You might remember that we quite enjoyed the first Telltale-developed episode of Back to the Future . So much, indeed, that the rest of the project became a no-brainer to check out. If you’ve played much of the studio’s output of late then you’ll know the rough formula to expect here, but the subject matter and execution of the BTTF series makes it one of their best efforts to date.
Throughout all five of Marty’s adventures (which are initially set immediately after the events of Back to the Future III), that traditional Telltale template holds true. Conversing with the colourful residents of Hill Valley opens up new story branches and sets events in motion for the game world, with those set pieces then requiring the use of some light inventory-management puzzling to advance the action. The difficulty is light and obtuse solutions are generally kept to a minimum, whilst the in-game hint system should aid players that can’t even be bothered to search for a FAQ.
Again, to their credit, the level of polish involved in each of the one or two-hour gameplay segments is consistently high, and whilst each of the environments is re-used and repurposed as the story proceeds, every episode contains just enough new content to make it a worthwhile entry. In keeping with tradition, episode three contains a complete shift to a brand new set, as the story moves away from the Tannen’s and the gangsters to take on a darker and more surreal hue in an alternative timeline. That freedom to explore the possibilities of time travel is probably the real beauty of the setup here after all, and Telltale has done a good job of inventing a bunch of plausible ‘what if’ scenarios free from the shackles of the movie narrative.
There are a few rough spots along the way though, and it would be wrong not to mention them. Episode two in particular springs to mind, with a level of repetition creeping in amidst some incredibly easy puzzling. The story keeps it going through its lower points, but the change of locale and art style is definitely appreciated in the next instalment. Switching from an iPad to a PC after that initial episode also highlighted a few niggles with the control scheme, and it’s definitely a series that feels much more at home with a controller or touchscreen then it ever will with a mouse. Point and click is no longer, direct character control is its successor.
Despite those concerns however, there is little doubt that Telltale did a cracking job in terms of both reverence for the property and a consistently entertaining stream of inventive scenarios. By the time you get back to Hill Valley (past, present and future) for episodes four and five, they just about squeeze every drop of narrative they can out of their story arc, and although some may have a few qualms about the way it ultimately finishes, I certainly wasn’t left wanting. The puzzles are enjoyable for the most part, and whilst it never drops into Day of the Tentacle style timeline management, switching up between the various recreations of Hill Valley (complete with alternate versions of its citizens) is an enjoyable spectacle by itself.
If you enjoy adventure games or just appreciate the Back to the Future movies, it’d be silly to pass it up no matter which platform is your poison.