The 80’s were a decade that truly fits the oft-repeated opening line from A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” On the one hand you had crimped hair, the Chevy Chevette, and leg warmers. On the other there were great bands like U2, Poison and Aerosmith. There were also a handful of truly classic movies. The Back to the Future trilogy was brought to life mostly here, with the third film being released in 1990. It’s a series that plays to so many childhood fantasies, but adaptations to other media have been, well, less than stellar. That is until Telltale Games got hold of the rights.
Back to the Future: The Game isn’t actually a game, it’s five games. In true Telltale format this point-and-click adventure game is split into episodes, much like the Sam & Max games that later were combined into one release for Xbox Live Arcade. In the game you once again live vicariously through Marty as he travels back to 1931 to rescue the jailed Doc Brown. But the changes made in 1931 skew the timeline causing Marty to travel from 1876 through 1986 — and beyond.
Don’t mash it up – While previous Telltale Games titles have done better smashing all the episodes together and trying to release it for the ceiling Xbox Live Arcade price of 1600 MSP it just wouldn’t do justice here. There are two main reasons why: first, the developers would lost money on the game as the lowest the series has ever been offered on other platforms is 25 USD (or 2000 MSP). Secondly the five episodes beg to culminate in 1000 gamerscore. Smashing the series into one download means a total of 200 gamerscore; spreading it across five titles gives room for a lot more exploration and side questing for achievements.
Be fair with pricing – Nobody wants to get ripped off, not Telltale, not Microsoft, and certainly not the consumer. The solution is simple: charge 400 MSP for the first three episodes, 800 for the last two. That way it ends up equaling the same price it is on other platforms and folks can get a taste of the series for an inexpensive price.
What should stay the same:
Spot-on voice acting – Sure, there’s a reason why Doc sounds perfect; it’s Christopher Lloyd himself. Here’s the kicker though, Marty isn’t played by Micheal J. Fox as at the time he had prior commitments. He’s voiced by a freshman voice actor by the name of A.J. LoCascio. Fox has a part (multiple, actually) in the last episode in the series, but when you hear him against LoCascio it becomes clear that this was actually a smarter choice. While Fox has aged LoCascio’s performance is perfect for the teenage Marty.
Cartoony greatness – The art style in the game is very reminiscent of another Telltale’s games, Tales from Monkey Island. It seems to also draw a bit of influence from the short lived Back to the Future: The Animated Series. It’s the perfect blend of reality and cartoon. It takes a few minutes to get used to, but soon enough the cartoony presentation of the characters warms hearts.
Solid adventure gameplay – The quality of Back to the Future hearkens back to the heyday of point-and-click adventure games: games like King’s Quest 5 and Full Throttle. Of course this isn’t Telltale’s first rodeo in the genre, in fact it’s much closer to their tenth. They know how to bring solid adventure gameplay while respecting the spirit of a given franchise.
Why it would succeed:
For some reason this is one series that Telltale opted to not bring to Xbox Live Arcade. With their recent approval by Microsoft to self-publish it now stands to reason that any and every opportunity to bring anything from their archives over to XBLA would be a smart move. When you add the fact that this is Back to the Future we’re talking about you also get that great nostalgic factor to bring in anyone on the fence. As we often say with XBLA’s Most Wanted, this one’s a no brainer.