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CONSOLE: PC/PS3/Wii/iOS DEVELOPER: Telltale Games PUBLISHER: Telltale Games
RELEASE DATE (NA): December 22, 2010 GENRE: Adventure
// review by SoyBomb

An adventure game? Did we travel back in time?

NOTE: I am reviewing the PlayStation 3 version of this game, but all versions are essentially similar.

If you're a fan of either a) the Back To The Future film trilogy, or b) classic adventure-style games like those of the early-1990s PC era, then you were probably gnarlily stoked when Back To The Future: The Game was announced. Oh, there had been video games about the movies before, but most of them were, shall we say, drop-dead terrible. I believe the Japan-exclusive "Super Back To The Future II" was an exception, but we didn't get this one, so all I can do is judge based on what I can get my hands on. When Telltale Games revealed they'd be covering this franchise, I'm sure a few hands flew into the air with glee. Their takes on the Sam & Max, Monkey Island, and Strong Bad franchises were well-received, so they should be competent enough with Back To The Future. Plus, they had the aid of the original director and the producer of the series, so that's never a bad sign either.

The game is broken into five different episodes; though each has its own individual plotline to follow, the episodes are connected. The first episode is a bit dry, but it introduces us to the long road ahead, as well as the gameplay system. All of them follow the exploits of Marty McFly, the resident skateboarder/hooligan of Hill Valley. In the first episode, he uses the DeLorean to travel back to 1931, where he needs to rescue his good pal, Doc Brown, who has been caught in a rough situation after traveling to that era himself. Though Marty can eventually patch things up, each subsequent episode tends to deal with a problem that arises when Marty inadvertently alters something in the past, which inevitably makes the future much more bleak and undesirable. An impressive majority of the game takes place in 1931 (so expect Marty to be dressed appropriately), though 1986 is also a common place to be (including the entire third episode). They do occasionally end up in other times, but only briefly. Throughout the game, we're also treated to some interesting tidbits about characters' pasts (or futures) and scientific explanations behind certain aspects of time travel; these add to the pure authenticity of the game's events as adjacent to the plotlines of the films. The forums are abuzz with users describing plotholes involving time travel, but for a less-than-hardcore afficionado of the Back To The Future lore (or science in general), it's a non-issue. Each episode isn't exactly lengthy, but altogether, the game could last about 15-20 hours.

As Marty walks around the various sceneries of Hill Valley, he'll be able to interact with many items around him to solve the various puzzles and other problems that hinder his successful revival of the 1986 he used to know and love. Your choices of what to look at are often limited to what you will actually be able to use, but when Marty can inspect an item, he usually has something to say about it. You can also interact with the citizens of Hill Valley, although it appears as though the town has a very low population count because you really only see people necessary to your success. When you strikeup a conversation with a relevant character, you can often select from multiple lines of dialogue to start from, resulting in the obtaining of new information both relevant or just plain amusing. If you've been everywhere and done everything and you're still confused, the game offers a tiered hint system: you can get a subtle hint on your next move, or you can choose to delve deeper and have the game be more and more opaque on what is expected. Most puzzles have obvious solutions, but for the occasional brainteaser, you just might need help. The number of hints you use seems to have no effect on the final outcome, so don't be afraid to use them.

Makes you want to keep going back to the future over and over again.

Though the game is entertaining enough, one of my biggest problems, at least with the version I played, was that Marty controls like an inebriated Dachshund. And I don't just mean he walks funny... although he does have an unnatural swagger. Let's say you're walking through town in one direction. Suddenly, the screen switches to a different point of view in a new section of town. The camera angle changes, and instead of walking away from the camera, you're now walking left to right. Naturally, you push your control stick (or key, if you're a PC user) to the right instead, which makes him suddenly go in a strange direction. You're expected to keep holding down whatever direction you were traveling before, even if it's illogical compared to what you're really looking at. That's jarring! A lesser but still notable issue involves having difficulty cycling between items you want to examine. The ability to select just flicks all over the place sometimes, making it hard to point out one particular item. Wow. Other issues occasionally arise that detract from the experience. For example, the subtitles do not always match what the character says. One instance involves Edna Strickland, where she refers to me as "Mr. Crockett", even though I had chosen the name "Harry Callahan" as my 1931 alternate moniker. There are also a few typos here and there. Not that we haven't seen any in video games before, mind you.

Back To The Future: The Game looks decent enough, although by comparison to other games on the same system (in my case, the PlayStation 3), it's a bit of a disappointment. Considering its price, however, you're still getting a somewhat decent value. The characters resemble their real-life film counterparts, if they were processed through a cartoon filter. The environments are rather detailed, although many of them are used far too often. At least now I know what a speakeasy looks like on the inside. More impressive are the vocal talents. The voice actor for Michael J. Fox, A.J. Locascio, is spot-on to Michael J. Fox, who was unavailable to reprise his role (though he does provide his voice for other generations of McFly men in the final episode). I love his impression of Marty when he goes up to a microphone and sings about being down in Louisiana and New Orleans. It's odd and it's awesome. At least Christopher Lloyd returned as Doc Brown. Oddly enough, Christopher Lloyd's voice seemed to get quieter as the episodes progressed; was the actor getting tired, or was the recording equipment slowly failing? Claudia Wells also returned as the voice of Marty's girlfriend, Jennifer. But for some reason, they didn't contact the original voice of the Tannens, which is odd, considering there's always a member of the loathsome Tannen family hanging around somewhere, usually causing trouble for Marty. All in all, the voice work was superb, even if the sound quality was a tad iffy at times.

Back To The Future: The Game may have its flaws, but as a pure adventure game, it's still a pretty strong experience, especially when you consider how relatively few are being developed nowadays. Those who have been clamoring for more McFly action will drool over this, considering a Back To The Future IV is never going to come to the theatre (or, at least not within their lifetimes). The characters are charming and the puzzles aren't so difficult that you'll be sweating through your T-shirts trying to solve them. It's a recommended experience for time travel nerds and adventure game fanatics alike.

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