So a few days before Christmas I was browsing IRFree as I sometimes do to see what has been released, when I saw Back to the Future: The Game Episode 1 was available. What was this? Given that it was only some 350mb or so, I thought it must be a rerelease of an older game or something. Nope, it was apparently a brand new game with a new story set over 5 episodes, with input from Bob Gale and Christopher Lloyd voicing Doc again.
My beloved trilogy had returned! I was always kind of put off that the trilogy ended with the DeLorean being destroyed and Doc going on to having further adventures with his new family. It was actually a pretty nice ending as far as endings go, but I always felt there were so many more stories that could be told, so that it should not have ended. Unlike most trilogies the BTTF universe is quite rich, and there was still plenty that could be done with it. The first thing that became apparent from playing this game is that it is not Back t the Future IV, but a game set in that universe.
I think the developers do a good job of making a story set in that universe after the films, although some things are not adequately explained. The presence of the DeLorean is somewhat glossed over, as the lightning storm at the end of the second apparently resulted in a duplicate machine. The time train is not mentioned at all. The DeLorean is programmed to go back to Doc’s warehouse if he gets in trouble, allowing Marty to go and save him, and thus start the storyline.
The story is pretty simple being set in Hill Valley in the 1930’s, with the Biff of that era being a mobster and we get to interact with a young Doc Brown, which is nice. The voice acting is top notch, with Christopher Lloyd reprising his role and the voice actor for Marty capturing his voice perfectly. The visual likeness suits the game, but is also limited by it appearing far more cartoony than I would have liked.
I like the start of the story, which has Marty’s father overseeing the auction of Doc’s possessions as they are considered abandoned, and Marty dealing with the absence of his friend. I was not expecting this to be an adventure game when I played it, so was somewhat put off by the puzzles wanting much more of an emphasis on story, however the game cannot be faulted for that. Early on we meet Strickland’s sister which I thought was an interesting character addition. Why not use Strickland himself? I also thought it odd that if you were going to use a Strickland character not to have them say slacker..at all.
After we go back in time we have to choose a pseudonym, and the choices are all based on gangsta movies from that period. This seemed a weird choice for me, as the BTTF series appeals to children and adults equally and it is unlikely children will have seen The Godfather or Dirty Harry. Although of the top of my head I don’t know what would be better for alternatives. It doesn’t really matter, as the game seems to have a bug that the game assumes you had chosen Michael Corleone as your selection.
Young Doc Brown is done well and is perfect for a continuation of the story. One thing I thought was odd was that 30’s doc refers to Marty as Einstein as a synonym for Genius, although I don’t think Einstein was so established at that time. I like the idea of Marty’s grandfather having Crispin Glovers likeness, although I wonder if this contradicts with the male McFly’s earliest ancestors in Hill Valley having Marty’s likeness. One thing I noticed about Marty in the game so far is that whenever he is talking he always seems nervous, while I always felt Marty from the films was confident. Indeed, that was a major point in the first film, so for them to characterize him as nervous seems strange.
There are a few bugs in the interface and gameplay mechanics however. In addition to Michael Corleone being hardwired as a pseudonym above, it can be awkward to move around as the movement keys do not adapt to changing camera angles. Sometimes I might have to walk left to go up, which is easy enough but still awkward. I thought the animation was somewhat odd at first however I got used to it. For some reason it was not obvious and did not occur to me that I could change the resolution and quality, and after making the game match my widescreen it was a lot nicer to look at.
I did not see any way to save the game obviously, and am unsure if the game automatically saves or has a checkpoint system. Save games are mentioned, so it must be possible somehow, although it would be nice if it was more intuitive. I also found the cursor quite annoying, being in the shape of a flux capacitor is a nice gimmick although makes it more difficult to be accurate than it should be.
After playing DCUO for a while the loading screens for BTTF Episode 1 seemed quite bland, and it would have been quite nice if there was some nice art of the DeLorean and characters akin to the various movie posters. I didn’t play the game all at once, alt+tabbing to it at various stages however I think the game length is probably between 2 or 3 hours. The game is still a lot of fun, and for $25 I think it is worth the price and to support the developer. One thing I do hope is that in some of the other episodes we get to go to a different era in the future, as I’ve had enough of the past. Of course, this is just the beginning and there are still four episodes to go, and things are definitely off to a good start.