Developer: Telltale Games
Released: Out Now
Formats: iPad, Mac, PS3, PC
You always hope for a good game based on a movie you love – outside of the infrequently decent Star Wars titles, the history of licensed games is so appalling that we automatically assume they’ll be terrible, which is usually the result of a developer trying to force an intellectual property into a popular game template. In the wrong hands, someone would make a Back To The Future shooter where you endlessly fire rubber darts at millions of identical future Biffs. Luckily, the licence has arrived with the point-and-click stalwarts at Telltale Games, who have created an interactive Back To The Future story that most fans of the movies will enjoy a great deal.
These first two episodes primarily take place in 1986 and 1931. After a recreation of the first time travel sequence from the original movie, Doc Brown lands himself in jail back in 1931. Einstein reappears shortly after with the DeLorean, and you, as Marty McFly, have to go back in time and break him out of jail, convincing a younger Emmett Brown to help you pull it off. In Episode Two, you have to save Marty’s nervous grandfather Arthur from Biff’s gangster dad, Kid Tannen, in order to prevent a future where every succeeding Tannen has bullied the McFly family.
The story is elevated by superb writing, supervised by BTTF screenwriter Bob Gale, as well as quality voice-acting – Christopher Lloyd reprises the role of Doc Brown with a tangible enthusiasm, while the lack of Michael J Fox doesn’t blight the experience one bit, since the studio has found the world’s greatest Fox impersonator in AJ LoCascio, who captures the rhythm and inflections of the great actor.
It’s the arbitrary puzzles that will drag you out of the story and expose the bare bones of the game design, but when Back To The Future: The Game is a piece of merchandise, a fast-moving adventure where the developers have nailed the tone of the movies, it’s wonderful to be swept up in that universe again. Over the next few months, we’ll trundle through episodes three, four and five, and will keep you informed about whether they can sustain the hit rate established by these excellent opening chapters.