It seems most movie games exist only as a ploy to milk consumers for every cent they’re worth. Timing is crucial for these games, because their sales die with the associated movie’s hype. As a result, fans end up with a lackluster product that leaves them feeling betrayed and full of gamer rage. In the last few years though, the gaming community has seen a rise of “fan-service” games that do the movies and the characters justice. These games include Batman: Arkham Asylum, Ghostbusters: The Videogame, and Transformers: The War for Cybertron. Now, Telltale Games, creators of the Sam & Max and Tales of Monkey Island series have recently released It’s About Time, the first episode in the Back to the Future game series.
The story of It’s About Time takes place six months after the third Back to the Future movie. Doc’s estate has accumulated a large amount of debt in his absence, and to resolve this, the city is organizing to auction off all of his possessions. You play Marty McFly (obviously), who shows up at Doc’s place in an effort to protect some of the more dangerous keepsakes. While conversing with Biff Tannon and George McFly the time machine miraculously reappears, without Doc. As Marty, you discover that Doc got into some kind of trouble in prohibition-era Hill Valley, and it is up to you to save him.
The story is one aspect of the game that really makes it worth playing. Following the tradition of the other movies, you’ll find that the family rivalry between the McFlys and the Tannons is very much alive during the prohibition-era, and you’ll discover a lot more about Doc’s character as you meet this younger self. In addition, fans of the series will be happy to know that Telltale Games nailed all the elements of the movie. Christopher Lloyd hasn’t lost his touch voicing Doc, and A.J. Locascio spoke a perfect Marty. Aside from that, the musical score is instantly recognizable and appropriately used in the various scenes, and the story in general contains a perfect mixture of action and comedy. You will not be disappointed by the cutscenes.
That said I do have a few gripes about the gameplay. When I first started the game, I was unsure about the style-ized look of the characters, and though the voice work eventually sold me on it, the overly rigged character animations bugged me throughout the story. As far as gameplay goes, fans of Telltale Games will become instantly familiar with the point-and-click interface. Having direct control over Marty was a nice touch, but the fixed camera made moving from area to area a confusing hassle (depending on the angle of the “new” camera you’ll have to change directional key so Marty will continue to walk straight).
I was also somewhat disappointed in the puzzles, which were too few in number and significantly easier (they can be easily solved in two or three minutes) than those in the Sam & Max series. Some of the dialogue sequences also felt too linear. In most of these sequences you are given multiple reply options to choose from, but because there is only one correct reply, I just felt like I was being punished (by having to watch the same character dialogue repeatedly) for not choosing the correct option. Finally, I was somewhat disappointed in the depth of the prohibition-era Hill Valley setting. For a large portion of the game Marty’s restricted to the streets surrounding the famous Court House, but while their are a number of shops and stores placed to aid the authentic look of the era, almost all of them are inaccessible.
Despite its downfalls, It’s About Time earns 3 stars out of 5 for offering up an exceptional story and an enjoyable play through. It’s also important to remember that this is just the first of five episodes to be released this year, so there is much more to come in the continuing Back to the Future saga.