Back to the Future: The Game by Telltale Games logo

[Review] Back to the Future: Back Again!

I co-wrote this article with David Silberstein for Site of the Gaming Dead, a now-defunct video game blog. I have attempted to recreate the articles here on my portfolio, complete with original text and images (where possible).

That squee heard ’round the world? Yeah, that was Meredith, upon hearing about Telltale Games’ release of Back to the Future: The Game, a film-to-game franchise that hasn’t seen a refresh since the Sega Genesis days. As one of our favorite movie trilogies of all time, we were pretty excited, especially after sneaking a peek at the game’s screenshots via IGN. Judging from the previews, we were hoping BttF:tG would prove to be an original, fun adventure game true to the spirit of the films, no matter how dated they quite literally are. Telltale Games released the second episode, “Get Tannen!”, the follow-up to “It’s About Time,” on February 15th, with three more episodes to close off Telltale’s saga.

While the first two episodes are fun and do the movies justice, their short length and low replay value leave something to be desired.

Many famous elements from the movie trilogy return, including the DeLorean time machine, the Tannen family, the Hill Valley Courthouse, and manure trucks. The plot so far is enjoyable and introduces new characters seamlessly into the world created by writer/producer Bob Gale and his co-writer/producer Robert Zemeckis. Telltale Games has managed to write a story very reminiscent of the BttF movie trilogy, focusing on the relative ease at which the past and future can change with the slightest provocation on the part of Marty McFly or Doc Emmett Brown.

Christopher Lloyd, the original Doc Brown, lends his voice talent and likeness to the game, while Michael J. Fox, the movies’ Marty McFly, makes an appearance in likeness but not in voice. Replacing Fox is the talented A.J. Losciano, who voices Marty McFly so well you can’t tell the difference between his voice in the game and Fox’s in the movies. Gale has also provided his assistance to Telltale in crafting a game worthy of the Back to the Future title.

The controls are simple and easy to understand, whether you’re a seasoned adventure game player or not. The downside of this is that while object selection and decision points are easy to navigate, movement is clunky and awkward due to a compass-like indicator for Marty’s direction. You can also use the WASD or arrow keys to move around, but that doesn’t help mitigate the problems caused by the frequently-adjusting camera angle. With no way to control the camera yourself, the game forces you to rely on directional memory and an ability to quickly adjust.

As an adventure game, BttF’s focus is on solving puzzles. You have to determine what objects are potentially useful from your inventory. Like many other adventure games, the single most helpful piece of advice we have to offer is this: click everything! The puzzles range from simplistic and easy to somewhat complicated, with the more complex puzzles involving interacting with several characters and using multiple items from your inventory in order to progress. Unfortunately, the game features puzzles that require you to “hurry up and wait” for events to occur, typically as the result of a repetitive action. When you get stuck, there is an in-game hint system that you can utilize, but much of the time, it tells you things you already know. Most hints progress rapidly progress from “subtle clue” to “here’s what you should do” status within three or fewer clicks.

Just as things seem to reach a climactic point, the episode abruptly comes to an end, forcing you to wait until the next installment’s release. For the remaining three episodes, this is on a monthly basis, with the final episode to be released in May. While each episode so far has been filled with puzzles, even a novice adventure gamer can complete an installment within less than four hours. With a $24.95 price tag, it seems that a lot of the cost is going to fund the adherence to the BttF traditions while somewhat neglecting the content in each episode. This is not to say that the game so far hasn’t been a lot of fun, but it feels like there’s still quite a bit that can be done in each chapter.

If you’re looking for a good adventure game, there are a lot of other options out there, made by Telltale or other companies. But if you’re a Back to the Future fan, the game series takes the best elements of the movies and makes them playable in a continuation of the story established by the film trilogy. While the game is very BttF-esque and enjoyable, it doesn’t quite hit 88 miles per hour.

Lucky: 3/5