If you're a fan of adventure games, then you've no doubt heard of Telltale Games, which has been releasing high quality episodic adventures since Sam & Max: Season One in 2006. Their latest adventure series is Back to the Future: The Game, which puts you in the shoes of Marty McFly as he tries to save Doc Brown from various time-traveling mishaps. The first episode "It's About Time" -- an appropriate moniker given its double meaning (this is the 25th anniversary of the movie Back to the Future after all) -- came out in December, and the other four episodes are slated for release over the first half of this year. This review is for the first episode only, although I plan to look at the series as a whole once it's reached its conclusion.
In the first episode, after a short prologue set in current times (that is, 1986), you're able to use the "automatic-retrieval system" on the DeLorean to travel back to 1931, where Doc Brown has gotten himself arrested -- and where angry gangsters are threatening to kill him. That leaves it up to you, playing as Marty McFly, to break Doc out of prison and save the day. Since you're in an adventure, you'll do this by solving a variety of puzzles, but to help you out, or sometimes hinder you, you'll get to interact with the likes of your grandfather, a teenaged version of Doc, and Biff's father, the lead gangster. You'll also have Doc's dog Einstein (unfortunately called "Einie" all throughout the episode) at your side.
The episode is played using a third-person perspective, where Marty travels from scene to scene. You interact with people and objects by left clicking on them when they're near Marty, and you move Marty around by pressing the WASD keys or by holding down the left mouse button and then moving the mouse in the direction you want Marty to walk. You can also make Marty run by pressing the shift key or by holding down the right mouse button. I found these controls to be functional but just a little bit on the clunky side. Sometimes an easy activity like walking through the park ends up being more troublesome than it should be.
The puzzles in the episode are fair but also fairly easy. They're all inventory-based, which means you're only required to find objects and then use them in the right way, but the episode falls into the same trap as many adventures, where you're just not given enough objects or places to use them, and so even if the solution to a puzzle isn't immediately obvious, trial and error will quickly get you through. However, just in case you struggle, the game comes with an integrated hint system, and Telltale Games has a walkthrough available on its website.
For me, the first episode had two highlights: the story and the voice acting. The story is sort of fun -- not as laugh out loud funny as some of Telltale's other games, but still entertaining nonetheless, with lots of amusing dialogue and predicaments for Marty to get himself out of. The writers also added in a bunch of references to the movies, like when you flip through some old newspapers and see a story about teens driving their car into a manure truck.
Meanwhile, the voice acting is downright impressive. The episode starts with a nightmare sequence that mirrors the early scene from the first movie where Marty first sees the DeLorean in action, and for a while I thought maybe Telltale recorded the dialogue from there and inserted it into their game. But no, A.J. LoCascio does a terrific job of mimicking Michael J. Fox, and Telltale actually shelled out the bucks to hire Christopher Lloyd to reprise his role as Doc Brown. Between the two, you almost feel like you're in the middle of a new Back to the Future movie, and the other actors give quality performances as well.
Overall, I found the first episode of Back to the Future: The Game to be fun -- not amazing or anything, but fun. The game didn't crash on me once, the story is enjoyable, and the voice acting is excellent, but the graphics aren't anything special, and the puzzles aren't much of a challenge. I spent somewhere around 3-4 hours playing the episode, giving the entire series an estimated playing time of 15-20 hours, and that seems more than acceptable for a $25 adventure. So if you like amusing adventures, or if you're feeling nostalgic for the 1980s (or perhaps the 1930s), then Back to the Future: The Game should be a good choice for you.