Back to the Future: The Game

Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    TellTale Games & Universal Studios

Released:  November 2011

PC Requirements:   Windows XP/Vista/Windows7, Pentium 4 2.0 GHz or 100% compatible CPU 512 MB RAM, 3 GB available hard disk space , DirectX 9,0c 



by flotsam


Like Tales of Monkey Island before it, this review looks at the five-part series as a whole, rather than episode by episode. GameBoomers reviewed each episode of Back to the Future: The Game as it came out, and you can read those if you want to know about the plot or the intricacies of each component. What you get here is the impression that it made on someone who didn’t play any of the episodes when they first released, but played it through recently from go to whoa.

Unlike Tales of Monkey Island, which I played on DVD, I downloaded this from Steam. I had no trouble with its operation, and while I could access any episode I wanted whether I had finished the earlier ones or not, I am not sure why you would want to. It is very much a single story, so if you are going to play them all you would be well advised to start at the start.

My overall impression was that this was adventure-lite. I read somewhere that it was aimed more at casual gamers and fans of the movie, and it felt like that. Puzzling was less than puzzling, rarely offering anything more than a hiccup rather than a challenge, which made it more like an interactive story than an adventure game. That is not to say there aren’t things to do, just that propelling the narrative seemed the primary consideration.

The movie links were enhanced not only by the environments and the accoutrements being straight out of the big screen trilogy, but by Christopher Lloyd voicing Doc and by an exceptional Michael J. Fox impersonation from AJ LoCascio. The plot picks up after Back to the Future Part III, and further ties into the BTTF world. You don’t need to have seen the movies (although you will likely miss some of the in-jokes and references), but no doubt if you are thinking of playing the games you will have done so. A fan of the movies has a definite leg up.

I did think that the lite-ness was more or less an issue depending upon what the story was doing. It's witty and well written, but it did seem to lag in places. When it did, the fact that there was not much in the way of gaming was obvious. I don’t like casual games, so you can factor that into my impression, but all in all this was a peaks and troughs kind of thing.

I do think that the experience was enhanced by not having to play it episodically. I suspect that, had I played an episode that I found limited in its engagement factor, I might not have continued to the next one. I find that a lot with TV series, and much prefer watching them once they are all available, so that low points can be immediately moved on from by watching another episode. Of course, that doesn’t work if none are any good!, which is not the case here.

When it hits a peak, Back to the Future: The Game sparkles with those things that made the movies hum – the characters, the repartee, the time travelling paradoxes and the way it conveys a matter-of-factness about the unreal goings-on. Troughs however accentuate the lack of game play, and exacerbate the silliness of what is happening. There were less of the latter than the former, but they did exist.

Doc and Marty stand out, and drive the whole thing as you would expect. Some new characters are introduced, some with links to the past, and some other old-timers are present as well. Einstein (the dog not the person) is present, and has a pivotal role in getting things going. He admirably serves the ‘dogs should feature more in adventure games’ cause.

An in-game hint system will ensure you are never stuck (in keeping with the focus on the narrative), and you can choose to have objectives revealed as Marty discovers them or not. Game play is simple and straightforward, and you have numerous ways to get around the environment. I never warmed to the click and drag, preferring to use the keyboard, but clicking on hotspots was sufficient in many locations.

Back to the Future: The Game isn’t terribly long and, in the end, I reckon this is a really a game for fans of the movie. I don’t think it contains enough “oomph” for hardcore adventurers, but it pays homage to its movie roots, knows what makes the franchise work, and targets those things. If all things Marty McFly are your things, check it out.


Back to the Future: The Game can be purchased at the Telltale Games website.

November 2011

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