Review: Back to the Future: The Game

Back to the Future: The Game wields nostalgia with a fun story that never feels forced or trite. Instead, it’s a storyline that seems to grow organically out of everything laid out in the movies. There’s a bit of mumbo-jumbo involving a lightning strike as an explanation for how the DeLorean survived its encounter with a train at the end of the third movie. But I recommend you just go with it, because Marty’s back, Doc’s back, and it’s time to go Back to the Future, baby.

Telltale Games clearly saw this game, which is being told in six episodic installments, as a labor of love. Because their attention to detail and allegiance to the conventions of the franchise is both heartwarming and handled with a deft, light touch that’s never heavy-handed.

I can’t comment much on the quality of the graphics; my ancient laptop would only run it at medium settings, but the cartoonish design somehow works, even though it’s a bit jarring at times. You play as heroic Marty McFly, who once again finds himself on a mission into Hill Valley’s past, where he encounters ancestors of familiar characters like himself, bully Biff Tannen, and even “Doc” Emmett Brown. But even though the story unfolds from Marty’s perspective, the focus is really on Doc, his past, and his progenetors in this outing, which feels very fitting since the movie trilogy focused entirely on Marty’s lineage.

Depression-era 1920s is the setting for Hill Valley in the game — or at least for the first episode, “It’s About Time” — where Marty runs into his own grandfather, Biff’s mob boss dad, and even Doc as a teenager. I won’t spoil anymore of the story than that, but Telltale really nailed the authenticity, thanks in no small part to the vocal talents of Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox impersonator A.J. LoCascio, who’s so good at being Marty, you might believe it’s really Fox if you don’t know otherwise.

The music and environments have all been lovingly recreated in this digital landscape, and the gameplay is your standard point-and-click adventure game. You’ll spend most of your time gathering inventory items you can use to achieve specific goals, and a handy in-game hint system makes it impossible to get stuck. Some of the puzzles are genuinely clever, forcing the player to intuit solutions in real-world ways. As a result, it’s mildly challenging, but never frustrating. The story even manages to create genuine humor and suspense in all the right places, though it can be a bit too featherweight at times.

Most important of all, the game feels like Back to the Future. Telltale has captured all of the nuances and charm from the movies, and I can’t wait to see where the second episode (arriving in February) takes Marty and Doc next.

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Robin Parrish

Unathletic, uncoordinated tall man with endless creativity stampeding through his overactive brain. Comes with beard, wife, and two miniature humans. Novelist. General blogger and main Gaming Geek for ForeverGeek. Lead Blogger, Apple Gazette.

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