Game Review: Back to the Future: The Game (Season One)

Video games and movies have a love/hate relationship going on.  The game industry loves to make games off of film licenses, and recently the movie industry has been making films off of game licenses.  Given the cinematic qualities and focus on narrative that the two share you think that they would compliment each other perfectly, but alas they mix as well as mustard and peanut butter.  If there is one thing that seems to be the common in the failure it is that the thing that makes the games/films suck is A: they are rushed or uninspired and B: they fail to capture the spirit of the other.  Excluding superhero games (they have more than enough material outside of the films to work off of) I can only think of a single game in history that was able to turn a film world into a captivating game which captured all the reasons I loved the movie.  That game is Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.  If anyone reading this has actually played it you know exactly what I’m talking about (and you are also awesome).  You got to go on an adventure with Indy and explore foreign lands and solve puzzles together and the snappy writing captured the feel of the delightful dialogue in the films all in a nice move at your own pace point and click adventure game.  As a kid I was quite enthralled by the game, even as I went back and revisited it again in the future.  Now before I really go off topic here, there is a second game that truly captures every single bit of magic that films had and delivers the sequel fans have been clamoring for many years now.  That game, based on one of the best film series ever, is Back to the Future: The Game, from Telltale Games.

From the moment the intro screen on the game flashed up with iconic Back to the Future score there was nothing but an ear to ear grin on my face as the game segued into a recreation of the first scenes in the original film where Marty and Doc are testing out the DeLorean.  It plays out quite familiar until a twist is thrown in and Doc disappears (again…).  This eventually leads to the iconic DeLorean finding itself next to Marty with a message from Doc in dire need of help.  And from there Marty is sent on a time traveling adventure you’re not likely to forget anytime soon.

Taking control of Marty McFly you go through different eras of Hill Valley in a style extremely similar to the classic point and click adventures of old but with some nice modern updates.  The core mechanics of P&C games is still there, finding and using clues to advance the story, listening to tons of sharply written dialogue from the dialogue trees, and solving the occasional puzzle here and there.  Things have been sharpened up with sharp and detailed 3D graphics, stellar voice work (more on that in a bit), and instead of having to click ‘push’, ‘pull’, ‘pick up’, ‘give’, etc, the item usage has been streamlined into a single mouse click to make things nice and easy.  The control streamlining is very welcome, as when playing these games selecting a verb before an action did become tedious, especially when the correct one is obvious.  Movement has also been changed up so you can drag the mouse in the direction you want Marty to walk making accidental clicking on the wrong thing a thing of the past.  The ‘wasd’ set up can also be used for control also.  All in all with the graphical and control updates I’m thrilled to see the P&C game style making a comeback, I have always had a soft spot for those kind of games.

The graphical aesthetic takes on a cartoonish look akin to a Pixar movie.  All the characters have exaggerated features which fit their stereotype and personalities and on a whole fit the light-hearted nature of the source material wonderfully.  Effects and shadows looked great even though throughout my playthrough I did come into a couple of shadow effect hiccups, but nothing serious which pulled me out of the immersion of the game.  Complimenting the games wonderful look is the beyond superb work by the audio department.

Right off the bat you notice that they used the score from the films to great effect really making it feel like it should be a sequel.  The music kicks in right at the best moments for maximum effect, whether it’s trying to pull at your heart-strings or make you tear up in nostalgia.  But even better than getting license for the music Telltale was able to get Dr. Emmet Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd to reprise his role.  Every bit of dialogue he speaks in the game, and there is a lot of it, is pure gold and perfectly executed.  “1.21 Gigawatts”, “Great Scott”, “I’ve made a horrible mistake”, and all the wonder lines and quirks of the original character make an appearance and do so with grace never being used to excess and always at the right time.  Also reprising her role from the original films is Claudia Wells in her role Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer.  As par she does a bang up job.

