Back to the Future: The Game

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For other Back to the Future games, see List of Back to the Future video games.
Back to the Future: The Game
Back to the Future The Game.PNG
Developer(s) Telltale Games
Publisher(s) Telltale Games
Distributor(s)
Director(s) Dennis Lenart
Peter Tsaykel
Eric Parsons
Dave Grossman
Producer(s) Brett Tosti
Designer(s) Andy Hartzell
Mike Stemmle
JD Straw
Programmer(s) Randy Tudor
Keenan Patterson
Artist(s) Derek Sakai
Pete Tsaykel
Writer(s) Andy Hartzell
Mike Stemmle
JD Straw
Composer(s)

Jared Emerson-Johnson

Alan Silvestri (themes)
Series Back to the Future
Engine Telltale Tool
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
OS X
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
Wii
Xbox 360
Xbox One
iOS
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Graphic adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

Back to the Future: The Game is an episodic graphic adventure based on the Back to the Future film franchise. The game was developed and published by Telltale Games as part of a licensing deal with Universal Pictures. Bob Gale, co-creator, co-writer and co-producer of the film trilogy, assisted Telltale in writing the game's story. Original actors Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd allowed the developers to use their likenesses in the game for the lead characters Marty McFly and Doc Brown, respectively. Lloyd also provides the voice for Doc, while A.J. Locascio plays the role of Marty; Fox later appeared to voice two cameo roles in the final episode, reprising his role as future versions of Marty McFly in addition of playing his forefather William.[6]

The game is split-up into five episodes available on multiple gaming platforms, the first episode released for Microsoft Windows and OS X on December 22, 2010. PlayStation 3 and iOS versions followed on February 2011. Episodes 2 through 5 were released throughout February to June 2011, with the final episode released on June 23, 2011. Telltale published the series as retail products for the PlayStation 3 and Wii consoles for North America.[7] Deep Silver published the retail PlayStation 3 and Wii versions for Europe on May 4, 2012. To commemorate the film's 30th anniversary, Telltale Games released the game on PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One on October 13, 2015. The ports feature updated voice work from Tom Wilson, who played Biff Tannen in the films (Biff was voiced by Kid Beyond in the original release).[5]

Gameplay[edit]

Back to the Future: The Game is a graphic adventure played from a third-person perspective. The player controls Marty to explore the 3D environments using either the keyboard, mouse or game controller to move around. The player can have Marty examine objects, talk to non-player characters (initiating dialog through conversation trees), and perform specific actions in order to solve puzzles and progress the game. Some items can be picked up and stored in Marty's inventory, and then can be used later to interact with other characters or objects. The game provides a list of current goals for the player to complete to advance the game. The player can access a hint system, revealing one clue at a time from a number of cryptic clues for how to solve a specific puzzle.[8][9]

Plot[edit]

In 1986, six months have passed since Marty McFly last saw Emmett "Doc" Brown depart into an unknown time, and the bank has started to foreclose on his home. As Marty and his father George begin to sort through Doc's possessions, Marty finds Doc's notebook containing his original ideas for the flux capacitor, and saves it from Biff Tannen before he could find out about Doc's secrets of time travel. As he looks through it, Marty is surprised when a DeLorean time machine (which was thought to have been destroyed at the end of Part III) appears outside the lab. Einstein, Doc's dog, is inside, along a tape recorder containing a message from Doc that explains the time machine automatically travels in time if Doc ever should run into trouble on his own along with a mysterious shoe. With the yellow time circuit readout showing blank, Marty uses Einstein and the scent of the shoe to track down Edna Strickland, elder sister of Marty's school principal, Gerald Strickland, and former editor for Hill Valley's paper. Finding the shoe does belong to Edna, though from sometime in the past, Marty speaks with her and looks through stacks of papers that she hordes, discovering Doc has been jailed in 1931 and will be killed by Irving "Kid" Tannen, Biff's father.

