Game: Back to the Future: Ep 1 – It’s About Time
Time Played: 3.5 hours
So far, I’ve made good on my goal to try out a new Steam game every week this month. I put this one to a vote, and Back to the Future: The Game turned out to be the choice. I warned that if this was picked, I’d play through the entire series of 5 episodes to stay consistent with the game’s story. So, that’s what I’ve been doing.
The only other Telltale series I’ve ever played is The Walking Dead. It’s actually the series that turned me on to Telltale games, and one I enjoyed quite a bit. Since that was my entry point to their story-based games, it’s hard not to compare Back to the Future to The Walking Dead, especially considering they were released within a mere 2 years of each other.
What Is It?
If you’ve ever played a Telltale game, you already know what to expect from Back to the Future. If you haven’t, consider it a story-based point-and-click adventure game with a few mild thinking puzzles. Paint that with a solid coat of Back to the Future references and characters, and you’ve got a good idea what this series is like.
Now, while I grew up during a time when Back to the Future was a brand new thing, and I knew several people who were big fans of the movies, I was never a crazy fan myself. I appreciated the movies and understood the appeal. But it wasn’t actually until the whole “Back to the Future Day” in October of 2015 that I sat down and watched Part 2 and Part 3 for the first time. Oops?
Anyhow, if you are interested in this game for the Back to the Future vibe, you won’t be disappointed. The game does a pretty great job in the writing department and in portraying the iconic characters the way you’d expect. Some reviews noted that the game almost feels like a continuation of where the movies left off, and I wouldn’t argue against that.
Again, it’s hard to not compare this to The Walking Dead, which feels like a baseline for Telltale games now days. That’s not to say Back to the Future is bad, but the first Episode is not quite as polished as The Walking Dead game experience.
The UI is a bit clunky and something you’d see in a much more dated game than 2010. And, for some reason, it kept forcing my monitors (both of them) into a significantly lower resolution every time I played. These weren’t game-breakers, but did color the experience.
While the voice acting and writing were top-notch, the stylistic graphics bothered me a bit. The graphics weren’t bad, they were just… different. They went with these big, expressive CG versions of the characters, and sometimes it felt as if I was playing a claymation cartoon. For some reason, the lip syncing animations really liked to focus on showing the characters’ teeth. (I don’t know why that’s a detail I noticed…)
I suppose given the source material and goofy tone of the game, this wasn’t out of place. But I can’t help but wonder what the game would have felt like in a more streamlined comic-booky style, like they presented with The Walking Dead. Maybe as I play this series longer, the style they chose will grow on me.
While I did enjoy the story and the puzzles, sometimes I felt certain scenarios dragged on longer than they really needed to. Due to the wonky UI, I’d forgotten that the game had an inventory system halfway through it, which got me hung up on one of the puzzles.
There was, thankfully, a Hint feature that was really only helpful to tell you the answers. The game tried to offer subtle, logical suggestions for hints, but I’d usually already figured out that much of the puzzle by the time I was turning to the Hint feature for help.
I groaned anytime I had to make Marty cross the town square, which, given the nature of one of the scenarios, happened often. The game prompted me to use mouse and keyboard to make him run, but it either didn’t work in my game or I fail at gaming, because I never managed to get him to move above a slow, crawling walk.
On the other hand, there were some very inventive scenarios, especially closer to the end of the game. I felt like they were finally getting into the flow of things just as the first Episode came to an end. They’ve certainly earned my anticipation towards Episode 2, which I’ve installed for this week’s Steam Challenge.
If you enjoy Back to the Future, good old-fashioned point-click story games, and don’t mind slightly dated visuals, you’ll probably enjoy this!