Review of Back to the Future: The Game

I love time travel. I don’t know what it is about the genre, but I will read any book, and watch any movie there is about it. “Back to the Future”, and its first sequel have been two of my favorite movies since I was a kid (the third one is OK, but not nearly as good as the other two). So when I heard they were making a new game that would continue the story, I was completely against it.

In the past, games based on movies have not done well. Actually, “not well” doesn’t really do it justice. Movie games are usually horrendous. Look at “Back to the Future” for the NES:

That is painful to watch and absolutely no fun to play. Sadly, most movie games made these days are still of poor quality, usually just the studio’s way of making some easy money. There are a few exceptions, but that is usually the rule.

Then I learned that TellTale Games was making this new game. TellTale had recently brought back the adventure game genre with the “Sam and Max” series and “Tales of Monkey Island,” which I reviewed favorably (A Look Back On Monkey IslandTales of Monkey Island: A Pirate Tale in Five Chapters). On top of that, most of the original cast was coming back to voice their original roles and Bob Gale, one of the writers for “Back to the Future” the movie, was working on the story. I quickly went from dreading the games release to not being able to wait for it to come out.

The game picks up six months after the third movie. Doc Brown has been missing for six months, and there is an estate sale going on at his house. As Marty tries to convince everyone that Doc is coming back eventually (without outright saying “Oh, he’s just travelling through time!”), the Delorean shows up in the driveway with Doc’s dog, Einstein, in it and nothing else.

Eventually, after a little detective work, Marty winds up going back to the 1930’s to find Doc. And in typical Back to the Future fashion, time travelling manages to ruin the future. Every time you manage to fix the main problem in a chapter, it causes something else to go wrong, leading nicely into the next chapter. You spend the majority of the game in the 1930’s, learning about Doc’s past, a subject barely touched upon in the original movies.

I won’t spoil anything here, because the story is really worth experiencing for yourself. The settings and characters (the recurring and original) all feel like they fit in the universe established by the movie. After finishing the last chapter, the whole experience feels like the 4th movie. I know to some people this may seem like blasphemy, but it’s probably the closest we’ll ever get, and it’s clear the whole project was approached with a lot of love.

The graphics are pretty cartoony, but it’s obvious who everyone is supposed to be. There were a few bugs in the animation, but nothing that broke the game or ruined the experience. However, there was a major issue with the lip syncing for the voice acting. The issue being, that there really didn’t seem to be any effort put into it at all. Whenever anyone speaks, their lips flap like they’re in an old Godzilla movie, not even closely matching up to what they’re saying. This doesn’t detract from the game, but it can be very distracting and annoying when you notice it.

The voice acting itself is spectacular. Christopher Lloyd reprises his role as Doc, and while Michael J. Fox doesn’t take on Marty, he does make a cameo in the last chapter. The guy they got to play Marty, A. J. Locascio, sounds exactly like Fox did back in the 80’s. The only low point is the voice for Biff is clearly not Tom Wilson, and the voice actor they got sounds nothing like him. I don’t understand why go to all the trouble to get a voice actor who sounds so much like Michael J. Fox, why not do it for one of the other major actors? The voice that they use for Biff is good, he delivers all his lines as you’d expect, it’s just clearly not the original actor. I guess Tom Wilson didn’t want to play Biff for the rest of his life. I don’t blame him, I wouldn’t either, but it’s a shame since he’s so iconic in the role.

I’m focusing on the presentation because it’s what stands out the most. As a game, it’s rather easy. All the puzzles are straightforward, with clear solutions. TellTale’s games are usually not overly challenging, but I managed to breeze through each of the five chapters in less than about 2 hours without getting stuck. If you’re looking for a challenge, this is not the place to come for it. It was made with a much more casual audience in mind, which is understandable; many people who like the movies may not be gamers.  Even if you do get stuck, there’s a hint system built into the game (that can also be turned off). I just feel like this was a missed opportunity for some fantastic time travel puzzles.

Overall, all 5 chapters of the Back to the Future game make for a fun, self contained story that, in my mind, counts as the 4th movie. It may not be the most challenging game you can experience, but it’s got a decent presentation, fantastic voice acting and is just a lot of fun to play. If you’re a fan of the movie, pick it up, it’s a great continuation to an already great set of movies.

The game is available for 24.99 on the PC, PSN and coming soon to Wii, according to a few articles I read, but I couldn’t find any official release date.

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