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The Morning After – Back to the Future: The Game – Episode 1: It’s About Time

February 23, 2011

I’ll be the first to admit that when I first finished this, I was rather unhappy with it.

However, with the release of the second episode in the series,  the biggest problem I had with it vanished. Not because they fixed something I didn’t like, but simply because I had totally misunderstood how the whole episodic content thing was going to work.

My bad.

So anyway, I figured the best way I could deliver my mea culpa was to bump this post up to the top of my To-Do list.

Enjoy!

~Gaar

The Morning After – Back to the Future: The Game

Where to even begin…

I guess you can’t really talk about a game based on a movie without referencing the movie, so that’s as good a place to start as any. The original Back to the Future came out in the summer of 1985 and starred a now familiar Michael J. Fox.  (However, back then, he was mainly known as Alex P Keaton, his character in Family Ties.  This movie series, along with Teen Wolf which also came out in 1985, are the movies that really made him 80s-famous to those of us that grew up in that decade.)

The trailers alone were enough to get you excited about the movie.  I mean, it’s a flippin’ Delorean time machine!  Even without the added electronics, those things seemed to come from the future anyway.  At least, back then.  :p  Add to this the fact that it was a Spielberg movie coming out just a month after another of his 80s mega-hits, The Goonies, and it was easy to see how a kid who loved movies would be dieing to see it.

It definitely didn’t disappoint.  From the hot fashion (did you see those sweet Nikes?) to the hilarious pop-culture references (“Give me a Tab.” “Tab? I can’t give you a tab unless you order something.” “All right, give me a Pepsi Free.” “You want a Pepsi pal, you’re gonna pay for it.”), BttF had me hooked.  So hooked that when the sequel came out, me and my friend convinced his mom to drive us 45 minutes to the nearest movie theater so we could see it when it came out.  (We lived in BFE, OK at the time, in case you were wondering.  So that was a big deal.)

You know what didn’t live up to the hype back then though?  Back to the Future for the NES.  Wow.  Just wow.  What a piece of crap.  Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to play it simply because it was a game based on a movie I loved.  Hell, I’d probably play it again now just for the nostalgia factor.  But let’s face it, most games made from movies suck and this one was no exception.  It just didn’t quite have the movie “feel” down right, which is a problem with most games like these.

Not so in Telltale Games incarnation though.  From the moment I fired it up, it had me feeling like I was watching the long lost fourth movie.  To me, it gets the feel of the movie THAT right.

Warning: incoming screenshot proof…

From Marty’s iconic “life vest”…

…to the homage to Miami Vice and Weird Science on the walls…

…to the Flux Capacitor!!!!…

…everywhere you look, they’ve put in something iconic that draws you in all over again.

What ultimately seals the deal for me with this game is that it’s ultimately a fourth movie as opposed to some re-hash of the original movies in game form.  Telltale seems to have understood that we’ve seen the movie.  We liked it.  We know it by heart.  We want more.

And they delivered more, in a fully-voiced, click-to-solve, puzzle-driven format interspersed with cut-scenes that move the storyline forward.  While I’m not always a fan of this type of game format, it works here specifically because of the history behind the story and the people that grew up with it.  This game was made to immerse you in a world and tell a story, first and foremost, with the game-play mechanics there to help you drive the storyline.  Anyone, and I mean anyone, can pick up this game and play through it to experience this fourth installment in the BttF movie series and enjoy it.

Gameplay

The interface is very streamlined and simplistic and the options allow you to even turn the default settings down to minimalize it even further if you’d prefer.  (From left to right: current objective icon, inventory icon, hint icon, story so far icon).  You can use either WASD for movement or click and hold your mouse to guide Marty.  Your mouse icon is a scaled down Flux Capacitor that lights up when you hover over something you can interact with, which is done via a simple click.

 

When you’ve entered an object, like the Delorean for instance, you’re given a new option to exit when you’re finished.  Interacting with objects around you will either cause you to use them (for instance, you can fire up the Flux Capacitor here momentarily to make sure it still works) or pick them up to gather more information from them and possibly use them later in the story.

