HELLO! MCFLY! Anybody Home? Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last 25 years you should know of, and seen the Back to the Future trilogy! My personal favourite movie trilogy of all time. All three follow an almost perfect movie formula, even with the complexity of time travel thrown in. There have been movie tied in games in the past, but all have fallen victim to not quite cutting it. That is until Telltale games came along and showed the rest of the gaming industry how it’s done.
Back to the Future episode 1 is a brand new story, set 6 months after the occurrences of all 3 movies and introduces new characters that tie in well with the franchise. After his final big screen time travelling adventure, Marty continues with his life as a regular teenager in 1986. Doc’s house is being repossessed by the bank and all his possessions are being sold off after he didn’t return to 1986. Not long after poking around Doc’s premises there’s a giant flash outside… could it be? IT IS! The Delorean! Doc had built in an automatic retrieval system should he ever get into trouble somewhere in time, which is exactly what’s happened and it’s up to Marty (you) to save him!
Telltale games have had 3 prior iPad releases, including Sam and Max, Wallace and Gromit and Tales of Monkey Island. None without their frustrating lag related flaws, but it seems lessons are slowly being learnt and Back the Future Ep 1 has been optimised for iPad better than any other previous Telltale games iPad release. Briefly noticeable things such as lower textures used for unimportant items and landscapes to help bump up the frame rate are techniques used, but they are certainly not a hinderance to your play. You will however still get lag in highly animated sections and some cutscenes (unfortunately in the cool cutscenes too) but when compared to earlier Telltale iPad releases it’s a major improvement and rightly so seeing as a lot of people hold the Back to the Future series close to their heart.
Back to the Future episode 1 is the best looking release using the recognisable Telltale games character and game design. Lip syncing is a little off in areas, but this issue is even present in the full PC/MAC versions of the game, so it cannot be put down to poor iPad porting. The design is remarkable and a lot of attention being paid to character detail down to the freckles on Marty McFly’s face.
Voice acting is pitch perfect, Christopher Lloyd who is no stranger to adventure games (You may remember him from 1996 cult classic Toonstruck) reprises his role as Doc Brown, although his vocals have noticeably aged, he still has the same energy in his speech that he did back in the movies. Not all original actors, most notably Michael J Fox for obvious reasons have returned. The replacement soundalikes though, do an almost pitch perfect job, in particular AJ Locascio‘s portrayal of Marty McFly. The only questionable re-voice is Biff, but that’s no deal breaker so long as you have Marty and Doc sounding right. The fantastic audio doesn’t stop there with the original soundtrack making a full return. The minute you load up the game for the first time and hear those unmistakeable trademark Back to the Future twinkle sounds you’ll feel like you’re watching the movie for the first time all over again.
Marty is controlled with a virtual joystick that can be activated from anywhere on the screen. You will find it can get tricky at times when trying to navigate around objects and obstacles. Holding down two fingers mark the areas you are able to interact with as with previous Telltale games releases and there is a 3 tier hint system, which seems to be implemented as a standard with more modern point and click adventure games. You are unlikely to use the hints though as Back to the Future has clearly been designed to cater for the casual gamer as well as the hardcore point and click adventure fan meaning the majority of the puzzles are relatively straightforward. This helps the game move along at a comfortable, swift pace but it’s simplicity is one of it’s downfalls as it will make the game feel too short. You won’t be combining objects here, or building strange contraptions. A lot of puzzles are dialogue orientated, and two puzzles are solved the exact same way so your inventory will remain quite bare for the majority of the game. This makes perfect sense though, as Marty McFly isn’t the type of character to shamelessly steal… *cough* ‘borrow’ random items from his environment and save them for a later date, although thinking about it, if he’d done that in the movies, he could have saved himself a whole lotta trouble.
If you are a newcomer to Telltale game’s products, read carefully, these games are released in an episode format, and are usually released on a month to month basis. All previous iPad ports of different games have so far not made it to full season, but Telltale games have stated that all of the Back to the Future series will arrive on the iPad. Each episode will wrap up nicely but also build towards a bigger storyline that will unravel as you play through them all. Don’t go into the game expecting to have 10 hours of gameplay, you simply won’t. Set your sights at a mediocre 3/4 hours at best, particularly because episode 1 is fairly easy.
Back to the Future is a system resource heavy game for the iPad, best played with all other apps closed followed by a restart for the iPad to give the memory a flush. The performance of Telltale games has always been an issue, so we have uploaded a video below showing a few scenes from the game so you can judge for yourself.
Overall Back to the Future episode 1 is a fantastic example of an excellent story and outstanding voice acting, but suffers from a few technical issues including tricky controls and lag in some areas of the game. The Game is also quite easy which allows you to run through the puzzles rather quickly. As for replayability, unless you are a hardcore Back to the Future fan like myself you won’t find much to go back for.
I was originally going to give this game 4 stars, but have had to drop to 3.5 as some of the games issues appear in the iPad version only, which is a shame as the game stands at the $6.99 price mark which would make the entire series on iPad $10 more than the PC/MAC versions.
This video of Back to the Future ep1 HD shows an example of the lag issues you may experience when playing the game on the iPad. Although the cutscenes maybe jumpy in high action sequences the rest of the game tends to play fairly well.