Marty uses the DeLorean to travel to 1931, and speaks to Doc outside the jail the day before he is to be killed. Doc explains that he was accused of committing arson to Kid Tannen's speakeasy, and asks Marty to speak to his younger self, Emmett, who should have a rocket drill that can break him out of jail. He also reveals (if the player keeps talking to him) that the supposedly destroyed DeLorean is really a duplicate of the original one that appeared in 2025 after the original was struck by lighting at the end of the second film. Marty finds that though teenage Emmett dreams of becoming a great scientist, his father Judge Brown strongly discourages him. Marty is able to convince Emmett to help. As Marty works, he encounters his grandfather, Arthur "Artie" McFly, who is an accountant for Kid Tannen. Artie is scared to rat out on Kid's illicit activities, but Marty convinces him to do so. Marty also encounters the younger version of Edna, who presently is a reporter writing on conservative issues for the paper, Officer Danny Parker, grandfather of his girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, and Kid Tannen himself and his henchmen: Matches, Cueball, and Zane. Marty successfully frees Doc, and they return to the time machine but Marty starts to suddenly disappear. They discover that Artie, because he ratted out on Kid, will be shot by Kid, leading to Marty never being born. To fix this, Marty travels back seven hours previously, and carefully avoiding undoing the steps before to save Doc and rescue Artie from Kid's goons. They are able to convince Artie to instead leave town to protect him, and Marty no longer is disappearing. Believing all is well, they return to the present, but find that because Artie did not testify, Kid Tannen was able to expand his criminal activity, and now the Tannen Crime Family controls Hill Valley, with Biff having two brothers named Cliff and Riff. Marty and Doc return to 1931, a few days after their previous visits, and find that Trixie, Kid's moll, who was to testify to convict Kid, has fallen for Artie and has had a change of mind giving testimony and Officer Parker, who is supposed to arrest Kid, is not doing his job thanks to the duo's interference. Additionally, Artie has returned and Emmett is now performing experiments in public, but according to Doc, he was supposed to see the movie "Frankenstein". Marty and Doc work a scheme, with some help from Emmett and Edna, to convince Trixie to testify and talk some sense into Officer Parker, assuring Kid is arrested properly. They leave 1931 to the future, unaware their actions have caused Edna to fall for Emmett and distract him from his science pursuits.

On arriving in 1986, Doc suddenly vanishes and the DeLorean crashes into a billboard, damaging its time circuits. Marty finds that Hill Valley is now a totalitarian walled society, run by "Citizen Brown". Investigating, Marty comes to learn that Emmett married Edna after they left in 1931, and Edna convinced Emmett - "Citizen Brown" - to use his scientific genius to create a program that was the means of brainwashing people to have strong moral values called Citizen Plus. Additionally, Jennifer, her father, Biff, Marty's parents, and Einstein have all changed in this timeline. After breaking enough rules to allow Marty to get close to Citizen Brown and show him his old notebook with the flux capacitor drawing, Citizen Brown is curious enough about what his alternate self did to aid Marty in repairing the time machine, while also coming to discover that Edna had been manipulating him. Despite Edna's attempts to capture and brainwash them into modern citizens, the two escape and travel back to 1931; due to the damage, the time machine places them two months after their first arrival in 1931, and Edna and Emmett's relationship has developed significantly. Marty insists that they need to disrupt the relationship, but Citizen Brown, on seeing how lonely Edna is otherwise without Emmett, takes sympathy on her, and complains that Marty is not taking her feelings into account (admitting that he liked the younger version better than the older version). Citizen Brown drives away in the DeLorean to collect his thoughts, ending his and Marty's long-lasting friendship (but only temporarily as this is an alternate vision of Doc).

