Gaming - Back to the Future: The Game

BTTF Header

GREAT SCOTT! Rather than jumping on his hoverboard, the Defective Inspector celebrates Back to the Future day by playing Back to the Future: The Game, from TellTale Games ...

TellTale Games have literally changed my life before. The Walking Dead series has scarred and humbled my soul, this really makes me wonder why I would look over Back to the Future in gaming form. Despite the strong history of the company being as gritty as a sand sandwich I was informed this game was true to form. In fact a good friend of mine, and certified Back to the Future fanatic, insisted I played this game knowing the famous day was arriving. I trust my friend’s opinion and so let it be said anything I write now is his fault…

This game originally was released in 5 episodes and talking about each one will make this review one entire spoiler casserole. Though I shall reveal little bits and bobs I hold my mantra of “It’s better to play it than read it” and thus I won’t ruin the experience. However this review shall be the collected works, looking at the game as a whole.

Ingame image
"Explaining too much storyline could be irrevocable to the gaming timeline!"
Before I dip into the game dynamics I need to make a few points right now off the bat.

1. This is not Back to the Future 4

2. This game has not been considered canon, thus the events we are discussing is technically an alternate timeline

3. Bob Gale had input in the games production and was approved by Universal Studios

4. This is REALLY not Back to the Future 4

I really wish it was… But nope it is NOT the 4th instalment we’ve always begged for. However this doesn’t discredit the game at all, it is an amazing piece of work and I like to think, if circumstances had been different, this could HAVE been Back to the Future 4.

The gameplay is rather straight forward, keeping to TellTale’s desire to bring back the point and click adventure it is defined as “Graphic Adventure”, which is very accurate. You are in control of Marty McFly, you go from town to town, well more precisely future Hill Valley, past Hill Valley and… Other Hill Valleys. Using your impressive array of random brick-a-brac found in various areas you must apply your wits, awareness of Back to the Future lore and a little bit of insanity to solve an assortment of seemingly trivial puzzles. The first and most obvious point I need to make is this, the game is not overly difficult. In fact being a bit of a veteran of this genre I was often finding myself rushing through gameplay to get back into the story, which wasn’t exactly a bad thing. The fact the game was relatively easy told me one thing; this game was a movie you directly interacted with rather than a standalone game. Once you accept this, you will enjoy this game much more than the folks who reviewed it at The Escapist (Sorry guys, usually I agree with you).

Doc reading paper
"Apparently they only got to the 1st episode, such a shame..."
The storyline is not so much the glue which holds this game together, it’s more like a scaffolding, panels and maybe even a bit of cement. This is why I made point 3 very early on, Bob Gale had input into the game and without at least one of the creators involvement I doubt it could have done as well. Don’t get me wrong, Grossman, Hartzel, Straw and Stemmle did a remarkable job but I know Gale threw a lot of “could have been” scenarios at them and may have lived a little bit of script into the mix that allowed the game to be what it is. All of that being said, the storyline was a captivating piece of work that made me play the game for around 10 hours in total. Each episode took almost precisely 2 hours each which was a surprisingly well controlled piece of time management. As I stated before the puzzles and such were not the time consumer, I just wanted to spend time in the world created for me.

Throughout those 5 episodes I met another Strickland (Edna) and Biff (Kid Tannen) along with a young Emmett Brown, his critical and manipulative Father and of course some sort of McFly, all of which in 1931. Without removing revealing too much I think it’s fair to say you WILL create alternate timelines and these will unravel amazing, disturbing and fanciful moments which are just as iconic as the original movie trilogy. I’m willing to throw my hat in and say ‘Episode 3: Citizen Brown’ was my favourite episode in the storyline sense, I’d be revealing far too much in saying why but as the name suggests it involved an alternate Doc Brown in 1985 society that made my skin crawl in excitement and fear.

Stupid hat
No matter the timeline, Doc always needs to make a stupid hat...
The most important thing this game achieved was a realistic but fantastic universe. Much like the trilogy everything linked in by the end and did so in a plausible way. TellTale Games respectfully looked at Back to the Future and made a game rather than making a game and forcing a Back to the Future mask on top of it. Small but important measures were taken to ensure fans like me enjoyed every moment we spend in a world we’ve been begging to enter since 1990 concluded our favourite series. There are hundreds of tiny Easter eggs, so many I could name a few without feeling guilty, for example young Doc Brown needed to make a device which required 1.21 Kilowatts… KILOwatts! Get it? Because it’s… Physics and that’s… funny… well no more Easter eggs for you then!

Additionally the game considered the voice actors; Christopher Lloyd was able to replay his original role from back in the day, a stand in for Michael J. Fox was rigorously hunted for to ensure the voice was JUST right (Which frankly I thought WAS Michael J. Fox until I checked the credits…) and even now, 4 years after its release, adding Tom Wilson to reprise Biff in all his butt-headed glory for the 30th anniversary of the original movie. What is rather touching is Michael J. Fox, even with his health concerns, still got his voice into the game but… Hey I’ll let you find out where when you play it.


book
"That's a lot of McFlys... Makes the book... heavy"
I want to tell you more, I want to write more, but I also want you to enjoy this game. What I can tell you is this game is the most successful franchise ever released by TellTale games, beating the more modern and ‘young people’ titles like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. It is being re-released due to sheer popular demand to include yet ANOTHER actor into the fray because the fans are still this relentless after 30 years. It has proven to us and many other people that anything is possible but perhaps not the way you always thought. This may not be Back to the Future 4, this may not be canon, this may not include the whole cast but even an extra scene of Back to the Future, in any media, makes my inner nerd go “GREAT SCOTT”.

Images from either Steam or The Inspector’s own gameplay.