Back to the Future: The Game

Time flies, so live for today. That’s one of the core messages of the Back to the Future trilogy; the classic 80’s adventure that spans a hundred years of time-traveling fun. It’s a message which is revisited in a new way with Telltale’s official BTTF game, which has finally concluded its five-episode run with the release of Episode 5: OUTATIME.

As outlined in Ready Up’s earlier reviews of Episode 1: It’s About Time and Episode 2: Get Tannen!, the Back to the Future game is an episodic adventure series from the minds behind Sam and Max and Tales of Monkey Island. This means you’ll spend a lot of time talking to locals, solving item puzzles with the stuff you’re carrying around and find on the ground, as well as, yes, pointing and clicking. For the most part, this is ideal for telling this linear tale of what happens seven months after the conclusion of the movies, even if each episode can beaten fairly quickly.

The short length of each episode isn’t the main issue; the game is just far too easy. In addition to a robust hint system – which not only outlines Marty’s current goal but also flat-out tells you what to do if you get really stuck – a couple of puzzles are actually re-used across the episodes, so most players will zoom through each session. You can turn the hint systems off, as I did during my play-throughs, although anyone who has beaten, say, a Monkey Island game will have no problem regardless. That said, there are a couple of well-done action sequences in which Marty must use his environment to his advantage in fun, interesting ways, such as a confrontation with Biff where a conveniently placed table-mechanism is within reach.

But none of the gameplay snags matter. Back to the Future fans aren’t here for hardcore adventure game puzzles, they’re here for wonderfully mad pseudo-science, timeless characters, simple-but-smart plot setups and tense chase sequences involving a DeLorean and almost anything resembling a skateboard. This, I’m pleased to say, the game has in aplomb. Thanks to the inclusion of authentic voice work – featuring Chistopher Lloyd as Doc Brown, Claudia Wells as Jennifer Parker, and an eerily-accurate AJ LoCascio as Marty – as well as original trilogy writer Bob Gale, it’s not hard to imagine this being the fourth movie of the franchise. Bits and pieces of Alan Silvestri’s almost legendary music compositions are present, along with a number of original tracks produced in-house. In general, the sharp, cartoony visuals do a great job of portraying the various eras of Hill Valley, although a couple of assets are duplicated between each outing.

Despite being produced one after another on a roughly monthly schedule, Telltale has maintained a fairly consistent level of quality for each outing. Episode 1 and 2 set up the overall plot dilemma with relative ease. Episode 3: Citizen Brown breaks the mould a little bit, taking some inspiration from A Clockwork Orange and 1984 and moving into darker territory, ultimately debating the ethics and implications of time travel. Episode 4: Double Visions takes this even further, occasionally questioning the morality of the actions of the player and even Marty McFly.

For the those who’ve been along for the whole ride, Episode 5 finally brings us answers to the increasing riddles of past episodes. Why did Doc make another trip back in time in the first place? What’s up with Marty’s grandmother? Can Citizen Brown be stopped? And will Marty’s life ever be the same? Spoilers aside, all I’ll say is that the ending manages to tie all of these elements together into a cohesive whole, while evoking the spirit of the first film’s ending in a special way… and it does it by being bloody insane at the same time. In a final twist unveiled just as things calm down, Telltale simultaneously homages the series and pokes fun at it, with a conclusion that both sets up a second season and is laugh out loud  funny. This is all ignoring a fantastic multi-part cameo by every-one’s favourite 80’s teenage actor throughout the final episode. It’s pretty great.







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