Back to the Future

Don't Need Money, Don't Take Fame

But you will need a credit card to play this Back to the Future game.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: February 24, 2011
I'll never forget that summer 25 years ago when pretty much every single kid had seen Back to the Future except me. I kept waiting for my dad to take me, and at one point he was going to, but I begged him to get me some stupid G.I. Joe instead. I had memorized the entire trailer and knew the whole history behind the DeLorean, and when the movie finally showed up at the dollar theater down the street, I was the first one in line to see it. By now I have seen the film dozens of times, and pretty much have the entire series memorized. I vowed not to be so late to the party with Telltale's revival of the series in their latest episodic adventures, and so I jumped right on Back to the Future: It's About Time.

Telltale's forte thus far has been in crafting excellent humorous narratives that remain true to the source material they draw from. The first of the five episodes in Back to the Future continue this tradition with aplomb. The game takes place after the events of all the films (I thinků it's so hard to tell with these time-traveling based scenarios), so Marty has already changed the world so his dad is the cool guy and Biff is the lackey, only now Doc has gone missing for several months, and Marty has been having strange dreams about the original time-traveling experiment going horribly wrong. You'll spend the first part of the game poking around Hill Valley circa 1986, trying to determine where exactly in time Doc went, then spend the rest of the time in Hill Valley circa 1931 trying to rescue him. In typical Telltale fashion, you won't progress the main story too far, but each episode is its own little microcosm with a full story arc and offering a satisfying resolution with an appropriate cliffhanger for the next installment.

The team at Telltale has done a great job crafting a believable extension to the BttF universe, and you'll interact with your share of McFlys, Tannens, Browns, faithful hound Einstein, and even a Strickland. The voice actor for Marty does an outstanding job sounding close to 1985 Michael J. Fox, and Christopher Lloyd reprises his role as "older" Doc Brown (but it has to be said, he sure sounds 25 years older than he did in 1985), and the rest of the voice cast does passable impersonations of their movie counterparts. Most of the puzzles in the game are pretty straight forward, although one or two are the old "cat mustache" sort of deal that without the built in hints might have you scratching your head for quite a bit. The whole game can be played in roughly the time it takes to watch one of the films, and there isn't quite the wide ranging tangental dialogue you find in other Telltale offerings, so don't expect a lot of replay value here.

If you are familiar by now with the formula Telltale has been using for their recent episodic adventure games (Sam & Max and SBCG4AP), then you will certainly feel right at home here. As usual, they have made a few tweaks to the interface, this time adding in a robust tiered hint system (somewhat similar to the recent Stacking) for those times when you might get stuck, and a detailed description of what your current task should be if you need it. My primary issue with the game (really the only one) is that on occasion when the camera switches angles, the controls fail to take into account that perspectives have changed, and I would find myself wandering aimlessly trying to get Marty to just walk to the left instead of whatever random direction left had been in the last scene.

We should see more episodes releasing on a regular basis in the coming months, and based off the first installment, my fears that Telltale was getting spread too thin (they have a LOT of projects in the pipe right now) seem to have been unfounded. Anyone who has fond memories of this franchise will be titillated with this series (and be rewarded with a trophy if they remember their dialogue from the first film) and enjoy all the subtle and overt references to the trilogy. Thanks for the memories, Telltale!
The Verdict

Telltale does their usual outstanding job paying homage to the source material while injecting their own humor into the universe in a way that fits in with our fond memories. An excellent start to their latest episodic adventure.


You'll certainly recognize all your favorite characters, but the game exudes a sort of PlayStation 2.5 look. I think the Telltale art style works a little better in the cartoon animal medium than it does with humans.


The voice acting is excellent, although you can't help but notice that Christopher Lloyd has aged a LOT since the films. The rest of the sound effects do a good job at giving life to Hill Valley. As usual, the music evokes just the right emotions.


For the most part, it works well, and using the R1/L1 buttons to cycle hotspots is very nice. The occasional hiccup when you transition between scenes is annoying, but not game breaking.


Solid adventure gaming with puzzles that are not too obtuse. There are limited inventory items and excellent built-in hints, which means you shouldn't spend much time stuck and more time enjoying the atmosphere.