There’s been a trend in recent years for exhuming and crudely reanimating our beloved 80s childhood fiction. Following sub-par rehashes of Ghostbusters and Transformers (don’t argue - the modern interpretation is a criminal distortion of the source material), it’s natural to be concerned about the proposition of a new Back to the Future game.
But Telltale Games have the C.V. for it. They have managed to breathe new life into other series, most notably Sam & Max and Monkey Island. And with Back to the Future, they continue with their task of popularising (and monetising) episodic point-and click adventure games.
The story begins in 1986 but it’s not long before Marty finds himself in Prohibition-era Hill Valley attempting to spring Doc from prison. How? By convincing a reluctant 17-yr old Emmet Brown to turn his back on the legal career his father wants for him, and instead pursue a life in science. The main antagonist in 1931 is mob boss 'Kid' Tannen, who has all the family traits you'd expect. Spanning five episodes and totalling around twelve hours of gameplay, the plot skips merrily between the 30s and various dystopic visions of 1986, with the story unfolding through inter-puzzle cut-scenes.
BTTF’s development involved a number of people from the original movies, just as Terminal Reality’s Ghostbusters game did back in 2009. Bob Gale was a consultant to the story, while Christopher Lloyd reprises his role as Doc Brown and Claudia Wells returns as Jennifer. Marty McFly is played by AJ LoCascio, who absolutely nails it as a 1980s Michael J. Fox (in case you’re wondering, the man himself makes a couple of appearances in the final episode). Unlike Ghostbusters, the acting maintains a high standard throughout and Murray’s performance as Venkman seems even more apathetic when compared with the energetic Lloyd in BTTF.
Any serious fan of the point-and-click adventures would be disappointed if they expected BTTF to be in any way comparable with genre classics like The Longest Journey or Broken Sword. Like most of Telltale’s previous offerings, the puzzles are easy and the gameplay as a whole feels quite superficial. There's also a comprehensive hint system that seems to stop only just short of solving the problem for you.
You could argue that the simplicity is built into Telltale’s episodic model. If a player can’t complete episode one, why would they buy episode two? But the developers compensate here by appealing to the hearts of the original trilogy's fans: Alan Silvestri's score makes a welcome return, the script contains more in-jokes than a best man speech, and Hill Valley’s familiar settings have been recreated with care.
BTTF is a game with a great aesthetic but mediocre graphics. The heavily stylised visuals were an excellent design choice — somehow fitting the tone of the movies — but you’ll definitely witness the odd glitch and a lot of bland scenery. Often the issues can be ignored, but there are some cut-scenes where more refined graphics/animations would have made a difference. Most notably, any kind of physical contact looks awkward, so the drama of moments involving anything from a hug to a punch is diminished.
There are also some control issues. Moving Marty on both the PS3 and PC can be tricky in different ways. As players of other Telltale games will be aware, point-and-click is used only for object selection. To move, you need to point-and-drag on the PC, or use the analogue stick on the PS3. Fixed camera positions can often make this tricky, and on the PS3 in particular, controlling Marty can be clunky or just plain inaccurate at times.
But none of that takes away too severely from what Telltale Games have achieved here. By taking a simpler approach to gameplay than Ghostbusters did, the source material is allowed to shine, rather than getting bogged down in complex mechanics that overshadow the soul of the franchise. Back to the Future: The Game is not without its faults, but fans of the movies shouldn't be afraid to jump in and give it a try.
- Great original story
- Excellent voice acting
- A lot of fun for fans of the movies
- Puzzles are easy
- Some graphical glitches
- A little repetitive in places
Back to the Future: The Game PS3 Review
For some of us, the words “Back to the Future Game” are synonymous with everything that was bad about our hobby in the 80s, but this five-episode point-and-click adventure from Telltale finally does gaming justice to the cherished movies. The plot, script and acting combine perfectly to recapture the atmosphere of the films, and despite the lack of challenge, it’s a must-try for anyone who ever dreamt of hitting 88mph in a DeLorean.
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