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Back to the Future: the Game
Directed by Dennis Lenart, Peter Tsaykel, Eric Parsons & Dave Grossman
Supervising Writer Bob Gale
TellTale Games and Universal Pictures

 
Back to the Future: the Game
 
Back to the Future: the Game
 
Back to the Future: the Game
 
Back to the Future: the Game
 
Back to the Future: the Game
 
Back to the Future: the Game
 
Back to the Future: the Game
 
Back to the Future: the Game
A review by David Maddox

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"Your future hasn't been written yet. No one's has. So make it a good one!"

Wise words from the enigmatic Doctor Emmett Lathrup Brown that drew to a conclusion the phenomenal Back to the Future trilogy. Since that moment when Doc and his family left Marty and Jennifer by the remains of the wrecked DeLorean and flew off into the unknown in the time traveling train, fans have wondered just what adventures (if any) existed in that unknown future. The deceptive "The End" that wrapped up the films seems to have closed things up... or did it?

Although it took 21 years, TellTale Game's Back to the Future: the Game series finally answers these questions and more, albeit six months after the close of Back to the Future III in the game world. Containing many spoilers, here is my initial review of the first Episode.

Containing even more spoilers, here now is the lowdown on the entire series. After the cliffhanger ending of It's About Time, players jump right into the next chapter Get Tannen, aptly directed by Peter Tsaykel. One small "fix" to the past has served to seriously mess up the time stream and now Marty's grandfather has been murdered, negating Marty's own existence once again! As he struggles to right this tragedy, Marty must contend with being hunted by the nefarious Irving "Kid" Tannen and try to unlock the mystery of Hill Valley's arsonist!

This part of the story really brings forth the ancestral characters introduced in the first episode, giving them more humanity and depth. Unlike the old Saturday morning animated series, where all Tannens were just period versions of Biff, Kid Tannen does have motivation and layers that make him a much more well-rounded character. True, all Tannens do seem to be jerks throughout history, especially in a brief visits to an alternate 1986 where Kid Tannen's gang still runs Hill Valley and Marty not only has to contend with Biff, but his two never before seen brothers, Cliff and Riff. Plus we're introduced to Jennifer Parker's police officer grandfather, Danny Parker.

Episode 3: Citizen Brown, takes the story to an entirely new level. After seemingly righting the past, Marty has inadvertently infatuated young Emmett Brown with Edna Strickland, leading them to get married, Doc never becoming a scientist. Director Eric Parsons creates an brand new present day Hill Valley which has become a Big Brother-like watched police state under the all-seeing eye of First Citizen Brown and his hooligan-hating wife.

At this point in the series release, popularity had grown so strong that special guest stars were brought in, most notably Claudia Wells, who played the original Jennifer Parker in the first film! She has lots of fun returning to the character in the alternate Edna-controlled 1986 where she gets to play a juvenile delinquent who fancies Marty a square. One of the missions in the game is for Marty to prove how cool he really is with a guitar battle. There's also a touching moment between Marty and Citizen Brown in which the two's friendship really shines, reminding us why they're such a classic Hollywood duo.

Double Visions, the fourth installment directed by longtime LucasArts and TellTale genius Dave Grossman, continues in the alternate Hill Valley dystopia. Marty must convince Citizen Brown to give up his controlled future, fix the DeLorean and return to 1931 in hopes of getting his own history back on track.

Marty is really on his own in this installment. Even though Citizen Brown has seen the folly of his ways, that has been Edna influencing Emmett, using him to enforce her moral standards to create a perfect, yet joyless, crime-free society, he's still not "Doc" and walks a thin line between his true nature and his loyalty to Edna. The standoff between young Emmett and Marty on the clock tower is truly inspired.

The epic conclusion, Outatime!, is brought to you by Episode 1 director Dennis Lenart and it spans several time periods as Marty, Citizen Brown and later a returned Doc Brown must continue to fix Emmett's future and then deal with Edna Strickland as she wipes all existence of Hill Valley from time back in the 1870's. It's a rollercoaster ride of puzzles, surprises and true Back to the Future excitement.

The biggest surprise for fans is the esteemed Michael J. Fox returning to the franchise playing Willie McFly, who you may remember peeing on Marty as a baby in the third film. And he even appears as a much older Marty in the shocking conclusion to the season!

The cast continues its top notch performance through the story. A.J. LoCascio brings teenage Marty McFly back to vivid life and, as he said at 2011's Comic-Con "I'm just trying to honor the fans." He succeeds. Christopher Lloyd portrayal of both Doc and Citizen Brown feel like he never truly left the character.

Any hardcore Back to the Future fan will adore this series. The references, callbacks and recreated déjà vû moments that peppered the original trilogy abound and producer Bob Gale continues his work as supervising writer, giving a legitimacy to the overall product and keeping the dignity and true humor of the series. The locations cover all the familiar spots, from various versions of Courthouse Square, to the High School and even a brief return to the Saloon from Back to the Future III, still under construction, its owner being one Beauregard Tannen.

Collected together these five chapters make a good 3-5 hours of game play. Each episode has between 10-13 trophies on the Playstation Network, making a total of 59 for all the episodes. Gamers probably would have appreciated a Platinum trophy for unlocking all of them. The only downside is these ease of some of the puzzles. The game provides a list of current goals for the player to complete to advance the game and the player can access a hint system, revealing cryptic clues for how to solve a specific situations.

There is no way to really die or fail at this game, just get stuck in an endless loop. Old school fans of Sierra's SpaceQuest and King's Quest series never have to worry about taking a wrong step and plunging to your death, or missing an object and having to restart from an earlier point in the game. Players looking for a Medal of Honor-type shooter will be disappointed as the entire adventure really is a film that the player gets to guide and unlock.

The popularity of the entire series has, as of this writing, sparked MANY rumors of a second season of games next year. And with the ending of this season, that would not only be welcomed but is highly anticipated. Back to the Future: The Game manages to be not only a franchise sequel, but a successful one that delivers on all those futures that haven't been written, but that our imaginations know exist.

Copyright © 2011 David Maddox

David Maddox
Science fiction enthusiast David Maddox has been Star Trek characters, the Riddler in a Batman stunt show and holds a degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University. He has written several articles for various SF sites as well as the Star Wars Insider and the Star Trek Communicator. He spends his time working on screenplays and stories while acting on stage, screen and television. He can sometimes be seen giving tours at Universal Studios Hollywood and playing Norman Bates.


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