All items you’ve picked up go into your inventory where you can examine them for more information or to refresh your memory about them, as well as use them.  Wanna relive a classic moment of BttF?  Hook that guitar up and see if Marty’s still got the touch…

During certain cut scenes and when interacting with other characters, your dialog options show up in the bottom left and are easily selected with either the mouse/mouse-click or by using the arrow keys and enter.  In the case shown above, your choice will slightly alter Doc’s response but the story will progress on regardless.  In other cases, some choices merely provide more information while others progress the story.  While none of the choices ever seem to leave you “stuck” and unable to progress, they can certainly make it harder for you to do so by removing other dialog options that can clue you in on how to move forward.  It’s those instances that the hint feature was built for.  Don’t worry though, it has different levels built into it, so it doesn’t just give you the answer outright.  At least, not right away, which was nice to see when I got stuck that one time…yeah…just that one time…  >.>

Storyline

I’m not going to get too detailed because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.  You’re welcome.  😉

Basically, this Episode starts a while after the end of the third movie.  Marty is trying to adjust to his new life in Hill Valley without Doc when the Delorean shows up mysteriously.  Since something’s obviously wrong (I mean, have you ever known a story to revolve around nothing being wrong?), Marty rushes off to try to solve the mystery reappearance of the time machine.  Hopefully without disrupting the timeline…again.

We all know where this is going, right?  :p

The Good Stuff

So if you haven’t been able to tell by now, I really loved playing Episode 1.  From beginning to end, I felt like I was in a real BttF story and not just something contrived to create a game around.

  • Iconic BttF movie “feel”
  • Engaging story
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Multi-level hint system

The Not-So-Good Stuff

So remember in the intro where I said I originally wasn’t very pleased with it?  Yeah, well, there were a couple reasons of which the main one was the price of the game weighed against the time to complete.  I knocked out Episode 1 in a couple hours without even trying and then sat there going “I paid how much for that?”  What I failed to understand at the time was that the price I’d paid wasn’t just for the first Episode.  As they release the new Episodes each month, I can just go back and download the new ones.  So…yeah…my bad.  However, my reaction that the Episode was over quick still stands.  It was.  However, ultimately, that issue will go away once all the Episodes are out and people will be able to play them all at once.  At that point, the cost is well worth the content in my opinion.  Also, while I love that anyone can pick up the game and play through to experience the story, from a gamer’s perspective, it’s just not consistently challenging which detracts from the overall experience for me.

  • Episode is over fast
  • Puzzles are overly simplistic at times

PAX Prime 2010 Promo

Ultimately though, I highly recommend this game to anyone that loves the BttF franchise and wants to experience more of it.  They’ve stated there will be a total of five Episodes, of which two are already out.  I picked up my copy off Steam for $25 which seems to be the standard price.  That means you’re paying $5 an Episode, which is well worth it from my perspective.  That being said, I’m sure if you hold off until all five are out, they’ll probably end up having a deal where you can get it cheaper as Steam likes to do that.

Keep an eye out for my write-up of Episode 2: Get Tannen!  Until then, I’m gonna make like a tree and get out of here.  But I’ll leave you with the original trailer from 1985 to tide you over until next time.

Have fun!

~Gaar

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2011 6:44 am

    I just started playing that yesterday during lunch 🙂 There are parts of the gameplay I don’t like… sometimes the multiple dialog options all lead to the same thing, which I always hate – if i don’t *really* have a choice here, don’t patronize me and make me think i do… because i *am* one of those people who will set a save point, and go back to try different dialog options (when i was a kid, i had just about every finger stuck in pages of Choose Your Own Adventure books.. heh).

    Over all, however, I agree with you: it’s a really fun game, that totally feeds off nostalgia. That could be it’s downfall though; if you didn’t like the movies, you wont like the game; and if you have no emotional connection to the characters already, i’m not sure how good of job this game does on its own in creating those bonds with the player.

    • February 23, 2011 7:47 am

      Yeah, there are definitely a couple points where you can say anything and you’re going to move on. However, those seemed to be there more to add a bit of flavor to how you ended up at the conclusion than to block you from progressing or change the overall storyline.

      As for the Choose Your Own Adventure books, I read all those that I could and did the same thing. BioWare is the king of that type of game lately though as it seems that’s all they really did with their RPGs is make a CYOA story into a game complete with different stories and endings depending on your choices.

      I don’t really think they were targeting people that hadn’t seen the movies, to be honest. What I think the game does though, is make you go back and watch the movies if you haven’t yet just so you’ll understand the game better which works for me. The more people that watch them, the better. Especially when they then get to see how a story-driven game like this can be done right as a follow-up to a movie (series).

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