I just finished Episode 1 of Back To The Future: The Game by Telltale Games.
First the bad but forgiveable:
As far as episode 1 goes, it’s not very challenging, I didn’t spend a ton of time looking for hidden things to click on or racking my brain on puzzles. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For the most part, I wanted to simply enjoy a new Back To The Future story (more on that in a bit), and the “flow” of the game doesn’t get bogged down by frustrating puzzles.
Also, the character animation is a little too clunky. The game looks a little too much like a bad Saturday morning CGI cartoon. They really could have used a little more polish there. Animation used to be a signature strength of the old Lucas Arts games. Take Full Throttle for instance, it was a pretty low-res game, but not a single pixel was ever wasted. Even in long shots the character’s faces were funny and animated. Back To The Future: The Game, lacks that sense of animating a game like a good cartoon. Everyone has sticks shoved up their bums and the facial expressions are pretty much phoned in. They don’t have that Lucas Arts stamp of having characters that look like they are actually acting.
But these are all forgiveable quirks because the big questions are, “Is this a game that immerses you in the Back To The Future universe, Did they get the voices right, Are the Back To The Future rules of storytelling followed, Does the shark still look fake, Do they do a good job with foreshadowing and in jokes, Does the game tickle your nostalgic nerve?”
The answer in short is GREAT SCOTT! THEY GOT IT RIGHT!!!!!
If you’ve been wanting to go on another great adventure with your old friends Doc and Marty, you came to the right place.
First of all, let’s talk about the storytelling rules of Back To The Future movies. If you’ve ever seen all three movies back to back to back, you become aware that there’s a set formula to the story telling. Certain scenes are repeated literally (It’s a time travel story, so you may see the same scene twice or even three times from different perspectives), and also thematically. For instance, each movie exposition scenes where Doc explains Time Travel Theory to Marty and they are suddenly interrupted by a female character, or there’s going to be an initial confrontation with a relative of Biff Tannen in the town square, and sooner or later, Biff or his relative is going to meet up with a big pile of horse shit. There’s always a fetch quest where you have to rescue someone or something from a moving vehicle at the end. There’s always a butterfly effect that needs to be set to rights and someone is always starting to disappear. Marty has a Fletch-like sence of humor when coming up with fake names for himself, and Doc really needs to do something about the faulty wiring in the DeLorean’s dashboard display.
So does the game follow all of these rules precisely to a “T”, not exactly, but it does follow most of them, and since this is only the first episode, we have yet to see how the theme of humor through repitition will be played out, but based on a short preview at the end of Episode 1, it certainly looks like they are going in the right direction with this game.
The game looks, and more importantly, “feels” like Back To The Future. It’s whimsical, witty, funny, and nostalgic (not just for historical time periods but for the ’80s as well). Be on the lookout for lots of cool 80′s stuff in Marty’s bedroom, and fun references to the original movies in Doc’s lab. And who knows, you may find some clever foreshadowing in these early scenes as well. I also like that the storyline and quests of the new game are based on the morals and culture of the time period it takes place in. Good stuff there.
But any Back to the Future game would be an utter failure without Doc & Marty. It’s so great they got Christopher Lloyd to reprise the voice of Doc Brown, if only they could have emulated his brilliant camera mugging as well. However because of Michael J Fox’s medical condition, there’s simply no way he could reprise his landmark roll, and for all intents and purposes, if you don’t have Michael J Fox, you don’t have a game. Lucky for Telltale they found vocal magician, A.J. Locascio.
Locascio does a fantastic job of becoming Marty, you are never taken out of the story because Marty doesn’t sound right. Furthermore, the chemistry between Doc and Marty feels right too.
And the biggest question of all. Does the shark still look fake?
Well, I guess you’re going to have to play the game to find out.
Final Result: 8 out of 10.
Authentic storytelling and voice acting but gameplay is a little simple and character animation needs polishing.