While Mr. Lloyd delivers such an awesome performance, he isn’t the one stealing the show, believe it or not.  While Michael J. Fox does make a cameo appearance in the game he isn’t the voice of our hero Marty McFly.  After running a contest for best Marty impression, voice actor A.J. LoCascio won the part to voice the lovable Marty.  His work is astounding and after going back and watching scenes from the movies you really can not tell any difference what so ever between game Marty and movie Marty.  He delivers the jokes with conviction and the dramatic scenes with passion.  He’s definitely the show stealer of the game.  Not saying that a single voice actor does a below fantastic job 😉

Keeping story details to a minimum, the tale revolves around Marty traveling through different time eras of Hill Valley in an attempt to rescue Doc and set the out of whack timeline right.  This time around you will visit 1931 prohibition era, a dystopian police state 1981 present much akin to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or Orwell’s 1984, and the Wild West.  The game is presented in a total of five episodes with each episode taking around 2-3 hours to complete.  This bite size episodic approach is great as it really fits the ‘To Be Continued….’ nature of the films and are also nice because you can play a whole story arc in one sitting before calling it quits for the day.  This episodic nature of games seems to be par for Telltale Games and is a delivery style I really enjoy.

Back to the Future is extremely linear as you are more or less playing out the movie and solutions to puzzles and ways to move the game forward can only be solved by one solution only.  This is pretty much the standard for P&C games so it didn’t bother me too much, and for a narrative as involved as Back to the Future, giving lots of choices would have made the game a nightmare to develop.  So I am happy for the linear nature as it delivers a tight narrative, which is the strongest point of playing a P&C game.  The puzzles are never difficult so there really isn’t much challenge on the cerebral side, even though a couple of times I found myself with a nice brain twister.  If you choose the game has a tiered hint system if you feel you are having too much difficulty on how to solve a puzzle or advance the story.  So no matter your gaming level this game should be finishable by all.

With the P&C gameplay style the game is able to do what other games often cannot, put a strong focus on the drama and narrative.  Something that action game based movie-game always falter at.  We watch Back to the Future for the chemistry between Doc and Marty, the crazy effects and dangers of time travel, and kick ass DeLorean.  This game nails every aspect that made the movies so great in every regard.  Yes its linear and a bit simple, but really we just all really want some more of what made the movies great.  After playing this I can’t think of a better sequel to the trilogy nor a better way for the series to continue.  There’s talk of an official announcement of Season Two, and you can be damn sure I will be taking that trip back to the future in a heartbeat.

If you are a fan of the films YOU NEED TO PLAY THIS GAME!!!!  Even if you are not great with video games you should have no problem playing whatsoever.  For those who want to see the great return of the P&C adventure game you will get a kick out of this also (along with Telltales Games entire catalog, which I am currently having the time of my life with).  Pick it up and good luck wiping the huge smile off your face while playing.

It is available for download on the PC, Mac, and IPad directly from Telltale Games and from the Steam platform.  It is also available on PS3 Marketplace and a boxed version is available for the Nintendo Wii.  This review was written from the PC version of the game.  I’ll post my system specs below as well as the required specs for the game below the trailer video.  Enjoy!  Peace Love and ‘Great Scott!’

My Specs uses while reviewing:

Resolution set to 1280×768, all quality maxed out.  Ran smoothly (avg 30 FPS) with a bit of lag when loading in cutscenes.  Turning off the shadows and effects greatly improved FPS (avg 45 FPS).

Processor: AMD E-300 APU with Radeon HD Graphics @ 1.30 ghz

Video Memory: AMD Radeon HD 6310 shared memory

RAM: 4 Gigs

OS: Windows 7

Drivers and Direct X all updated to the latest versions.  No Game Booster used.

System Requirements from the Developers:

PC System Requirements:
Operating system: Windows XP / Vista / Windows 7
Processor: 2.0 GHz Pentium 4 or equivalent
Memory: 3 GB RAM
Video Card: ATI or NVidia card w/ 512 MB RAM
Direct X 9.0c
Audio card required

OS: Snow Leopard
Processor: 2.3 Ghz Intel or equivalent
Memory: 4 GB RAM

Video Card: 512 MB NVidia or ATI graphics card
Not recommended for Mac Minis or early-generation MacBooks

About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on May 3, 2012, in Videogames and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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