In what was an unrivaled and quite possibly the most AAA studded holiday rush in recent memory, it's tough to look ahead to 2011 when my backlog (and yours, I'm sure) stretches out to March of last year. And when you thought the list couldn't get any longer, Telltale Games decided to drop off one last present under the tree to cap off 2010 with in the form of Back to the Future: The Game Episode One, an unsuccessful IP since the movie's original release, as no Back to the Future game ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley.
Yeah, well, history is gonna change.
If you, like me, have had an ever loving relationship with the trilogy that Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox have cemented in cinematic history, then I'm sure you were a little more than worried about what direction TellTale was taking the plot in. However, because of their stellar ability at spinning an engaging tale, Back to the Future: The Game Episode One boasts a series of events that are comparable to the finely crafted movies.
Six months after the end of the third movie, Doc Brown is still missing and his estate is being auctioned off. During Marty's trip down memory lane, the Delorean mysteriously appears outside of the time traveling scientist's house, bearing only Einstein the dog and a bunch of clues as to Doc Brown's location in the space time continuum. Through some clever puzzles involving the sister of a certain Hill Valley High School principal, Marty learns Doc is stuck in 1931 where prohibition is in full swing, and with the help of a very young Emmett Brown, you'll need to get him... BACK TO THE FUTURE!
Terrible puns aside, the story is a superb beginning to the five episode series, filled with enough BttF flare and homage to keep any enthusiast happy, while providing a great portal into the time-traveling world for newcomers, as it more than sufficiently explains the events from the three movies. Though I would have liked some time spent in a future similar to the second movie, I'm sure later episodes will have Marty gallivanting around some time during the 20XXs, and the prohibition era provides a fitting backdrop to begin the five part time traveling journey.
Also fitting the trilogy quite well are the fantastic art style and voice work that TellTale have garnered a reputation for. Both the 1980s and prohibition 1930s are captured quite authentically, and hold a distinct look that is reminiscent of their respective times and keeps with the spirit of the iconic movies. The voice acting, which sees the return of Christopher Lloyd as Doc, is, quite frankly, a tremendous effort in the voice acting profession. As fantastic as it is to have Christopher Lloyd back in his most famous role, and as amazing as the fill-ins for Marty's parents and other principal characters are, it's the newcomer, A.J. LoCascio, that really steals the show. As soon as his golden chords open the game, you'll feel as though you're back in 1985; he is the perfect embodiment of a twenty-four-year-old Michael J. Fox, right down to Marty's goofy tone and "heavy" attitude.
In terms of gameplay, BttF doesn't bring anything new to the point-and-click adventure genre, yet its performance is rather unrivaled. Where some adventure games, and TellTale titles as well, occasionally feel a bit clunky while running around and solving puzzles, Back to the Future sports a wonderfully crisp interface that plays equally well on both the mouse and keyboard. Transitioning between the two is relatively seamless, which is great if you're one to enjoy the game on a laptop, or if you're just plain old lazy and don't want to reach for that mouse across the table.
Driving the game forward, the puzzles are well thought out and provide a thorough challenge, keeping you stumped long enough to instill a sense of determination, even if at times you'll be screaming quotes back at the computer in ill-taste, claiming that if you don't get a clue in the next couple of minutes your PC or Mac is "gonna see some serious shit." Although frustration occasionally sets in, that's a major cause of the genre's success and popularity, and Back to the Future does not fail to disappoint. The only qualm that arises, and it's pretty small, comes in the form of slightly repetitive puzzles, as a couple of them require very similar solutions. Yet, besides that minor hiccup, the puzzles are an impressive amount of fun that follow suit with the genre and work well with the overall feel of the trilogy.
Where all have failed in the past, TellTale games delivers a worthy continuation of the Back to the Future series, setting itself up for a world of success with the next four episodes. Though a couple of hours might seem like a turnoff at an asking price of $10, it's a pretty decent length for an episodic game, and if each episode follows suit, then the entire series will be a respectable 10-15 hours. So grab your orange bubble vest, pop on some Huey Lewis and the News, and punch that baby to 88 MPH, 'cause you're in for one hell of an adventure game.