A blast from the past in more ways than one, Telltale’s new Back to the Future episodic adventure may be the most high-profile series the company has had. After all, as big as Monkey Island and Sam and Max are in the gaming community, there aren’t many out there that don’t know of Doc Brown and Marty McFly. The resulting game, though, is pure Telltale, for good and bad.
The first episode (considering all the promotion, aptly-titled “It’s About Time”) starts out in 1986, with a missing Doc and Marty setting out to find him. We won’t spoil any more than we have to, but most of the action takes place in a Prohibition-era Hill Valley, a place dominated by mob boss Kid Tannen. Just like the movie sequels, this time has its own timid McFly, its own goons following around the Tannen of the time and its own subtle-yet-familiar changes to the signature town square. Telltale did a lot to appeal to fans, including running gags from the films (“Think, McFly, think,” a manure truck, etc.) and spot-on voice acting from Christopher Lloyd and A.J. LoCascio. Lloyd does his Doc as well as he did 25 years ago, and while LoCascio tries a little too hard to emulate Michael J. Fox’s Marty voice, he’s virtually indistinguishable in moments of panic or excitement.
The game plays like any other Telltale game, really. You walk around limited spaces, clicking on things to use inventory items and selecting dialogue options with NPCs. The characters feel a little off from their cinematic counterparts, as they all would do just fine dropped into the world of Sam and Max. If just a bit more were done to make the presentation seem more epic and the wisecracks were kept to a minimum, it’d be for the better.
There’s a little bit of rewriting history to make the game how they wanted: the Mr. Fusion-powered DeLorean is back, presumably because Telltale just couldn’t make the story work with the Time Train and Doc’s wife and kids. (We hope this will be addressed later in the season.) The seemingly-mellowed 1985 Biff is a little more mischievous than you’d expect, and there are other minor changes made to keep the story simple.
If you like Telltale games and you like Back to the Future, you’ll be very happy. If you like just one, it’s probably still worth checking out. This isn’t an engrossing world to lose yourself in, so don’t expect that, but it’s a fun little popcorn experience.