large but the player is still limited by a flawed camera and control system. There will be instances where you’ll have to navigate along a path and be restricted to only that area. This is bothersome because you’ll want to see all that an area has to offer but won’t be able to. I can understand the philosophy behind limiting the exploration area one has to travel, but I would at least hope that at some point camera views could be improved upon.
Another aspect that I think could strengthen this franchise would be the decision to make the outcome of your choices more significant. There was one scene in the episode where Marty mentions about not wanting to talk to one random stranger for fear that he would affect their timeline. While these concepts are teased, I have yet to see this theory tested in the actual game.
Obviously everything is scripted for a reason, but it would at least be nice to see what could happen when one thinks outside the box. Adding bridging points like these could not only extend the game’s length, but also encourage the possibilities of having multiple endings.
The full game should take you about 8-10 hours to complete and you’ll always have the incentive to go back if interested. There are no multiplayer elements involved in the game, as the central focus is on playing as Marty. It would have been interesting if multiplayer was implemented to help solve puzzles though.
I also believe that if some puzzles were timed it would add to the urgency of completing certain tasks as they are assigned. Again, I understand that the idea behind the game was to do the license justice and for the most part it does that extremely well. I would only hope that future installments can better emphasize the delicate boundaries of time travel and choices.
Back to the Future: The Game is a compelling single player experience that continues the legacy of a storied franchise while appealing to audiences from all walks of life. The presentation, graphics, voice-acting, and story are part of an impressive package that delivers time and time again. While glaring camera angles, and repetitive puzzles can be a bit of a letdown, it will never once factor into the amount of fun you’ll have playing this game. The title is currently available for PS3, Mac, PC, and the IPad platform.
This review was based on a retail download copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by Telltale Games.