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Back to the Future: The Game (PlayStation 3) artwork

Back to the Future: The Game (PlayStation 3) review


"Back to the Future: The Game basically tries to be a fourth Back to the Future movie, and it tries hard. Everything about this game is a reference to the movies. Some of the music from the movies is used in the soundtrack, there are plenty of references to all three films scattered around the game world, and even the box art follows the template used by the posters for all three films. Christopher Lloyd reassumes the role of Doc Brown, and Marty McFly is played by a new actor (named A.J. LaCascio) who does an amazing job. Seriously, he sounds so much like a young Michael J. Fox, it’s kind of eerie, especially in Episode 5 when Fox himself makes a cameo as one of Marty’s ancestors and the two characters have a conversation."



I’m not sure when Back to the Future gained such a cult following. The movies were a hit when they came out in the 80s, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I started hearing people talking about them all the time. I don’t know what brought this sudden renaissance, but the renaissance brought Back to the Future: The Game

Back to the Future: The Game basically tries to be a fourth Back to the Future movie, and it tries hard. Everything about this game is a reference to the movies. Some of the music from the movies is used in the soundtrack, there are plenty of references to all three films scattered around the game world, and even the box art follows the template used by the posters for all three films. Christopher Lloyd reassumes the role of Doc Brown, and Marty McFly is played by a new actor (named A.J. LaCascio) who does an amazing job. Seriously, he sounds so much like a young Michael J. Fox, it’s kind of eerie, especially in Episode 5 when Fox himself makes a cameo as one of Marty’s ancestors and the two characters have a conversation. If you weren’t told otherwise, you might think Fox recorded Marty’s part of this game in the 80s and they’re only using the files now.

Telltale partnered with series co-creator, co-producer, and co-writer Bob Gale to make the game feel like part of the franchise, and they’ve definitely succeeded. Much of the game takes place in Hill Valley in 1931, and the supporting cast mostly consists of ancestors of characters from the films. Jennifer’s grandfather, a relative of Gerald and James Strickland, Marty’s own grandfather, and Biff’s father all have major roles to play.

Back to the Future: The Game was originally released as a series of five downloadable episodes, and the retail disc contains the full season. There are no differences between the episodes on the disc and the episodes that may already be on your PS3 hard drive. The trophies are even the same, though now they’re in one big set and include a Platinum trophy. Each episode is a self-contained story that feeds into the overarching narrative.

The game opens in 1986, a few months after the end of Back to the Future III. Doc Brown has been missing for months, and Marty is worried. When the DeLorean somehow makes its way to Marty with Doc’s dog Einstein inside, Marty sets out to find out what happened to Doc. After learning that he was arrested and later murdered in 1931, Marty hops in the DeLorean and heads into the past to find him.

Each episode is more exciting than the last. Preventing Doc's murder is only the beginning. After saving Doc’s life and then his own, Marty returns to 1986 and learns just how much of an effect one person can have on another person and who he eventually becomes. By altering history, Marty has altered the course of Doc’s life, turning him into a very different person who has had a much more negative effect on the world. The rest of the game focuses on Marty learning what caused this drastic change in Doc’s very nature, and what he has to do to undo it.

The game is well-written, a perfect blend of excitement and comedy. Overall, the dialog captures the feel of the films well, though it's impossible for the dialog to feel 100% natural all of the time when it essentially is a series of dialog trees. You’ll want to explore, talk to everyone, try every dialog option, and examine every object. Marty has a lot to say about pretty much everyone and everything.

If you’ve played any of Telltale’s other adventure games, such as Strongbad’s Cool Games for Attractive People or Sam & Max, you know what to expect in terms of gameplay. You’ll spend most of your time exploring Hill Valley throughout the ages, talking to people and examining objects. There’s not a lot of fast-paced action, and what little action you do see is actually kind of annoying. Marty moves pretty slowly, even when holding the Run button. Selecting objects with which to interact is pretty painless most of the time, at least; you can cycle through highlighted objects with the shoulder buttons, though this might not always quick enough in the rare scene where you have to interact with a series of objects in quick succession. Puzzles are straightforward enough that you probably won’t get stuck very often, but challenging enough to provide satisfaction when you solve them. There are a handful times where you may find yourself rubbing random objects against random people to see if something happens, but that’s just an adventure game tradition.

The graphics are cartoony, which fits well. Many of these characters have been established for 25 years, and the cartoony style allows for recognizable caricatures without the artists trying (and probably failing) to model them realistically. You’ll know Biff when you see him, even if you won’t confuse him with his actor from the 80s. Animations are generally lively and convincing, if not occasionally unnatural and a little rough. Sometimes cutting from one shot to another can take a moment, causing the action to stall. The camera is usually where you need it to be, but sudden changes in viewing perspective can be disorienting. Thankfully, this is not the kind of game where getting a little dizzy leads to failure.

The music is pretty much what you’d expect from Back to the Future IV, if it had been made. Familiar tunes will bring a smile to the face of any series fan. The voices of returning characters are spot-on, whether they’re played by their original voice actors or not. One complaint about the sound concerns the bizarre levels for certain things, specifically story-related music. There are a few scenes where someone is singing or Marty is playing his guitar, and the sound is always disproportionately low compared to the voices and music. It’s incredibly jarring to see Marty hopping around and wailing on his axe and hear almost no sound resulting.

Despite a few minor quirks, Back to the Future: The Game is a worthy follow up to the classic movie trilogy, fitting right in as a substitute for a fourth movie. Fans will be pleased and non-fans will be able to find something to enjoy, too, as Back to the Future: The Game is a perfectly competent adventure game whether or not you get the references. Any Back to the Future fan would be doing him or herself a great disservice by skipping this game.

Rating: 8/10

Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (December 26, 2011)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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threetimes posted December 28, 2011:

One or two things: you sometimes repeat words eg: "all three films" in the second paragraph and "cartoony" in the second to last, when it's really redundant.

I thought the first paragraph was weak, with "I don't know"," I'm not sure", and that initially put me off reading the review. I'd cut that out or make a stronger statement - how the films have gained a cult following over the years and why that might be. (They are that good!)

I'd have liked to see some examples of the puzzles to illustrate your point about how it all works, or doesn't sometimes. Did you manage that trophy in Doc's lab the first time? I found that one very frustrating cos of the controls and camera angles.

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