“What’s this?” you say, “a video game based on one of my favourite film trilogies of all time?”. They sit proudly alongside my Indiana Jones and Star Wars DVDs, which speaks volumes about how highly I rate those movies. In the eighties, the next instalment of the trilogy was, for me and many other people of my age group, a big thing and so when a game pops up featuring it, two things happen at pretty much the same time. First of all, and quite sadly I might add, the first thought is “oh no, a video game based on a movie”, not just any movie but a classic movie. It normally spells doom for the game as the majority of the time it’s a quickly developed cash in. The second thing that would happen is I would start reading and looking into the game, thinking maybe it won’t be as bad as I feared and may actually be fun to play. Nine times out of ten however initial worries are proven correct when these games turn out to be a second rate barely enjoyable game. So, having the same worries about this title, it was with some trepidation that I downloaded and went into Back To The Future Episode 1. Did the game disappoint or surprise me? Read on to find out.
The game starts off in a familiar setting which any fan of the movies will recognise, the parking lot of the Twin Pines Mall with Doc Brown unveiling his time machine to Marty, even going so far as to include my favourite line of dialogue from all three of the films – “Doc, you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean”. But it is not long before Marty begins to experience a little deja vu, realising that he has been here and seen all this before, and then things begin to go a little awry. The time machine, along with Einstein on board, does not reappear when expected, followed seconds later by Doc disappearing into thin air. This leaves it to the player as Marty trying to figure out exactly what went wrong, resulting in a trip through time to the 1930s, to a time of gangsters and the prohibition.
The game takes the form of a point and click adventure, similar to titles such as Monkey Island or the Broken Sword games, as you move your characters through the playing area whilst at the same time moving a pointer around the screen, searching for interactive objects or characters. Interacting with other people in the game normally gives you enough of a clue to figure out what it is you are supposed to be doing. It then becomes a case of finding the items or manipulating the scene to achieve your goal. Some of the puzzles do tax the brain a little, but upon solving them you realise how obvious it was all along. For example, at one point in the game Marty needs to get his hands on some alcohol to be used as fuel. This may sound simple but in this time frame it was not so easy as to nip into your nearest corner shop. Instead it actually involved arranging a delivery and then manipulating three connected parts of a puzzle one after the other. Whilst trying to figure this out it was a little frustrating, but upon solving it you think to yourself that it was all so obvious. This is a genre of game which I have never really been a huge player of, The Monkey Island games of course being an exception along with the more recent Sam And Max title also on the PS3. But it has to be said I found myself enjoying Back To The Future more so than both of those games and I think it had a lot to do with the fact that it was based on the movie franchise.
What definitely helps is that the game is full of references and little in jokes which will have fans smiling all the way through and although this is only the opening episode with another five to follow over the coming months, this does an excellent job of setting up the games story and leaves you looking forward to the following episodes. Something else which helps no end when immersing you in the game is the sound and voice acting. The music score is both taken from and inspired by the music from the movies and the voice acting, although most of the voices in the game are supplied by voice over actors it has to be said they do an admirable job, especially the gentleman voicing Marty who does an excellent job impersonating Micheal J. Fox, so much so that during times in the game you could be forgiven for thinking it was him. All the other voice actors are overshadowed of course by Christopher Loyd returning to bring life back into Doctor Emmet Brown and it is so much joy hearing him back in that character.
The looks of the game take on an animated cartoon look, which in my opinion suits the game perfectly. But it also leads me to my one and only niggle with the game. The story takes place after that of the third film and although Marty was a young teenaged kid in the movies, it seems that they have made him look even younger in the game. I am not aware if this was a conscious effort from the developers or just something that came about. It does not detract from the game and is just one of those things that stuck in the back of my mind. On the whole however, the look of the game suits it perfectly.
And so we have it, Back To The Future Episode 1 from TellTale games is one of hose rare beasts, a game based on a movie franchise which is actually a lot of fun to play. The episode itself is not overly long and you will complete it within two or three hours, but with knowledge that there are more episodes to come. Paying the almost £16 may seem a little steep at first as you play through the first chunk of gameplay, but if the following episodes are as long as this one then the full season pass will be more than worth the money paid for it, making this a must buy for anyone who fondly remembers the movies, or if you are a fan of this game genre. It’s a well written, well acted, fun game to play. Well worth giving it a go.