Saturday, January 1, 2011

Back to the Future: The Game - Episode 1: It's About Time

On December 22, 2010, Telltale Games released Back to the Future: The Game as part of a licensing deal with Universal. While I had some interest in the game, I felt it would be a better idea to see the films it was based on first. After doing so, I purchased this game and played through Episode 1, entitled, It's About Time. After completing it within a couple hours, which is pretty short for an episodic Point-and-Click game, I can say that Telltale has a good grasp on how to handle the license. It definitely helps that the original creators have some involvement in keeping it like the movies.

This game takes place in 1986, following the third movie, beginning with a scene reminiscent of the first movie. This turns out to be a dream which Marty McFly wakes up from. He then heads over to Doc Brown's house and tries to stop his possessions from being sold in a government auction, as he has been missing for a few months. However, the DeLorean shows up and Marty uses it to go back to 1931, where Doc Brown is in jail after commiting arson on a speakeasy. However, he would be shot to death on the courthouse steps by Kid Tannen the following day. The rest of the plot involves Marty having to enlist the aid of 1931, teenage, Doc Brown to bust him out and prevent his death.

During the game, fans of the franchise will come across many references to the films, such as mentions and sightings of books by Jules Verne and Marty having to use the name of a fictional character as a pseudonym, including a Clint Eastwood character as a choice. There is also continual use of the mythology gags throughout the series, such as Strickland's "slacker" catchphrase and a Tannen always getting covered in manure through encountering Marty. These provide great fanservice for the game, as well as a good source of humor.

The story was written and executed just like it really was another film in the franchise. This is aided by a great voice cast, including Cristopher Lloyd as Doc Brown and a good substitute Marty McFly in AJ LoCascio, who has almost as much energy in the role as Michael J. Fox. Telltale's composer, Jared Emerson-Johnson, wrote music that complements the events at hand. It also helps that they were able to use some of the music from Back to the Future.

The graphics of this game were also very stylized, giving it the feel of an animated series. This isn't really a bad thing, as I got used to them fairly quickly. However, I did encounter a graphical glitch once where the flames from a rocket-powered drill, after blowing up, were suspended by themselves on the sidewalk. At the same time, the game was also choppy when I first started playing it, but it smoothed itself out about five or ten minutes into the game. Other than that, there weren't any problems.

The gameplay was pretty easy to pick up, as it is a Point-and-Click Adventure Game. Still, the interface was very simple to use and the puzzles were pretty straight-forward, but I will admit that I used the Hint button a couple of times. Players who have also retained knowledge of the movies will have an easier time with a lot of the puzzles that require exploitation of such knowledge, including a puzzle where you need to get Marty's Grandfather, Arthur McFly's, hat back from Kid Tannen by distracting him with a "look over there."

As one who purchased the full season off Telltale's store for $25, I can say that so far it has been worth the money. The simple gameplay and fantastic story kept me playing and wanting to see what would happen next. The game ends in a standard cliffhanger, but it is one I can't wait to see get resolved in the coming months. This game is a great purchase so far, but I would reccomend it more to existing fans, as they would get more enjoyment out of this.

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