Marty puts his plan into action, using Trixie's dislike of Edna (as Edna also hates her) to help force Emmett to break up with her, causing them both to become depressed. However, the future has to be set right, and Marty determines he needs to set Emmett back on the course of studying science, and encourages him to help prepare for the upcoming Hill Valley Science Expo. Meanwhile, Citizen Brown finds Edna, still really heartbroken after her break up with Emmett, wandering along the roads and offers her a ride, where she tells him about what Marty has done. At the Expo, Citizen Brown and Edna attempt to sabotage Emmett's flying car exhibit. Marty inadvertently discovers from Edna that she was the one that caused the speakeasy arson fire and has framed Doc for the whole thing (also planning to frame Marty next), but she escapes before she can be arrested. Marty then stops Citizen Brown from interfering with Emmett's display, which then works successfully. Marty is able to help Emmett and his father reconcile, with Judge Brown now more supportive of Emmett's scientific pursuits.

Edna attempts to sway Citizen Brown to help her further, but he refuses to help, and she steals the DeLorean, running over Citizen Brown before disappearing in time. As Citizen Brown dies, he tells Marty that he was right about Edna before fading from existence. Marty gives Emmett a sealed note to be opened in the future; shortly thereafter, the Doc that Marty knows well arrives in a second DeLorean (either the original one restored or a different one), having used the note to locate Marty in time. As they reconcile, the town of Hill Valley suddenly disappears around them. Nearby, they find Marty's great-grandfather William “Willie” McFly who explains that the town of Hill Valley had burned down shortly after its founding in 1876. Doc and Marty use the time machine to travel to the past, and discover that Edna, repeating what she had done with the speakeasy, is threatening to burn down the town's saloon owned by Beauregard Tannen, Biff's great-great grandfather. They manage to stop her, and when she tries to escape in the first DeLorean, Marty and Doc are able to gain control of the alternate time machine and return her to 1931, where Hill Valley has reappeared. She is arrested and put in jail along with Kid Tannen. The alternate DeLorean then disappears from existence. Marty meets one last time with Artie, and surprised to see him romantically involved with Trixie instead of Sylvia, his grandmother, but learns that Trixie's real name is Sylvia, and that their relationship was meant to happen. Assured the future is now set, Doc and Marty return to their present. They find that Edna while in jail fell in love with Kid and married, with both having redeemed and become much happier from that. Marty is also surprised that Doc has taken residence in his father's old home along with his wife Clara and sons. Doc explains to Marty that he had gone missing for the last several months so he could compile a history of the McFly family in Hill Valley, to present to Marty as a graduation gift.

Suddenly, three separate DeLoreans (one normal, one blue, and one black) appear, each with a different future version of Marty driving them. They approach Marty and Doc and insist they come to help assure that their respective futures occur as they are supposed to. Doc and his Marty leave the Marties arguing with each other, saying the future can wait until after they have enjoyed the present for a while; they then depart to an unknown time.

Episodes[edit]

Episode Release date
"It's About Time" PC/OS X: December 22, 2010[10]
PSN: February 15, 2011[citation needed]
iOS: February 17, 2011[2]

The DeLorean, thought to be destroyed, reappears, and Marty travels to the year 1931 to rescue a time-stranded Doc Brown, who has been accused of burning down a speakeasy and put in jail. To break him out, Marty must work with Doc's younger self to build a rocket drill (in the process, Marty gives a subpoena to his grandfather Arthur to arrest Biff's father Kid Tannen for his wrongdoings). Doc is suddenly moved to another jail, so Marty races after him on a rocket powered bicycle and frees him, but as they prepare to go back to 1986, Marty's hand suddenly begins to disappear.

Notes:

  • Directed by Dennis Lenart
  • Designed by Michael Stemmle, Andy Hartzell, Dave Grossman and Jonathan Straw
  • Written by Michael Stemmle and Andy Hartzell
  • The whole episode can be downloaded for free via Telltale Games' website, as of April 2011
  • It is currently available as a free-to-play download on the PlayStation Store.
"Get Tannen!" PC/OS X: February 16, 2011[11]
PSN: March 29, 2011[12]
iOS: April 20, 2011[13]

Doc realizes from a newspaper that Marty's grandfather will be killed, explaining why Marty is disappearing, and Marty goes off to save him, and does so, but back in 1986, he finds that Biff has two brothers now and are bullying everyone in the town. Marty then goes back to the day Kid would be arrested to fix the timeline.

