When the project was first announced earlier this year, the idea of a Back to the Future adventure game – involving the voice of Christopher Lloyd and an uncanny imitation of Michael J. Fox – seemed like a brilliant idea, capable of summoning the kind of comedic, time-travel puzzle-solving unseen since the era of Day of the Tentacle. As far as demos go, however, we didn’t see much of the actual game when the Telltale folks stopped by the office recently, but what we did see only seemed fitting to the world established in the popular films.
The opening of the first chapter in this multi-episode game – released and distributed in the vein of Telltale’s episodic Monkey Island series – begins with a riff on the opening of the first film. Events play out slightly differently than fans will remember, explained away in due course by the narrative that begins to unfold. When Doc Brown vanishes and the Delorean suddenly materializes – programmed to return to Marty in the event of a time-traveling mishap – Marty must head back to 1930’s, prohibition-era to retrieve his mentor.
In the small slice of the first chapter shown to us, Marty must wander into the Hill Valley Soup Kitchen – located just across the street from the iconic clock tower and the old-timey movie theater – in order to make a phone call to the Brown residence. Our 1985 Doc, you see, has gotten himself thrown in jail and Marty needs the help of young, 1930’s Doc Brown to get him out. While in the kitchen discovering young Brown’s whereabouts, Marty runs into his cowardly grandfather and some bully Mafioso lead by Biff’s distant relatives. It’s a device that worked well enough in the three films, but seems rather tired and obvious in retrospect. But then again, perhaps it wouldn’t be a Back to the Future story without devolving into a family affair…
Thankfully, young Doc is working in the courthouse across the street, but when Marty confronts him, the boy’s interest in science has unfortunately stalled out. Instead, he’s clerking for his father, the Judge, and has no time to follow his passion. As you can imagine, Marty must convince him to join his cause.
Sadly, that’s all we were able to see of the game, and that short snippet didn’t even include a single piece of puzzle-solving. Your inventory is managed by clicking on one of three magnifying glasses in the top-right of the screen – one of which opens up your options menu while the other recaps the story thus far. Your items will pop up in a linear arrangement, and after you’ve selected the appropriate tool, it’ll key up on the screen for you to select at any time. And since clicking is fairly context sensitive – you don’t have to scroll through a list of commands – navigating the world is a pretty simple affair.
That said, we’re still not certain how complex the puzzles will be, or whether you’ll be tasked with traveling freely back and forth in time to affect certain objects and areas in other time periods, or whether your travel will be strictly scripted. We do know that you’ll travel from 1986 to 1930 and a few other times in-between, including an alternate 1986. That said, even the folks at Telltale couldn’t readily explain how the Delorean – destroyed at the end of the third film – is present in this title which takes place a year after the conclusion of the trilogy.
We’ll be interested to get our hands on the first chapter and dig into some of the puzzles to determine where and how the game fits into the series’ overall continuity. Thankfully, we won’t have to travel too far into the future as the game releases in late December.