Back to the Future:
It's About Time
Time traveling sports cars, doe-eyed Canadians, wild-haired scientists, a few brushes with total removal from history and exclamations towards the greatness of those found north of Hadrian's Wall: it can only be Back to the Future. And it's got a game. But not just any game. Not some movie-merchandise spin-off. Back to the Future: The Game is the digital adventure partner this iconic 80s trilogy deserves. Or it will be, once more of the episodic releases hit our virtual shelves. Marty McFly and the Doc are at it again, joining forces with Telltale Games and taking the DeLorean (with Flux Capacitor upgrade) for a spin through time and space.
It has been a good couple of decades since the last movie was released, and even the marvel of home DVD can't ensure that everyone knows what Back to the Future is. If you doubt this claim, consider that I have met college students who never heard of 'Gremlins'. Back to the Future was a fantastic trilogy released in the last half of the 80s in which teen slacker Marty McFly has to reunite the teenage couple who would become his parents, stop his son from arrest in 2015, move the current timeline out of an alternative reality after a mishap with a book of sports scores, and end up taking down the outlaw "Mad Dog" Tannen in the Wild West of 19th century Hill Valley. It's an 80s masterpiece, cinematic classic and just about the best time-traveling movies ever made (with a nod to Bill & Ted).
Back to the Future: The Game starts a few months after the events of the trilogy (which, relatively speaking, took place over a few hours). Marty wakes up from a dream (an experience fans of the first movie will get a kick out of) and rushes to the Doc's place. Doc Brown hasn't been seen for quite a while and the city has decided to start pawning his stuff. Marty, nostalgically going through the place, is soon surprised with the arrival of the DeLorean, with Einstein (Doc's dog) inside. A tape recording reveals that the car came back as a failsafe, if Doc didn't use it after a certain amount of time. That means he's in trouble and it is up to Marty to find out where and when he is — and go rescue him.
Analysis: Back to the Future: The Game does an impressive job recreating the classic movies for a new audience in a new medium. The transition from the ending of Back to the Future III isn't as convincing as it could have been, but it's done with such style and taste that only puritan fans would object. Marty is voiced by a convincing doppleganger for Michael J. Fox and the Doc is revisited by none other than Christopher Lloyd himself. Some stuff is hit (Biff's model) and miss(Marty's dad sounds nothing like Crispin Glover), but this is the best work Telltale has ever delivered. Note that I say 'work' and not 'game'. To me the experience was 99% there, but the design is hardly vexing. There is no object combining and pretty much every puzzle will collapse under the scientific application of exhausting dialog trees and using your spartan inventory on everything in sight. If that still holds you down, the hint system does everything but move the mouse for you.
In terms of quality, writing and length, Back to the Future: The Game is at least as good as the best of the Sam & Max episodics. It sits well above those games in the animation department. Perhaps we can thank this game's required presence in the mid 1980s, but the game also skips all the painful pop-culture jokes that ruined much of the Sam & Max experience. And it takes great care to bring Hill Valley, the perpetual stage for Marty and Doc's adventures, back to life without feeling goofy with fanboyishness ala Monkey Island. I'll say Telltale got back To The Future just right, though they should really consider adding a 'pro' mode for us salted adventurephiles.
Would this game be any less impressive without the nostalgia of the movies hanging around my neck? I don't know, but I doubt it. Nostalgia is overrated. Despite being a devoted fan of the series, the new Monkey Island games only managed to push me away. If anything, hardcore Back to the Future fans run the biggest risk of getting a bad taste in their mouths. It definitely will not hurt to watch the movies, so that you have some context and can enjoy all the little touches. But this first episode really shows that Telltale understands what made Back to the Future work. The next five months are going to be quite interesting as the saga of Marty, Doc and a few time-related problems enter our lives.
Get the full version
Mac OS X:
Get the full version (via Steam)