Back to the Future was one of my favorite film franchises as a kid and has remained close to my heart today. The movies cover so many genres that it’s nigh impossible to categorize. It has science fiction, romance, comedy, drama, and action all rolled up into one amazing trilogy. I never imagined that a good Back to the Future game would ever come out, not because it couldn’t be done, but simply because it shouldn’t be done.
TellTale Games proved me wrong. After playing four chapters on PSN (and eagerly awaiting the fifth!), I’m ready to lay down some thoughts prior to delivering the review. There are absolutely no spoilers here.
The Back to the Future game is, essentially, the movie that never was. It attaches itself seamlessly to the series and tugs at the heart strings of any dedicated fan. Rather than force the series into a haphazard sidescroller like LJN did in the 80s, TellTale crafted an immersive and engaging “point-and-click” style adventure game. The mixture of puzzle solving, exploration, and character interaction perfectly suits the feel of the film franchise.
Thankfully, the creative team didn’t try to cram in post-2000 pop culture references to “modernize” the franchise. There are still tons of nods to the franchise and other nerd icons though. I especially loved the references to Star Wars peppered throughout the game. For example, the PSN version has a Trophy called “Into the garbage chute, McFly-boy!” You can’t get better than that!
The character dialog and voices also fit quite well. Christopher Lloyd has retained his role as Dr. Emmett Brown, and even though Michael J. Fox unfortunately was unable to voice Marty, A.J. Locasio is so similar that it’s downright uncanny. The first chapter is relatively calm, but later installments get more and more exciting, and the dialog adapts beautifully. Characters bounce between playful jokes and sincere emotion with ease. One of my favorite jokes in the game revolved around Doc Brown’s alias in 1931.
TellTale recreated only a few from the movies (Doc Brown’s lab, to be precise), but most of the locations are new for the franchise. Hill Valley circa 1931 and alternate 1980s versions of Hill Valley provide some new and exciting sights. The game doesn’t waste any time recapping over the events from the movies either, so familiarity with the films is imperative to fully appreciate the story. So far, the only problems I’ve had are technical. The framerate stutters at times, the loading times are surprisingly long, the lip synching is far from ideal, and the controls (on the PS3) are clunky. Navigating Marty around and investigating areas are more difficult than it should be, especially when there are several points of interest all cluttered together in one spot.
Still, the game is incredibly fun simply for the heartfelt story. A lot of effort went into crafting the narrative and retaining the classic charm the series is known for. What’s better is that TellTale has done everything possible to make the game accessible. It’s easy to play regardless of skill level.
The entire first chapter is available for free via TellTale’s website, so there’s no harm in checking it out. For the entire package though, the PSN has the best value, especially for PSN+ subscribers. The regular price is $19.99 for all five chapters, but the current sale price is $13.99 (with the Plus price at $9.79). The review will be coming when the final chapter is out!