Notes:

  • Directed by Peter Tsaykel
  • Designed by Mike Stemmle, Andy Hartzell and Jonathan Straw
  • Written by Michael Stemmle and Andy Hartzell
"Citizen Brown" PC/OS X: March 29, 2011[14]
PSN: May 3, 2011[15]
iOS: May 26, 2011[16]

Returning to 1986, Marty finds that the timeline has been changed, turning Hill Valley into a brainwashed society run by an alternate version of Doc.

Notes:

  • Directed by Eric Parsons
  • Designed by Jonathan Straw and Andy Hartzell
  • Written by Jonathan Straw, Michael Stemmle and Andy Hartzell
"Double Visions" PC/OS X: April 29, 2011[17]
PSN: June 7, 2011[18]
iOS: June 2, 2011[19]

Marty's gotten into a sticky situation as he is dealing with the consequences of his and Doc's actions back in 1930s' Hill Valley, so it's going to take some crafty thinking for him to get out of this mess and back in time to fix the altered timeline.

Notes:

  • Directed by Dave Grossman
  • Designed by Michael Stemmle and Andy Hartzell
  • Written by Michael Stemmle and Andy Hartzell
"Outatime" PC/OS X: June 23, 2011[20]
PSN: July 26, 2011[21]
iOS: July 21, 2011[21]

Marty discovers that Edna has burned down Hill Valley as a result of his actions in 1931. Doc and Marty must stop Edna from destroying Hill Valley to fix their timeline.

Notes:

  • Directed by Dennis Lenart
  • Designed by Michael Stemmle and Andy Hartzell
  • Written by Michael Stemmle and Andy Hartzell
  • Features Michael J. Fox's role as William McFly and Future Marty

Development[edit]

Back to the Future: The Game was announced by developer Telltale Games in early June 2010, as part of a licensing deal to create video games based on Universal Pictures' Back to the Future and Jurassic Park film series.[22][23] The title is split-up into five episodes and is now available for Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, Wii (as a single retail release) and the iOS.[24]

An in-development screenshot showing the simple user interface and the character designs for Marty McFly and Doc Brown. Both Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd allowed the developers to use their likenesses within the game.

The development team sought input from fans on various scenarios by means of an online survey[25] and brought in trilogy co-creator, co-writer and co-producer Bob Gale as story consultant.[26][27] Several concepts he and director Robert Zemeckis had originally conceived for Part II, such as the exploration of the Prohibition era and Doc's family history, were reworked into the game.[28] Telltale Games found adhering to the films' established timelines to be one of the greatest challenges regarding the development of the script.[29] Many ideas had to be scrapped due to conflicts that would have caused paradoxes with the stories of the films.[29] Gale stated that although the game is not part of the series canon,[28][30][31] it is possible that it could take place in alternate timelines.[32]

In September 2010, the team revealed the first piece of concept art for the protagonists, created by artist Ryan Jones and based on actors Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, who allowed their likenesses to be used for the in-game characters.[27] Season designer and writer Michael Stemmle emphasized that the game's graphics would take a less realistic and more stylized approach while trying to stay true to the feel of the trilogy.[33] The puzzles were designed to rely on applying items in the inventory to characters and objects as the developers did not think of Marty as a protagonist that would build a gadget from various parts.[33]

As Fox was unavailable to reprise his role as Marty for the game, newcomer A.J. Locascio voiced the character instead,[34] though Fox later provided voice work for Marty's great grandfather William in the fifth and final episode of the game, as well as for the three futuristic versions of Marty who appear in the game's final cutscene.[6][20][35] Locascio was able to get the part when his audition sample ended up in the email inbox of voice director Julian Kwasneski, and managed to impress both Gale and Lloyd with how closely it resembled the sound of Fox's voice during the time the trilogy was filmed.[34] Lloyd returned to voice Doc Brown and began his first recording session for the game in late September 2010.[36] Later, Claudia Wells joined the cast, reprising her role as Jennifer Parker from the first film.[37] Kid Beyond provides the voice for Biff Tannen in place of actor Tom Wilson,[38] and James Arnold Taylor as the younger Emmett.[39] Though the game features other returning characters including George and Lorraine McFly, voicework for these characters are provided by a variety of available voice actors in the Bay Area. Tom Wilson reprised his role as Biff Tannen for the 30th anniversary revamp.[40]

Promotion[edit]

Telltale Games promoted the series at the 2010 Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle by bringing along a replica of the time machine from the films.

