Back to the Future The Game... If you just spent three movies traveling to the past, present, and future to cultivate the perfect life for yourself and your family, would you risk it all to save a friend? Would you risk not only the existence you know but also your actual existence?
That philosophical brain teaser is how Telltale Games kicks off Back to the Future episode 1, “It’s About Time.”
Six months after the events of Back to the Future Part III, the DeLorean Time Machine mysteriously returns to Hill Valley… Driverless!
While that sounds super heavy, it’s actually more in line with the tone of the movies. These issues could be deep and disturbing but they’re handled with shrugs, side-eye, and chuckles.
Why am I seven years late for this game? Because I wasn’t really interested until it was free on Xbox as part of Games with Gold. As my grandma use to say, “If it’s free, it’s for me.”
Anyway! Let’s get Back to the Future… because “It’s About Time1.”
Marty’s best friend and mentor is missing, presumed dead, and no fucks were given. He’s known to have racked up some steep debts with dangerous people and is basically a mad scientist so the bank blindly sells off his possessions at an estate sale.
While Marty is adamant that Dr. Emmet “Doc” Brown isn’t actually dead, I’m more concerned about the shaggy dog Einstein who was sent off in a time machine and never returned. Where’s the dog? Was that real or just part of Marty’s dream? Dream sequences are the worst.
So, everyone except Marty is sure Doc is dead or at the very least he’s out of sight and out of mind. The Bank wants to build a parking garage so they’re selling all his stuff and this is for some reason overseen but Marty’s father, George McFly. Sure. Okay.
Now it’s time to start solving some space-time mysteries!
Either way, the DeLorean returns with Einstein, a shoe, and a tape recorder marked “MARTY!!!!” inside. This is apparently part of a predetermined failsafe plan that heavily relies on Marty but Doc never shared with Marty. It’s not clear how the dog got in the care and traveled with it back to its failsafe place and time but at least the dog is accounted for… Back in the Future2.
Einstien is apparently not only a scientist with the ability to open (and close) car doors but also a tracker because he leads Marty to the other shoe (in the Future) in seconds. The owner of the shoe is (now) a senile old lady who spends her day enforcing moral superiority.
Eventually, with the help of a radiator and binoculars, Marty figures out when he needs to go back to in order to find/save Doc. Happily, this leads us to the “this is isn’t the home we’ve come to know” Hill Valley of the past.
We meet a meek Mr. McFly, a bully from the Tanner family, a brilliant Doc (who has yet to become a doctor), and a strict Strickland stickler. This is the formula we know and love except this time we get to really be a part of the action.
Also when I say, “action” I mean dialogue and strolling through the park for the most part.
Your job as the player is to relax and enjoy. You are responsible for taking your time to figure out the right way to solve problems because it’s not just a story, it’s a puzzle. There are right answers. You can choose all the options in any order you like but only the right ones in the right order will lead to progress in the story. There will be objects Marty needs to acquire and use in the right order and in the right situations.
Calling this type of interactive puzzle-story a video game is a stretch at the moment. I’m not sure how I’d be challenged or what I’d do to die… However, calling it a fun experience for someone who’s a fan of the Back to the Future franchise: That’s a truth.