Back to the Future is a film franchise that seems like a perfect fit for an adventure game; while the movies had some incredible action in them there was also an emphasis on solving problems in creative ways. With this in mind, Telltale Games has stepped up to offer the first in a series of episodic games based on the films and they’ve done pretty well. Extremely similar in play-style to their Sam & Max and Tales of Monkey Island games, players will find that the main reason to get this is to enjoy a BTTF-themed story.
Without getting too heavy into spoilers, this first episode starts a few months after the end of the third film, specifically in 1986. You control Marty McFly, guiding him in talking to people and gathering items needed to solve various puzzles. The first few pretty much hand you their solutions, meant to serve as tutorials for those who may not have played an adventure before and they do this well enough; genre veterans will want to turn off these various hints in the options menu. Once the preliminaries are dealt with, the real heart of the adventure lies in the Hill Valley of 1931.
From there, Marty finds himself scrambling to help people and solve problems without radically changing history as he knows it. Several nods to the films come up throughout, and fans will probably love seeing the Back to the Future world from another perspective. One of the things this episode does right is capturing the feel of the films, both in terms of the wild situations Marty finds himself in and how the story is told. Christopher Lloyd has returned to voice Doc Brown, and while Michael J. Fox wasn’t able to voice Marty McFly there is a great replacement; A.J. LoCascio sounds very similar, such that within just a few minutes of listening to his voice I was able to easily accept that I was listening to ’Marty McFly’ speak in the game.
While this episode is a faithful addition to the franchise, it has some snags. There are a few locations in 1931’s Hill Valley that are simply not well fleshed out, which is a shame since the game doesn’t let you go to very many in the first place. Likewise, a few supporting characters are boring or written such that their main humor is run into the ground quickly; thankfully this is for the supporting cast, not major figures like Doc and Marty. The episode is also a little short even for Telltale fare, and can be completed in just two to three hours. That’s including several extremely easy puzzles, which one can only hope was an attempt to attract those not familiar with the adventure genre.
Yet these flaws don’t outweigh the things this first episode gets right. It feels like a proper Back to the Future story, such that existing fans will enjoy the nods to the original films while also looking forward to this new chapter in the story. Like most first episodes in a Telltale adventure series, "It’s About Time" gives up some of its immediate momentum in order to set up the details and major plot points that future episodes will build on. So while it might not be the best episode they’ve done, it’s still very good and worth playing just to see how this story will grow.