101287 Back to the Future: The Game Mike Riley iPhone Life 1528-5456 2012-01-04 January-February 2012 4 1 17 Web Back to the Future: The Game Games Other

imageThe Back to the Future trilogy recently hit its 25th year anniversary milestone. While the movies continue to hold up remarkably well (even though the effects are showing their age), Telltale Games has revitalized the beloved time travel story with new life, fresh characters, and old friends.

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Back to the Future: The Game, released in 5 episodic parts, takes players back to 1985 and the Hill Valley Mall parking lot where the action from the original movie began. Taking place two months after the conclusion of the last movie in the series, the game takes Marty McFly and Emmett “Doc” Brown back to 1931. This was the height of well-dressed gangster thugs and speakeasies. A young Doc is struggling with his father’s desire to have him pursue law versus Doc’s true passion in scientific projects. As Marty and the old Doc create ripples in the new timeline, young Doc’s past diverges, creating paradoxes and new character relationships along the way.

Marty McFly worries about implications of time travel (right).

Since each episode is sold separately, this article will take a brief look at the most memorable highlights of each, even though the game is incomplete without playing through each title sequentially.

Episode 1: It’s About Time

(For iPad Only: $6.99, app2.me/4190)

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The first episode is predominantly about reacquainting gamers with the Back to the Future storyline, central characters, and iconic places (like Doc’s home) from the first movie. It’s also intended to help gamers acclimate to the game’s interface, character movement, and interaction. The game ramps up slowly at first, but by the end of the episode, I was fully engaged with this new addition to the Back to the Future universe. The writing, humor, and set pieces were very much in the style of the original movies. Other games that pay homage to the source material fail because they modernize the core themes. The cliffhanger at the end of the episode is classic, like those from old 1940’s series. The credit roll, like most episodes, features a brief glimpse of encounters in the next chapter in the series.

Episode 2: Get Tannen!

(For iPad Only: $6.99, app2.me/4191)

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Marty infiltrates and eavesdrops on Tannen’s Gang, posing as a gangster. It is also in this episode that we learn of Doc’s new love interest that, considering the references made to Doc’s wife and children from the end of the third movie, is a new twist indeed. Thanks to this wrinkle and a few other curveballs in the story, this is where the story becomes much harder to predict (especially for an old jaded gamer like myself). Consequently, it made me want to continue playing into the next chapter of the story that much more!

Episode 3: Citizen Brown

(For iPad Only: $6.99, app2.me/4192)

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A 1980’s iteration of Officer Parker reprimands Marty for breaking the revised authoritarian rules of Citizen Brown in Hill Valley. Doc is now Citizen Brown, and he’s a puppet to the power hungry Edna in a darkly revised 1986 version of Hill Valley. It is the antithesis of the crime-ridden future Hill Valley from the second movie in the trilogy. Through a series of encounters with 1980’s characters, including the good-girl-turned-punker, Jennifer (voiced by the original Jennifer from the movie), Marty ultimately convinces Citizen ‘Doc’ Brown about his true past and the need to return to the 1930’s era to once again change history for the better.My kids and I found this episode to be the least entertaining of the bunch, mostly due to its dystopian, Big Brother imprint by the humorless “Citizen” Brown, the dark undertones, and the intentional low-point in the story arc. We also encountered an unintentionally devious impasse that required us to break our promise of not calling upon any hint guides and visit Telltale’s online forum to solve what turned out to be an obvious solution. Still, this third chapter is a necessary part of the episodic storyline and greatly enhances the payoff in the last episodes.

Episode 4: Double Visions

(For iPad Only: $6.99, app2.me/4193)

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After rescuing Citizen Brown from Edna’s clutches, Doc and Marty go back in time to stop young Emmett and Edna from falling in love. Even with the idea of erasing this timeline from history, Doc’s compassion for what will become of Edna is heartwarming. It also helps to set up the episode’s conclusion The young Doc is seated at the precipice of the infamous clock tower, and once again gives this timepiece a starring role in a stunning cliffhanger ending.This episode brings back the positive energy and hope that the things that are broken can be fixed. From here the momentum builds toward a startling conclusion.

Episode 5: OUTATIME

(For iPad Only: $6.99, app2.me/4194)

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This is where most (but not all) of the game’s loose ends get sewn up. It also turned out to be our favorite episode – the pacing, the crescendo of excitement, the satisfying and delightful homage to the end of the first Back to the Future movie (with a twist) are all top notch. Michael J Fox’s cameo voice playing the part of Marty’s middle-aged grandfather was simply icing on an already delectable cake.X

Marty, in the iconic flying Delorean, draws a dramatic conclusion in the final episode.

Problems…

Not everything in the game was perfect. Here is a short list of issues that occasionally popped up regardless of the episode:

• Audio can sometimes get clipped and animation frames get dropped when the iPad’s processor becomes bogged down by apps suspended in the background. Leave the subtitles on to be sure you don’t miss out on any spoken dialog.

• Moving Marty along the scene’s path can get tricky at times. When pointing at one part of the screen, Marty may decide to move elsewhere, requiring a second or third attempt to finally register the intended direction.

• Episodes still need to be purchased separately, even though all the episodes are now available. (They were released individually due to the episodic nature of the releases.)

• Not so much a criticism but more of a tip – remember that some paths can lead outward from the screen. One puzzle that stymied my kids and I for over an hour was a segment in Episode 3 that required Marty to return to an area to continue the story. We tried every direction we could think of, and clicked on every object we could find to no avail. Finally, my daughter realized we could move Marty to the extreme front of the screen to exit, and we moved on to the next part of the story.

And Praise

Just in case you didn’t pick up on how much my kids and I enjoyed playing these five episodes, here are some additional qualities that made Back to the Future: The Game on the iPad such a memorable adventure:

• AJ LoCascio, the actor who voiced Marty McFly, has a dead-ringing vocal imitation for a 1980’s Michael J. Fox. And the guest appearance of Mr. Fox himself voicing Marty’s great grandfather William in Episode 5 was a surprising treat.

• The artistic style and colorful graphic design throughout the game are a perfect complement to the fanciful story. It really adds a terrific new level of personality to the characters and their time periods.

• Alan Silvestri’s musical score from the movies has been enhanced and plays almost all the time in the background to great effect. Rarely is Marty standing around without any music or ambient sounds permeating the background.

• Nearly 20 hours of gameplay for all the episodes means that even though the complete collection is rather expensive for an iPad adventure title, the level of quality and entertainment value are unmatched compared to other graphic adventure games currently available in the App Store.Detailed walkthroughs for all the episodes are available on Telltale’s community blog, (telltalegames.com/community/blogs).

We Drained the iPad’s Battery

Back to the Future: The Game shows why the iPad is becoming a top gaming platform. Even though the game is available on consoles and computers, very little was compromised in the iPad conversion. It helps that the game faithfully brings players back to different time periods, and also lets new players experience the movie themes and characters for the first time. This game took serious dedication from the Telltale team, along with the collaboration of original Back to the Future co-creator Bob Gale, the voice talents of the original Doc (Christopher Lloyd), Claudia Wells (Jennifer), and Michael J Fox’s surprise contribution. My kids and I had a wonderful time playing the game, not stopping between episodes so we could dive right into the next chapter. We drained the iPad’s battery twice while playing the game. We just hope we don’t have to wait another 25 years to play the game’s sequel!