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Mac/PC Game Review: Back to the Future – The Game: Episode 1 – “It’s About Time”

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At this point in time, Telltale Games’ style is well established.  They have become very successful in recent years putting out “seasons” of a game made up of several different “episodes.”  The games’ style harkens back to the classic LucasArts games of more than a decade ago – Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max Hit the Road, and various Monkey Island games (both the Sam & Max and Monkey Island franchises have even been reborn at Telltale) 

In these games, the player goes around talking to everyone and performing small activities to solve puzzles and progress the story.  These aren’t games that will get your adrenaline flowing, but they will make your brain work and provide a great sense of satisfaction every time you figure something out.   The end of December marked the launch of Telltale’s latest game season and this time out the have opted to do a Back to the Future game.

As we all know, games based on movies tend to be less than stellar products and all too often come off felling like little more than an inexpensive way to cash-in on a blockbuster film.  Telltale’s Back to the Future certainly breaks away from that stereotype.  It is a title executed in the exact same style as Telltale’s other games and retains all the fun and frustration of those games.  And, while the new game does take place within the Back to the Future universe and while you do get to play as Marty McFly, you’re not going to simply be mimicking his steps from the film trilogy.

Initially, however, that doesn’t appear to be the case.  The game begins with Marty showing up at the Twin Pines mall at Doc Brown’s behest, and Einstein does get to be the first living being to try out the DeLorean.  Things quickly take a turn from the film script though when the dog doesn’t reappear a minute after he hits 88mph.  In fact, the game’s first episode, entitled “It’s About Time,” and the only one currently available, takes you to the Hill Valley of the Great Depression, something we never got to see in any of the three movies.

Despite the story being different, the first episode does manage to stay true to Back to the Future-style plot devices.  Not only does Marty run into his ancestors as well as those of Biff Tannen and James Strickland, but he even meets a young Doc Brown.  In fact, there is even a chase around the town square that ends exactly as a chase around Hill Valley’s town square should end.

As indicated above, the game is not without frustrations either.  Should you get stuck at any point (and not want to use the hints or the online walkthrough, which, let’s face it, is cheating), you will find yourself repeating conversations over and over and over again.  The way the game operates during a conversation is by offering you a set of possible responses, and while these sometimes provide clues about what you’re supposed to do, they can also stymie your own thought processes by not allowing you to head in the direction you’d like to take.   Are you kept on the right track?  Yes, but it sometimes feels like the answer could have been reached in another – perhaps better – way.

Telltale has done a good job recruiting voice actors for the game, and while they don’t always sound exactly like the characters from the films, they are sometimes eerily similar.   Well, that’s not quite always true, the 1985 Doc Brown does sound exactly like the one from the film, which is pretty impressive considering that Christopher Lloyd, who plays both, is now 25 years older than he was then.  Although he does not provide a voice, Bob Gale, who co-created and co-wrote the films also collaborated on the project.

In the end, one gets the sense with this first episode in Telltale’s Back to the Future game that a whole lot of love, care, and thought has gone into it.  There are tons of references back to the movies and those who made them, there are moments in the plot which feel like the same sort of thing that would have appeared on film had the film gone to 1931, and a general feel that this  game has been made to honor the franchise as much as it has been made to expand it.

If you’re a fan of the movie and/or remotely enjoy puzzle games in the Telltale style, you’re going to love their take on Back to the Future and should definitely consider getting the download.

Back to the Future – The Game: Episode 1 – “It’s About Time” is not rated by the ESRB. It is/will be also available on iPhone and PlayStation 3.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • https://www.gamingnerd.com Justin Dupre

    Big fan of this movie when I was a kid… Too bad they didn’t keep much of the storyline in the game.

  • MJF96

    This movie is an insperation among all the generations this is the best 3 movies i have ever watched.Some say this is lame but do you want to go back in time i would want to see it first out on the big screen. Bob Gale and Robert Zemecks are true lovers of time travel and the way chistopher lloyd and michael j fox acted they are the true characters of this movie it is like this is so real and how lea thompson did her sweet voice to marty her son that was precious this is a movie no one will ever forget!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • MJF96

    the game is so cool but i wish michael j fox did his voice then it would be a rembrance from the past of the real Doc and Marty