Back to the Future: The Game – “It’s About Time” (Episode One)
Show of hands…how many of you “lost it” when you first saw the trailer for this game? *Raises hand* I’m a big Back to the Future fan, mainly because I find the idea of time travel so appealing. I would love to have the ability to go back in time and tell my earlier self things that would have saved me a lot of headaches…at the risk of creating a universe shattering paradox of course. I’d also love to see how I’d end up in ten years, just to see if I’m on the right track in life now.
Back to the Future: The Game puts the player in control of Marty as he flux capacitors (sure, why not?) his way around the space-time continuum. Telltale released this game in five episodes, making one available roughly every month. The storyline flowed from one episode into the next, making it one big adventure.
This will be a five-part review, with each article covering an episode. Things may get spoiler heavy, but to be fair, the game has been out for a while. It will be necessary for me to reveal the plot twists and progression…so if you haven’t played it and want to…go do it before reading any further!
In episode one, “It’s About Time”, we discover the setting to be May 14, 1986…about seven months after the conclusion of the movie, “Back to the Future: Part III.” Marty, after waking from a bad dream that is disguised as the tutorial, discovers that the bank is selling off all of Doc’s possessions since he is nowhere to be found. After dealing with Biff Tannen and his dad, Marty finds the DeLorean outside, cointaining Einstein, a woman’s shoe, and an urgent message from Doc saying that he was in trouble.
At this point in the game, I was thinking of the possibilities. How did another DeLorean come to be? Did Doc build another one? Did Doc borrow the original during one of their escapades from the movies, meaning that eventually we’d have to find a way to put it back so as not to disrupt the timeline?
Doc’s message did not tell Marty where he was trapped, and the time circuit display showing “last time departed” is on the fritz. Marty ends up investigating with Einstein, leading them to Edna Strickland, the sister of Principal Gerald Strickland. After more pointing, clicking, and listening to Edna shout at kids (aka hooligans) from her window, Marty finds the information he needs and travels to the Hill Valley of 1931.
1931, if I remembered my history, was a time of gangsters and the Great Depression. I was anxious to see why Doc was in this particular time period and whether or not I’d see Clara and the boys…not to mention that epic train.
Marty arrives in 1931 right in the middle of a car chase, already polluting the timeline. The mobsters escape and the police car crashes. Marty parks the DeLorean behind a billboard and walks into town, discovering that Doc under the alias of “Carl Sagan” is in jail for the crime of burning down a speakeasy. We run into young Edna Strickland, Marty’s grandfather Artie who is working for Kid Tannen, and a teenage Emmett Brown.
At this point I was given free rein to roam around the town and talk to people. There were clear goals up till this point, and it took me some trial and error to figure out what I needed to do. It turned out that there was more than one goal that I had to complete in order to move on, so I was constantly bouncing back and forth between objectives. I had to talk to everyone about everything and blindly click on everything I saw…much like I did with the NES game, Shadowgate. Some of the puzzles progressed like a Rube Goldberg machine that I never would have gotten on my own had I tried to reason it out before hand. It wasn’t as bad as the cat hair / mustache puzzle from Gabriel Knight 3, so I dealt with it.
We find out from Doc, who is in jail, that the DeLorean is an exact replica of the original, having been created during the lightning storm from the first movie…convenient. Doc set it its automatic retrieval system to return to Marty’s time in case he was ever in trouble…so that’s one question answered.
There are quite a few exchanges so I won’t go into all of them, but my favorite part of this episode was talking to young Emmett and getting his help to unknowingly free his older self from prison. It was interesting to see what the young Doc Brown was really like, as well as hear about Doc’s father, Judge Brown.
After interacting with the characters and solving their problems, Marty is forced to pollute the timeline further by convincing his grandfather to snitch on Kid Tannen…it was the only way to enlist young Emmett’s help in freeing Doc. This comes around to bite him in the flux capacitor later on, but more on that later.
Finally, after many more clicks, Marty manages to free the older Doc from Kid Tannen’s clutches (he hijacked a prisoner transport truck). The episode ends in a twist when Marty begins disappearing and fading from time. As I mentioned above, I didn’t cover ALL of the plot twists…that would certainly take too long.
I enjoyed the first episode, mainly because I got to see a side of Doc that I hadn’t before. The other characters were okay, if predictable. Artie was timid, just like his son George was in the beginning of the first movie…Tannen was a jerk (surprise, surprise)…the only character that I wasn’t sure about was Trixie, who I haven’t mentioned yet. She’s a love interest for Artie, making Marty (and myself) wonder if he did something else wrong that jeopardized the timeline…after all, Marty’s grandmother’s real name was not Trixie.
This episode took me about two hours to blow through, and I did it all in one sitting. There is a hint system that will give you clues, and then finally the answer, if you are stuck. I didn’t need to use it, even though I was frustrated by some of the odd click-order puzzles. The soup kitchen puzzle, for example, was a pain in the Jigawatt (1.21 to be exact) to figure out on my own.
The graphics were cartoonish, which I was fine with, and the sounds and voices were spot on. I felt like I was playing a Back to the Future game…unlike a certain NES game that shall remain nameless…
All in all, it was a good start to the five-part series. Those not well versed in time travel and understanding its mechanics should have no trouble keeping up with THIS episode. I can’t say the same for the later ones…but stay tuned for those reviews, coming hopefully soon.
Final Verdict: 9/10