To promote the title, Telltale brought a replica of the DeLorean time machine as part of their booth display at the 2010 Penny Arcade Expo which occurred shortly after the game's announcement.[41][42] Prior to the game's release, Telltale Games published their first Facebook game, Back to the Future: Blitz Through Time, with mechanics similar to Bejeweled Blitz, to tie in with the episodic series.[43][44] It has been taken down as of 2012.

A voucher for a free copy of the first episode of the series was included in the 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release of the Back to the Future trilogy on October 26, 2010.[45] A promotional offer was made on Telltale's web site to download a free copy as well.[46] Via this promotion, however, the first episode began distribution on February 16, 2011.[47] As of April 2011, Telltale offered the first episode for free for anyone with a registered account at their website.[48] As a pre-order bonus, Telltale offered buyers a free copy of Puzzle Agent, access to a pre-release insider forum on their web site, and stated that they would donate one dollar to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research for each pre-order.[49][50]

Reception[edit]

Aggregate review scores
Game GameRankings Metacritic
"It's About Time" 80.32%[52] 74/100[51]
"Get Tannen!" 76.86%[54] 74/100[53]
"Citizen Brown" 75.57%[56] 71/100[55]
"Double Visions" 73.64%[58] 71/100[57]
"Outatime" 78.92%[60] 75/100[59]

Back to the Future: The Game received generally positive reviews. The first episode, "It's About Time", was praised by several reviewers as an effective start to the series. IGN's Greg Miller gave the episode a score of 8.5/10, writing, "it's a movie-inspired game that doesn't suck. Instead, it pushes the characters in interesting directions and whips up a good story." Miller praised Telltale Games for recreating the Back to the Future universe with attention to detail and for the iteration's witty dialogue.[61] Nathan Meunier of GameSpot gave the episode a 7.5/10 score, saying the series "shows a lot of promise with its debut installment". The review added that "The entertaining story that follows is enhanced by believable character interactions, imbuing the adventure with a great sense of authenticity." Meunier did note that the installment was "surprisingly light on challenge and content."[62] Ben PerLee from GameZone summarized his praise of the game by saying it is a "feel good cinematic experience that any fan of Back to the Future will want to check out, and everyone else would do well to check it out."[63] PALGN gave the installment a 7/10, saying that fans of the films "will find plenty to love with all of the callbacks and nostalgic moments", but calling the game's pace slow and the 1930s setting uninspiring. The review concluded, "Fans will delight in the more nostalgic and clever moments of "It's About Time", but it's a short, easy and somewhat bland introduction to the series, which we hope still has time to get a lot better."[64] In a 2/5 stars review, The Escapist said the first episode of the game "doesn't quite get the tone [of the films] right and fails to offer up much compelling gameplay." The reviewer called the setting, situations, and characters "bland", further describing the characters as "cardboard nobodies", and did not review the rest of the series.[65] The consensus among critics was that the voice acting was exceptional, with particular praise directed at A.J. Locascio's impersonation of Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly. Most reviewers were critical of the episode's puzzles as being too simplistic and easy.[61][62][64][65] Review aggregator Metacritic assigned the episode an average review score of 74/100.[51]

Official Nintendo Magazine gave the Wii version of the game 78%.

Back to the Future: The Game was Telltale's most successful franchise prior to the release of The Walking Dead: The Game.[66][67]

The game reached number 3 in the PS3 sales charts.[68]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]