Review: Back to the Future (Ep. 1) – It’s About Time

Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: December 22, 2010


Telltale just announced that the first episode of Back to the Future is available for free, this alone should be reason enough to check out the game.  When I first heard about the game, I was pretty excited about it; not necessarily because Telltale makes spectacular games, but because the subject matter is near and dear to my 80’s loving heart.  The Back to the Future movies, are the type of movies that if they’re on TV, I’m probably going to watch it.  I’ve seen them all enough times that I can drop in and out of the movie, know where it is and enjoy whatever scenes I’ve stopped to watch.  When the 25th anniversary edition was released and AMC was playing all three movies back-to-back-to-back every night of the week, I watched at least some of each movie every night.  Probably more than is normal for most people.

So, Back to the Future (The Game) takes place six short months after Doc Brown and Marty’s third movie wherein Doc Brown decided to stay in the Wild West with his lady love, the teacher, Clara.  It’s May, 1986 and Marty and his father are dealing with the sale of all of Doc’s things since his “disappearance”.  When Marty heads outside in frustration, an intact DeLorean materializes in front of Marty.  As Marty, you search for clues in the car and those clues lead you downtown to meet with an older lady, a former journalist, named Edna Strickland.  What you find from her apartment eventually leads Marty back to the DeLorean which he steers to 1931 where Doc Brown has landed in jail as a suspect in an arson case.

It’s Marty’s job in 1931 to befriend Doc Brown’s younger self and find a way to get the older Doc freed from prison before ‘bad things happen’.

If you played other Telltale games, then you’re going to be pretty familiar with the format.  If you haven’t, it’s a straightforward sort of point-and-click adventure game.  You lead Marty around, click around to find clues and items that help you figure out how to progress the story.  Both Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd gave permission for their likenesses to be used to create Marty McFly and Emmett “Doc” Brown, so the game feels as familiar as the movies might if you’ve seen them as many time as I have.  As an added bonus, Christopher Lloyd has provided his characteristic voice so Doc Brown sounds as he should.  Michael J. Fox does not voice Marty but newcomer AJ LoCascio does a great job of getting Marty’s voice down.  These details make the game what it is.  Without their unique voices and likenesses, I doubt this game would be seeing the same success it is.  There are other returning characters from the series, both George McFly and Bif Tannen make appearances and as is characteristic for the series, we also meet McFly and Tannen family members when Marty travels back in time.  Though they’re not voiced by their original actors, they’re done well enough to not be a distraction.

The game is short, as there are four more installments due.  But, you can get a few hours enjoyment out of wandering around Hill Valley circa 1931 and exploring the places and meeting the people therein.  What makes this game is the characters.  The same witty characters and dialogue are there and there’s obvious real effort in making this game feel and fit into the Back to the Future cannon as possible.  The puzzles are fairly easy, nothing really challenges you, though with four more acts to follow it’s hard to say if that’s just this episode or if we’ll be able breeze through them all.  As I said before, if you’re familiar with previous Telltale series: Wallace and Gromit, Sam and Max — this isn’t going to feel much different.  In fact, much like with the Wallace and Gromit series, I feel that the experience is in the characters and the call-backs to a familiar series that make this worth the time and money.

With the first episode free, if you’re a fan of the series, there’s no reason not to try this game out.  But, I would recommend grabbing the whole series.  At $25 when all five episodes are finished and released, you’ll get a several hours trek through a game with familiar characters in a new story that feels like it belongs alongside the first three movies.

I’ll be back soon with reviews for Chapters 2 and 3 of this game – I’m just as interested to see how the story progresses.