Review by Bkstunt_31
"One for fans of the genre.... or TRUE 'Back to the Future' fans..."
Ah, Back to the Future. The classic time-traveling films that ANY red-blooded American male teenager who grew up in the 80's will instantly be familiar with. Sure, not ALL of the three-movie series moments were what we'd call "good" (I'm looking at you Back to the Future 2), but the series is a classic and part of American history! Now, to be perfectly honest with you, the reader, I AM NOT up to speed on previous "Back to the Future" video games... I know there's been quite a few released over the years, but I just plain don't know what kind of games they were (I'm guessing silly action games with outdated graphics and questionable story lines, you know, the type of games made to cash in on a popular movie).
But none of that really matters as we're here to talk about Telltale Games game: Back to the Future: The Game. Telltale Games is of course famous for being the staunch stewards of "The Adventure Game" genre, having worked on such series as Sam & Max, Wallace and Gromit and the legendary Monkey Island, producing new Adventure Game titles by the dozens. And with all of us mid to late 20's gamers still actively playing the market was ripe for a "Back to the Future" game, so enter Telltale into the scene. And since games cost money, you have come to read this review to see if Back to the Future: The Game is worth YOUR time and dough! Well my friend I understand your concerns, so read on and I'll tell you exactly what to expect!
It SHOULD be noted before we get too deep into this review that this game is actually a SERIES of EPISODIC games. Telltale Games loves releasing episodes of games and has done so for some time now. Back to the Future: The Game actually has five episodes. I wrote down thoughts on each of them as I played, but decided against reviewing them separately due to how similar they all ultimately were to each other.
The story takes place after the film trilogy, with Marty (who you'll be playing as throughout visiting Doc's old workplace. Doc has been a no-show for months, and so the court is having his property seized and sold off, with Marty's father George overseeing things. After a brief encounter with Biff, Marty soon discovers that the DeLorean has appeared outside and learns that the time machine sent ITSELF back to his time because Doc Brown hasn't been in it for a long period of time and likely needs help!
The story takes off with Marty trying to learn the whereabouts of Doc and trying to help him out from there and over the five episodes sucks Marty in further and further with correcting mistakes by both others and the protagonists to ensure the "correct" timeline remains intact. There's the occasional hokey detain thrown into the story as a whole (duplicate time machines and how they came about), but overall I really felt the story as a whole was... pretty darn good! The vast majority of the problems Marty faces are feasible and due to the episodic nature of the game there were a lot of good cliff-hangers between chapters. Surprise twists in the game are limited to the last two chapters, but as a whole the game's story felt right in the context and lore of the series.
Being a point-and-click type of action game, you can't expect TOO much in the way of "game play" out of this game. I mean, as a general rule of thumb, the entire game is composed out of finding and using items to either gain new more vital items or solve a puzzle of some kind to spur a NPC into an action that you want to have happen. Before you even start a new game, in ANY episode, you will be asked if you want to turn the game's tip system on or not. The game also has a natural reminder system, to re-cap your goals for you. The tip system in the game is fantastic, as if you are ever stuck you can go to the menu and get SMALL clues on what to do. For any given puzzle, there will be 3-4 clues and since you can unlock them one at a time you pretty much control how much help you receive. SOME episodes (I say episodes, but I mainly mean episode one) I thought relied TOO heavily on (or included too much of) "distract a certain person" elements to their puzzles and needed more puzzle variety, but the middle episodes (episodes 2-4) must have thought the same thing and started getting more inventive.
Since you'll encounter a ton of items Marty will naturally have an inventory. Here you can examine items more closely (which often provides hints as to their use) and USE items. Using items also takes you back to the game where you will have to choose WHAT to use the item on or with. As you explore the game, you'll also run a ton of items, but like most of these types of games almost every item has a use (there are very little "red herring" items). That's really all there is to it: acquire items, explore your surroundings, and then use the items to gain knowledge or new items. Sprinkle in some timing requirements and add in a helpful tip and reminder systems and you have yourself some game play!
The graphics in the game are pretty much exactly what gamers have come to expect out of Telltale Games: stylized cartoon-like graphics for both characters and the environments. Now, there's nothing wrong with these type of graphics, but this is definitely not Telltale's best work. In at least 2 episodes (1 and 3) I could see-through the character models at some points, even in scripted scenes, which is especially bad. However, those incidents are short and brief: hardly noticeable. No, the biggest problem has to be how choppy the video sequences were. Almost every episode had some sort of choppy or lag-filled pre-scripted video sequence, which is crazy since these are things that should have been refined before being released!
The environments you visit are, in most episodes, fairly detailed. To be honest though, the play areas you visit are often very limited and repeated. Episodes 1, 2 and 4 all have limited or repeated play areas. Episode 3 could have used more detail as I found the background VERY bland (although it MAY be on purpose and tied into the story... I'm not sure). Some locations have a ton of items to investigate, which makes cycling through them important (you can do so with the shoulder buttons) but overall a greater play area and, at times, less repetitive play areas would have been appreciated.
The audio in the game is a mixed bag. The actual "soundtrack" is probably the least impressive thing about the game. Sure, you have your classic Back to the Future tracks which are full of nostalgia and awesomeness, but aside from that classic song I really can't think of ANY other track standing out to me. For most of the game you get soft, ambient background noise that just kinda... keeps you company. Nothing catchy or really memorable about that. Now, the voice acting in the game is downright awesome. It's not Michael J. Fox, but the voice actor (AJ Locascio) does an EXCELLENT job. Christopher Lloyd also returns for Doc Brown and does an excellent job. I DID experience a weird issue in episode three where the volume of the voice acting was WAY off, but aside from that the voice acting is easily superior to the soundtrack.
These type of games only last as long as it takes you to figure out what to do. Using (or abusing) the hint system or even a (gasp!) guide will DRASTICALLY cut down your play time. You can still expect to get in 3-4 hours per episode easily and with 5 episodes that is 15-20 hours. Each episode also has trophies to acquire and trust me, not ALL of them are story related. You often have to visit places a certain number of times, inspect certain (non-essential) things and even use certain items on certain things to get every trophy.
Overall, Back to the Future: The Game is a decent adventure game. It has its shortcomings and strong points, like any game. I felt that the story and voice acting were easily the best parts of the game while the soundtrack and graphics were the low points. Still, if you are a fan of the genre (and especially the franchise), you should be playing this game. For anyone else, this game never really rises above average. Have fun and keep playing.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 06/08/12
Game Release: Back to the Future: The Game (US, 10/25/11)
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