Telltale Games sure is taking on a seemingly random series of licenses in their quest to reinvigorate the adventure game genre — and long may they continue. The latest, as you probably noticed, is Back to the Future, giving us the chance to relive our time-travelling childhood — if you’re of a certain age, of course. But how have they gotten on with continuing the adventures of Doc and Marty? And is the iPad version worth your money and — wait for it — time? Read on to find out!
If you’re susceptible to some time travel-related nostalgia, Back to the Future Episode 1 will seduce you like a siren from the 80s. From the opening credits where the theme song starts to play, to never-ending dialogue options that shout back to all three movies, you can tell some serious fans have had a ball here.
And for the most part, betting on nostalgia works. The script is strong enough to support both call-backs to the movies and a genuinely interesting (if not overly dramatic) plot, helped along by the tag team that is Christopher Lloyd (the original Doc!) and AJ LoCascio. The latter plays Marty McFly, and does such a creepily good job of being a young Michael J Fox that you’ll be pinching yourself.
The rest of the supporting characters in Episode 1 generally do a good job of filling out the gaps. You’re largely based in the 1930s, so this time around your grandfather — and Biff’s father — are Marty’s familial connections.
The game will last you a good few hours, although obviously you’ll breeze through it if you rely heavily on the inbuilt (and well made) hint system. The pace can be a little slow at times, but the usual caveat is that it’s the first episode of five. Episode 2 (out on other platforms) already looks more fast-paced, so there’s obviously something to look forward to.
The iPad port
Now for some bad news: the iPad port is playable, but far from the best version out there. The worst offender is the frame rate — when even the title screen gets really choppy, you know you’re in trouble. Things get a bit better in-game, but it still detracts heavily from simply enjoying running around the world and visiting new locations. I suspect the game will run buttery smooth on the iPad 2, but that’s no excuse.
Speaking of running around: the control scheme is just terrible. Why oh why can I not just tap on the ground and have Marty walk over there? Instead, I have to wrestle with a virtual joystick that pops up under my thumb, and then drag it around to change direction. Now, I understand that it’s a limitation imposed by a game ported to many different platforms, but come on: this is a touchscreen device.
Those two issues don’t affect the game at all, but they do affect how easy it is to enjoy what’s happening. If you have even a semi-capable PC, I’d recommend getting Back to the Future on there.
Overall, this is a solid, if not utterly spectacular, adventure game carefully wrapped up with a beloved license. If you’re not already a Back to the Future fan, give this one a miss — instead, rent the movies immediately, and then play the game. For everyone else, it’s well worth a look in — just approach the iPad version with caution.