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Official Review: Back to the Future Episode 1

  • On March 29, 2011

It’s been twenty-one years since movie goers had seen the last Back to the Future movie hit the big screen. I remember hearing stories, when I was younger, that there might be a possibility that a new Back to the Future movie was in the works, but that was years ago. It seems that, at this point, it’s nothing short of a dream, and that most people have realized that a new movie in the franchise would never come. So you can understand my surprise, along with so many other BttF fans, when it was announced that Telltale Games was reviving the franchise with their very own take on the next episode… game-wise of course. But was this a good idea? After all, the series has such a following; was it wise to awaken the slumbering beast?

Before going any further, let us all take a couple of minutes to remember how the Back to the Future series and videogames got together in bed for the first time many, many years ago:

That was a commercial for the first Back to the Future NES game. You say it’s not fair to compare the new, episodic series with this 22 year old game? OK, let’s go forward a generation and see if the Genesis helped make developers realize a more interesting movie-to-film conversion:

Nope, that definitely didn’t work. The NES game I can do with (actually finished it back in the day), but the Genesis one is something I definitely wouldn’t want to come near to. Sad thing is, after seeing that video, I remembered trying it out. Now, with that in your short term memory, what can we expect of this new take on one of the most beloved film franchises of all times?

In my honest opinion, I think Telltale Games did a great job in capturing everything that has made the franchise such a hit. It seems that they put a lot of thought into the relationships that these characters had, then took the Back to the Future atmosphere and rolled it up nicely into the game. For starters, they received direct help from Bob Gale with the game’s story, and for those that don’t realize it, Gale is a member of the core group of people that were involved in creating the film trilogy, with the game’s story.

Christopher Lloyd also joined the crew to reprise his role as Emmett Brown, better known as Doc, which is great since he was such a key character in the movie. Even though Michael J. Fox didn’t lend his voice as Marty, you can still see a lot of him inside the character, and although you don’t interact with all of the other characters for long periods of time, they do help ease you into the story extremely well. For instance, Marty’s father has that dorky way about him just as he did in the movie, and you can expect the same old Biff, a total butt-head.

You start the game off just like many of the other games, by getting a taste of the controls, and if you’ve tried Sam and Max or Tales of Money Island (both series are developed by Telltale Games), you will know exactly what I mean. The controls, as always, are very simple. You have the X, which acts as the main action button, the O, which helps you back out of tasks or increase the characters movement, and the triangle helps you access the hints menu, which I thought was very well implemented, even if I didn’t have a need for it.

Depending on the puzzle you are trying to figure out, it may have between two to four hints to help you solve the puzzle, which is always a great feature because, even though I knew about it, I was never tempted to press it to get through a puzzle… but since you never know, it was interesting to have it be there, ever present and all seeing.

This would have been awesome for adventure games that I used to play when I was younger, instead of having to buy a hint book. Yes, I was one of those kids (we didn’t have the internet to help us back then!). It would have been nice to actually hit a button to help you along and not get stuck for all eternity. Now, for those that can’t help themselves, this can also be a terrible feature, as you won’t be able to stop grabbing hints since they are so openly available to you, especially since using hints doesn’t prevent you from obtaining trophies (which isn’t normally the case with this type of game). Just ask our very own Oly.

The good old square button lets you access the inventory once you have items stashed away, and now moving onto the upper part of the DualShock, the L1/R1 triggers help you cycle through all the items that are available for interaction. If cycling through items isn’t really your thing, you can always hit the L2/R2 triggers and get red dots on all of items that might be of interest to you in that particular room.

The L3 button helps shows you a reminder of what your current objective is and the R3 button gives you a summary of why you are trying to achieve that particular goal. Even though all of the buttons don’t exactly do what they did in games such as Sam and Max or Tales of Monkey Island, you shouldn’t have any problem figuring them out, and even if you haven’t, the controls are extremely user friendly and easy to master.

So what have Doc and Marty gotten themselves into this time, you ask? Well, the game takes place 6 months after the third film ended. With Doc missing, and no one to answer, the city has decided to put Docs house up for sale. As Marty is trying to figure out what he can do to delay the sale, or take from Docs house for safe keeping, he gets an unexpected visit. Seeing lightning and the noise of an air vacuum created by the fabled DeLorean as it appears out of nowhere, Marty rushes outside to greet his old friend, Doc. To his surprise, he quickly learns that Doc’s in trouble and that he needs to help him out. With the help of Einstein, a tape recorder, a shoe, and his old, trusted Steed… the Time Machine, Marty must uncover clues to find out which year Emmett Brown is stuck in.

This is where all the fun starts. Once you figure out how to go to the time period in which Doc is trapped in, you have to work with all of the characters at your disposal to help you complete the first chapter in the episodic adventure. What really stood out to me is how well this game ties into everything that is Back to the Future. If you paid attention to any of the movies, you will, first, be introduced to the problem and then a time frame in which you have to fix that specific problem within.

Another thing that Telltale Games have done with this game correctly is kept the mechanics of what worked really well in the movie and introduced it into the game. For instance, when you do go back in time, you will meet the same characters from your time period, except in their younger years. Now, for some of the characters, it’s important to stay away from, as meeting them may have a drastic change on the space-time continuum, erasing you from the future.

A lot of things have been done well within the game; for instance, the music, the characters, and the story. The only one complaint that I have is that the puzzles seem to be somewhat easy. This coming from someone that has played Sam and Max and Tales of Monkey Island (both recreated by Telltale Games). This, in no way, means that you shouldn’t get this, as it’s the only quirk I had with this episode, but, overall, everything seems to point in the right direction. The story is really interesting, original, and does a great job of leaving you in suspense as you prepare for the next episode in the 5 chapter adventure.



This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Back to the Future Episode 1 provided by Telltale Games.

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