Back to the Future Episode 1: It\'s About Time Author: T_H_Schafer -- Posted: 2011-02-02
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platform: PC (review) , Mac
Telltale Games' latest venture in their long reaching pedigree of point-and-click adventure games comes in the form of an episodic story existing within the Back to the Future cannon. During your journey through Episode I: It's About Time, you'll control Marty McFly as he ventures to rescue Doc Emmet Brown from some horrible catastrophe. The story starts with a freak incident with the DeLorean which gives the Doc that slow vanishing treatment, rendering him nonexistent. After the DeLorean reappears, Marty resorts to tracking down the Doc and rescuing him.
Back to the Future controls exactly the same as Telltale's newly released Tales of Monkey Island. You've got two options. You can either control with the WASD keys and use the moue to interact with objects or you have a mouse only option where you click and drag in the direction you wish to walk. I prefer using the WASD keys mainly because the camera often shifts which makes it awkward to control with the mouse only. I found it unusual that the game had no controller support but it isn't much of a gripe being that the WASD controls are completely functional.
You'll spend the rather short duration of the game solving somewhat easy puzzles. In this department I felt the game was rather lacking, especially considering the past efforts of Telltale. Back to the Future really doesn't offer the same level of complex puzzle solving or narrative that Telltale has offered in the past, or even the same level of challenge that other point-and-click adventure game offer.
Graphically the game shines in numerous respects. The characters are brilliantly animated, the environments are vivid and lend well to the overall feel of the game. The biggest draw may be the voice acting as a couple of the characters from the films reprise their roles within the game. It's pretty awesome having Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox act in a Back to the Future game, but I'm almost certain they had to do it for this game to succeed in the way it does. Their quips within the game conversations lend a lot to the overall experience. Without them I fear the game wouldn't have provided nearly the amount of quality offered here as their voices really bring this game to life.
This brings me to an important point. Certainly fans of the films will be thrilled at the opportunity to interact with Back to the Future characters in an original storyline, and there are many many Back to the Future fans out there, but what about the limited minority out there who don't feel so passionately about the films? There really isn't much in here for them. The bulk of the enjoyment comes from the small referential humor that fans of the films will catch but would be lost on everyone else. And the game relies heavily on the film narrative. Nothing that occurs strays far from the Back to the Future formula. It plays it safe, and what it manages to do is commendable but I can't help but feel the game relies where it could have innovated. I know the team at Telltale is more than able to craft interesting and creative worlds and I was somewhat let down that their own creativity was somewhat muted by the restraints of this previously conceived environment.
In the end Back to the Future lets down in areas I can't completely overlook. With somewhat simple tasks to complete and a short duration, the basic draw that I find in point-and-click adventures is left mostly unfulfilled. What will most likely draw players into purchasing this game is the ability to mingle around Hill Valley and the like whilst chatting it up with interesting characters and tooling around in the DeLorean. And if that is what you're after Back to the Future Episode 1: It's About Time certainly delivers. The strongest aspects of the game are in the fleshed out characters and the ability to experience more material from a classic story. I did have fun with my time spent in Hill Valley, and this is only the first episode of a planned five episode story line. I'll certainly be curiously awaiting the remaining episodes and hoping that more liberties are taken with the storyline.