Back to the Future was a distinct movie trilogy, one with action, comedy, an interesting concept and an uncanny ability to poke fun at itself while still being serious enough to build a cult following. The combination of time-traveling cars and a rabid fanbase seemed like great justification for a series-based resurgence, so Telltale Games created Back to the Future: The Game, which originally released as an episodic series on PC. The episodes — which feature the voice talents of Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown) and the creative efforts of one of the movies’ writers — are now available in a compilation disc for the consoles. The only problem: they don’t capture any of the magic from the films and don’t offer much compelling gameplay.
Although the game does tell a completely original story focused on saving Doc Brown, the five episodes that comprise Back to the Future: The Game make extensive references to the movies, even going so far as taking place in some movie locations in addition to the “expanded universe.” But where the movies regularly hit 88mph, the Game never makes it out of first gear. Where the chemistry of the movies’ cast was electric, the interactions between in-game characters lack power. And where the movies were entertaining enough to spawn a Universal Studios theme park ride, the game has little to no amusement factor whatsoever.
Back to the Future: The Game is aptly named, if for no other reason than it marks the return of the point-and-click adventure games of yore. The game technically takes place in a 3D world, but the characters move slowly and in two planes, with players clicking around small, static setpieces a la Myst to search for items and solve puzzles. Once a puzzle is solved, players watch a pre-rendered story unfold before moving on to the next point-and-click mission.
If it sounds slow, that’s because it is. Back to the Future: The Game is basically an exercise in selecting dialogue paths and clicking parts of the environment, only to unlock more dialogue paths and clickable environments. L.A. Noire got mixed reviews from some gamers because of its crime-scene investigation techniques, but at least it had foot- and car-based action at times. In BTTF: The Game, there is no such action. It’s frankly quite boring for a franchise anchored by a vehicle that drives 88mph.
Not all is lost, as the game does have nice caricature-like graphics and great voiceover work, but if you want decent imagery and dialogue, you’re better off buying the Back to the Future trilogy on Blu-ray. When the game released on PC, gamers had the opportunity to try a single episode and decide whether the style was for them. With this console version, there isn’t that same luxury, and even with its reduced price, I find it hard to recommend this purchase. Ironically, fans of the series may even be the most disappointed.
Platform reviewed: PlayStation 3