Game Info:

Back to the Future: The Game
Developed by: Telltale Games
Published by: Telltale Games
Released: December 23, 2010
Available on: Windows, Mac (reviewed), PlayStation 3, iOS, Wii
ESRB rating: T (Alcohol reference, language, mild violence)
Number of players: 1
Price: $20.00 on LeapTrade

Ever since the original movie came out in 1985, I've been a fan of this series. The movies detail the adventures of a young man, Marty McFly, as he travels through time using a machine created by his friend Dr. Emmett Brown. The series helped to bolster the careers of Michael J. Fox (who played McFly), Christopher Lloyd (who played Brown) and director Robert Zemeckis. Today, car enthusiasts continue to seek out old DeLoreans and convert them in order to look like the time machine that appears in these movies.

So when I found out that Telltale Games was working on a sequel to the trilogy, I was interested. When I found out that the writers of the game were consulting with Bob Gale and Zemeckis, the original writers of the movie series, and that Christopher Lloyd would be reprising the role of Emmett Brown, I was ecstatic. For fans of the movies, this was finally the sequel they were looking for!

Unfortunately, when it was first released, my old computer was showing signs of its old age. It couldn't run the game – or pretty much any game – without the fan rattling like a blender with a cracked blade. So I had to wait until I got my current machine – a 2012 13” MacBook Pro – to play the game. And for Back to the Future: The Game, it was well worth the wait!

The game starts a few months after the events of the movies, with Marty McFly at the home of Emmett Brown. The doctor has been missing and presumed dead, so his estate is preparing to sell off all his possessions in order to pay off his debts. As Marty goes outside, the DeLorean appears, with Brown's dog, Einstein inside – but no sign of the doctor. Marty is confused – the time machine had been destroyed... hadn't it? The player controls Marty as he first needs to puzzle out where in time Brown went, and then travel back in time to 1931 to free him from jail... with the help of a much younger Emmett Brown!


Strong Points: A long-awaited return to Hill Valley for fans of the movie trilogy, great voice acting and a fun story!
Weak Points: Some graphic quirks and crashes, short game play, little incentive to replay
Moral Warnings: Language, some violence (including gunplay), player has to engage in several deceptions, references to alcohol and pornography

These events are just in the first episode. The other four chapters detail trips back and forth from 1931 to various alternate 1986s, the results of McFly's attempts to correct things in the past and interfering with the history of Emmett Brown. It's a wild, exciting romp through the history of the series, and it's a joy to interact with the characters that fans have come to love – or loathe, in the case of the Tannen family – in a game format. Each episode only takes two to three hours to complete, so the game is relatively short. It took me 15 hours to solve all the problems, but some of that was due to exploring things and trying to find all the dialogue options I could.

As with most Telltale Games, controlling the characters can be done with either clicking on the screen or steering with the arrow keys. The player can click on objects on the screen in order to interact with them or put them in Marty's inventory. Figuring out which inventory item works with what on-screen object or person serves as the primary form of puzzle to solve in the game. Some maze navigation and dialogue trees serve as the bulk of the rest of the challenges the player has to solve.

The voice acting is superb in the game. Although Lloyd does sound a bit older, he does a great job with the role of Emmett Brown from 1985. Arnold Taylor voices the younger Emmett Brown, and A.J. Locasio handles the voice of Marty McFly so well that it's hard to tell that the character is not voiced by a younger Michael J. Fox! Claudia Wells returns to voice Jennifer Parker (from the first Back to the Future movie – the character of Parker was actually played by a different actress for the sequels). It's too bad that Tom Wilson couldn't return to voice the Tannens, but Andrew Chaikin does a decent job with the character. Michael J. Fox does do some voice acting in the final chapter, but not as Marty McFly. 

However, it's the voice acting that leads to one of the issues with the game itself. The characters are stylized in amusing caricatures of their on-screen appearances and look very nice... until they open their mouths to talk. Their faces move in a rubbery, artificial fashion that, at times, slips into “uncanny valley” territory. That's hardly the only flaw in the game. Some of the dialogue has audio problems and changes volumes at intermittent times and, based on the closed captioning, some of the dialogue is missing entirely. Not only that, there are occasional graphic quirks as well. For example, in one instance young Emmett Brown will be conducting tests with a flying machine and have equipment in a gazebo in the park. The flying device will end up on the roof of a building and Emmett will leave the equipment behind and climb on top of the building. The player can then have Marty tinker with the equipment in the gazebo... only to be stopped by Emmett standing right in front of it. The next moment Emmett is back on top of the building. 

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 74%
Gameplay - 12/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 53%
Violence - 4/10
Language - 4/10
Sexual Content - 3.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

During the gameplay, I had each episode crash to the desktop at least once. It seems to me that the game may have been released with a few too many bugs, and that the beta testing wasn't fully completed by the time they rushed it out for digital downloads – at least for the Mac version of the game. Those playing the game on different platforms may have a different experience.

There are many elements of the game that may lead to moral quandaries as well. Pretty much every swear word is spoken at least once during the course of the game, with the possible exception of the f-word, and that's only because the character speaking it is interrupted in the middle of it. This includes one character who takes the Lord's name in vain as part of his “send off” dialogue, so that phrase has to be repeatedly heard. There is violence in the game, including gunfire and one character actually being killed in a hit-and-run, but aside from one small pool of blood (which is actually a plot point) there isn't any gore to be seen. Alcohol references are frequent, especially with some segments taking place in a speakeasy (which also includes gambling and prostitution references). Also, in order to proceed, the player needs to lie frequently. Pornography makes minor plot points as well, including naked pictures of one of the main characters. However, in the one photo that the player gets to see, anything that might be construed as titillating is comically obscured by a gigantic moose antler. One chapter's goal is accomplished by repeatedly violating the laws of Hill Valley and flaunting authority. In essence, if you found things questionable about the movies, you'll find it even moreso in the game. 

As with the more comedic offerings from Telltale Games, there is no real way to lose at these games. Even with the urgency of a high-speed chase, the player can potentially spend hours trying to solve the puzzles and there is no danger of the opponent reaching his or her destination before Marty can accomplish his task. This also means that each episode has only one ending, so once everything is completed in the game, there is little reason to play it again. 

Altogether, Back to the Future: The Game is a delightful gem for fans of the original trilogy who have wanted a sequel for years. For others who are simply looking for a solid adventure game, or aren't familiar with the movies, they may find more enjoyment from some of Telltale's other offerings. 


About the Author

J. Todd Cumming

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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