Back to the Future: The Game – Episode 1
“He’s alive! The Doc’s alive! He’s in the Old West, but he’s alive!” “Wait a minute, kid! You need help?!” “There’s only one man who-” Okay let’s just fast forward a bit, through 1885, and through the end credits of the third movie. Now we’re in the present, good ol’ May 14, 1986. Set a few months after part III, Back to the Future: The Game serves as more than the simple aftermath.
The game opens with you re-enacting the famous scene from the first movie: where Marty and Doc run the first test of the DeLorean behind Twin Pines Mall. For hardcore fans of the franchise, this scene very well tests how much of the script you’ve committed to memory. Beyond this point is where the real game begins, episode 1, It’s About Time.
When the DeLorean was struck by lightning in the second movie it caused a paradox where the vehicle was duplicated. The DeLorean that Doc rode in was sent into 1885, while a copy was created and sent into 2015. Doc would find the second DeLorean in the future sometime when he’d created the time travel train. This led to installing the automatic retrieval in the second car.
Despite Marty knowing that the Doc’s gone, or rather, no longer existing in his present time period, he’s obviously having a hard time letting go. It’s not helping that the bank is claiming Doc’s former home and George McFly is putting up all the belongings for sale. When things couldn’t get any more daunting, the DeLorean suddenly appears in the driveway (see info box), with Einstein (the dog, not the scientist) at the steering wheel. Discovered is a tape recorder within the time machine containing a recording of Doc advising Marty that the DeLorean had been installed with an automatic retrieval function. If Doc was not to return to the DeLorean within an allotted time, it will auto-warp into his driveway in 1986 in hopes of being found by Marty. Apparently this means Doc’s in trouble, trapped somewhere in time, and it’s time to get that flux capacitor… fluxing.
Marty is led to 1931’s Hill Valley, where the Doc is imprisoned as a suspect for the burning of a speakeasy. Unless Marty breaks him out, it’s revealed that Doc will be killed by Kid Tannen, owner of the aforementioned speakeasy. Preventing this future involves solving puzzles and helping the people he meets, specifically a teenage Emmett Brown.
Back to the Future: The Game is everything a movie-based game should be. All the details stay true to the trilogy including the mythos, nostalgic film references, the epic theme song, and even the Hill Valley of 1931 is faithfully designed based on the prime schematics laid out in the films. Topping it off is its comical orientation. If Pixar was given a chance to create their own Back to the Future spin-off, this game would be the result; a light hearted visual masterpiece complete with a suitable soundtrack. With that said, the animation is just as crisp as the likes of any of today’s reputable titles. The voice acting is spot on and it’s not just because Christopher Lloyd reprised his role as Doc. A.J. Locascio did such a bang up job as Marty you really couldn’t tell that it’s not Michael J. Fox behind the mic.
If one was to look back on the films, the choice of making the game a point-and-click adventure is an obvious one. However, given the slow-paced nature of these titles, the enjoyment can be questionable. Telltale Games had obviously considered this issue by making the unique puzzles over-simplistic and easy, however, in doing so they’ve engaged in a most risky balancing act. Hardcore fans of the movies may appreciate the widened accessibility, but at the same token, puzzle enthusiasts may be disappointed in the lack of difficulty.
Fans of either side may find themselves having a hard time staying interested given that the adventure takes place in 1931: there’s not a whole lot of fun to be had in the era of The Great Depression. When Marty finally rescues Doc and we witness the signature cliffhanger ending, despite knowing that this is an episodic fanfare, one can’t help but feel rather unsatisfied.
Generally speaking, Back to the Future: The Game is still worth some attention for fans of the movies. Its appropriate choices in art and audio, along with its 200% dedication to the films, will definitely keep Future fanatics off the manure. However, when it comes to the gameplay, my advice would be to try and not take it too seriously. To be continued…