by Chris Capel
reviewed on PC
It’s About Time
The Back To The Future films hold a special place in many people’s hearts. Arguably the most perfect film trilogy of all time, it is understandable that all rumors of sequels get quickly dashed. It would take an utterly insane group of people to follow such a much-loved and iconic saga.
Telltale Games, luckily for us gamers and Back To The Future fans, are that insane. Does the first episode in their sequel go where no one has gone before or is the Force not with them at all?
Wait, what franchise are we talking about again?
You built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?
Stop holding your breath – Telltale’s Back To The Future: The Game does get the feeling of the films just right. Everything from the voices to the music to having to turn the time circuits on before you go back in time just screams Back To The Future. The voices were my main worry, as only Christopher Lloyd returns from the movies to voice Doc Brown. AJ LoCascio replaces Michael J Fox and gets Marty spookily right for about 80-90% of the time. He croaks occasionally, but hell, so does Christopher Lloyd. Kid Beyond plays the Tannen family instead of Tom Wilson, who isn’t returning for some classified reason, and while isn’t always perfect he gets the characters pretty close. The surprise standout is Young Emmett, who I was utterly astonished to find wasn’t Lloyd with some post-performance voice treatment. It’s actually James Arnold Taylor, who plays Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and does him perfectly as an uncomfortable teen.
Visually the game is on par with Telltale’s work on Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse, and while it is no Ghostbusters in terms of recreating 80s icons perfectly, the highly stylized look suits Back To The Future. Animations are occasionally a little bit stiff as usual with Telltale games, but otherwise it’s nice to look at.
The story I won’t spoil anything major with. It is a year after the events of Part III and everyone but Marty thinks Doc is dead. The bank is selling off his stuff, and Marty is missing his friend. Then a certain DeLorean reappears and Marty is off on another adventure. Every question you might want to ask is explained, like the resurrection of the time machine and where exactly Clara and the kids are. Apart from Einstein, Doc’s family doesn’t play a role in the proceedings, which is a bit selfish of them considering what goes down in this episode. Couldn’t they have helped Doc instead of Marty? Typical family.
There are several new characters in the episode, mostly consisting of family members/ancestors of the main Back To The Future protagonists (as usual). Apart from the aforementioned Young Emmett my personal favorite is Edna Strickland, who you meet in the past and “present” (1986), and in both cases she’s insane, a staunch supporter of government-approved morals without understanding quite what they mean. She’s great fun, especially when yelling at kids for no big reason.
Great in terms of character and story, and if that’s all you are after in a Back To The Future game you will be very happy (it was certainly enough for me frankly). The gameplay itself, however, and the puzzles are not quite so strong. Telltale has to cater for a broader audience this time, so pretty much everyone will cruise right through it. Even if you happen to have the slightest of problems, there are pop-up messages, goals and hints so there is really no way you can get stuck. You can turn off all these pop-ups in the options, but they still intrude several times in the game and take up a quarter of the screen. The entire opening area, where you can explore Doc’s house, has one of these huge messages patronizing you the entire time. If you do what it says trying to get rid of it, you will be in the next part of the game and unable to explore the house anymore.
There are a few technical issues with a few backgrounds being pixelated, shadows occasionally behaving oddly (particularly in the finale) and Marty occasionally having weird cute anime eyes, but these aren’t much of a problem. However, there was one moment I experienced where a crucial cutscene failed to play and I then had solve a puzzle without the clue I needed to actually do it. Furthermore, the autosaves are a bit broken and sometimes throw you way back in the story.
To Be Continued
The game is ultimately also a bit short. You may expect that, it being just an episode, but even with the straightforward puzzles it is still noticeably briefer than the usual Telltale episodes. This isn’t necessarily a problem as the story remains interesting all the way through, and just when you expect it to end it obviously doesn’t. Just from the first episode it is obvious Telltale have succeeded in something even the film’s creators didn’t dare to try: follow-up Back to the Future. While the puzzles may be simple and a few technical hitches pop up, the story itself holds your attention. It will be a long wait until February. Unless I could just borrow that car for a second...
Decidedly Back To The Future in every way. A worthy next chapter.
Short even for a Telltale episode, with simple hand-holding puzzles.