Back to the Future: the Game (PC, PS3)

Video games based on movies often times get a bad rap.  They tend to be nothing more than a cash grab that release alongside its movie counterpart and are marked at full price, making them very difficult to swallow.  There have been exceptions of course, such as Toy Story 3: the Game and Peter Jackson’s King Kong.  But what about games based on movies that are more than a decade old?  TellTale Games, creators of the Sam and Max series, challenges the negative stigma attached to movie based games with Back to the Future: the Game.

If you’ve ever played a TellTale title before, you know that they are big fans of episodic content.  What this means is that instead of buying the game and playing through it all in one go, they break it down into smaller pieces.  For example, I paid $25 for Back to the Future: the Game on Steam, and I am given access to all of the episodes as they are released.  Episode 3 is the latest instalment that you can play through, and it’s imperative that you start right from the beginning with Episode 1 to get the full enjoyment out of the game.  This review is for Episode 2: Get Tannen! specifically.

Since Back to the Future: the Game is an adventure story-based game (much like the adventure games of yesteryear, such as King’s Quest and Space Quest), it’s difficult to go into specifics without spoiling much of the story.  You take control of Marty in the year 1986 and solve puzzles to progress.  You frequently interact with other characters like Einstein the dog and Emett Brown, who aid you along the way.  If there’s one thing that I absolutely love in an adventure game, it’s a skull cracking puzzle that stumps me for days.  I love the satisfying feeling of solving something difficult, and unfortunately Back to the Future: the Gamenever provided me with this experience.  Not once.  In fact, I rarely ever had to consult the hint menu in Episode 2.  None of the episodes are very long in length and will take you anywhere from two to four hours to complete them.  Episode 1 took me exactly 3 hours from start to finish, which may leave some players miffed.

All of the voice acting is top notch and nothing feels out of place.  Doc Brown is voiced by Christopher Lloyd and  while they couldn’t get  Michael J. Fox to return as Marty McFly, A.J. Locascio does an amazing job.  Many familiar characters from the movies pop in throughout the story, including the obnoxious Biff Tannen who once again makes trouble for Marty.  All of the environments and characters have a bit of a cartoony feel to them, but it never feels juvenile.  On the contrary, you’re put in some life threatening situations along the way that involve explosives, guns and other nasty business.  Sadly, you can’t actually die in the game, unlike the King’s Quest series from the early 80s.  I think this is a detriment because it removes some of the challenge from the game, but I can understand the reasons behind this decision.  The game is very forgiving if you need a while to figure something out and doesn’t rush you along.

In any case, the challenge just isn’t here.  It’s a very entertaining story with nice visuals and a superb voice cast, but if you want an adventure game that you can really sink your teeth into, try Kaptain Brawe: a Brawe New World.  However, Back to the Future: the Game is definitely worth your money and time, especially if you are a fan of the movies.  TellTale Games does a terrific job of pushing the “all movie games suck” to the side and lets players just enjoy living in the past (literally) for a little while.  I eagerly anticipate the arrival of Episode 4: Double Visions and TellTale Game’s next trip down memory lane with Jurassic Park: the Game this fall.