Back to the Future: The Game Review – Great Scott! They made a video game out of a DeLorean

Ronald Reagan? The actor? Then who’s vice president? Jerry Lewis?

A little bit of Backstory before we start

Back to the Future (1985–1990), alongside Indiana Jones (1981–1989), is my favorite childhood movie trilogy. I just love watching Marty McFly and Doc Emmet Brown shenanigans in Hill Valley and was super stoked when my sibling gave me the DRM free retail copy of the game for my birthday and then surprisingly received the digital download copy from Line Sommer Hoel for my birthday. Lots of thanks and love to you both, so let’s do like the Autobots and leaf.

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

Back in the Hill Valley of 1986, six months after the third movie, Doc has been missing for quite some time and the bank decides to foreclose his home and belongings. While Marty McFly rummages through Doc’s stuff, the DeLorean appears in front of the house with Einstein, Doc’s pet sheepdog, in it. A tape recorder inside the car explains that the time machine’s automatic retrieval system travels back to a certain time to call for Marty’s help, should the Doc ever end up in any kind of distress. Marty then sets out to find out to what time his friend travelled to and how to save him.

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I lost count, how many DeLorean duplicates are ghosting around Hill Valley?

Fan Service through and through

Back to the Future: The Game (2010–2011) is one of those productions where the people behind it went all out; they knew what the fans loved about the original and tried their best to allow fans to relive the adventure and excitement. And given the studio, you know the game will have a strong narrative. It is an episodic point & click adventure from the time before Telltale Games, the developer and publisher, made episodic graphic adventures à la The Walking Dead (2012), Tales from the Borderlands (2014), Game of Thrones – A Telltale Games Series (2012), or Batman – The Telltale Series (2016).

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The first couple of minutes of the game are a throwback to the movie trilogy to get the audience up to speed

The five acts were originally released one by one, but if you buy the game nowadays, you’ll get all five of them at once. The only minor aesthetic issue might be that the digital release of the BttF:TG will take up five different entries in the Steam library, with five different store pages and five different community hubs, rather than four of the chapters being DLC to the first. (‘Twas just a different time back in 2010.)

What’s more: Back to the Future: The Game serves as an official fourth instalment to the series and the developers even received help from the original cast in its production. For example, Bob Gale, co-writer and co-producer of the original Back to the Future film trilogy, helped in creating the script, Christopher Lloyd reprises his role as Doctor “Doc” Emmett Brown Ph.D., Michael J. Fox makes two cameo appearances – once as future Marty McFly and once as his great-grandfather William McFly – and finally, since an update from October 2015, Tom Wilson once again plays the role as Biff Tannen, who was previously voiced by Kid Beyond in this game.

Gameplay

I played BttF:TG on the trusty 32-bit Windows Vista toaster with an Intel Core 2 CPU, 3070MB RAM, and a GeForce 9500 GT graphics card. As with other point & click adventures, there aren’t a lot of gameplay mechanics to talk about in this one, however, Marty McFly can be controlled either with the classical mouse, the keyboard, or a gamepad. So, pick your method and explore Hill Valley to your heart’s content.

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Great comic visuals and magical voice acting await players

Each episode will take players around two hours to get through, resulting in around 10 hours of gameplay. Generally, the puzzle can be quite hard for novices and are definitely more aimed at people familiar with point & click style puzzle solving. Genre veterans, on the other hand, might occasionally feel that a number of riddles are too easy, especially given that there is a hint system. Telltale puzzles, be it here or in Sam & Max (2009–2010), never reached the same level of brain teaser design proficiency as Lucas Arts or Daedalic Entertainment, making many of their riddles linear and less memorable. On a personal matter, one aspect I always find sad about the Telltale games is that they got rid of inventory puzzles that require players to combine items with one another. One more little subtraction is for how few puzzles there were in the latter part of the adventure. Despite that, none of this deterred me from enjoying this experience.

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Time travelling buddies, Einstein and Marty

Back to the Future: The Game proves to be an eminently enjoyable game that, unlike many other adaptations, sequels, or reboots, provides decent content instead of leaching off of fans’ nostalgia. As it was co-written by Bob Gale, an Academy Award nominated, Hollywood screenwriter, the plot of the game is well thought out and, for the most part, manages to walk the fine line between good movie and good video game. That is until the climax. While the overwhelming majority of the BttF:TG is loads of fun, the story’s high point exchanges puzzles for filmlike segments that are great visually, but not fun to play. Instead, it leaves players slightly disappointed, because the road leading towards it did so very well.

What surprised me about the game is that the writing had a much heavier focus on the effects of time travel on individuals. Even though Marty and Doc only travel back and forth between 1931 and 1986, changes in the past drastically altered how the personalities of the Hill Valley residents in the “present” developed. In defiance of this being logical, it did become rather unsettling at some point and I applaud the writers and actors for conveying that feeling of unease. The other intriguing aspect was that the story focused far more on Doc Brown’s history, wherein the movies centered mostly around Marty and his family.

Bugs

There was only one game breaking bug while playing and it resolved itself when restarting the game: In the Soup Kitchen in Episode 1. A cutscene with Cue Ball was supposed to trigger, but didn’t. Another, minor flaw was that Marty when chooses a pseudonym when travelling back in time, the characters are supposed to call him by that throughout the episodes, yet Edna Strickland kept on addressing me with different names, which was a bit sad.

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Christopher Lloyd reprising his role as Doc Brown (left), while Michael J. Fox (right) plays Marty’s ancestor. Meanwhile, Marty is voiced by A.J. LoCascio who did a great job sounding like young Michael J. Fox.

Conclusion

Before you consider buying this one, remember that it takes place after the movie trilogy, so watching all three films beforehand comes highly recommended, despite that not being necessary to understand the plot. Visual novel enthusiasts might find the puzzles a bit too hard, while point & click fans will feel that they have … hills and valleys … and are typically easier than the ol’ Lucas Arts brain twisters. With all that in mind, Back to the Future fans will have a great time. The story is good, the voice acting great, the visuals stunning, and fans of the series are most definitely going to play through this more than once, I know have.

This game is a 8 Huey Lewis out of 10 The Power of Loves

Where to Get

Back to the Future: The Game originally came out for MS Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Wii. It can still be bought for PC, iOS, OS X, MS Windows, Steam, Good Old Games, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One for a price of $19.99 USD or your local equivalent.

The typical Blahblub

As always, feel free to leave a comment, if you like. The comment section is completely open, no need to register or log in. All screenshots shown here were taken by me during my playthrough of these games.

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