Jason Recommends: Back To The Future: The Game
Everybody knows that adventure games are dead. Right?
Yeah, that’s mostly right. Certainly they’re nowhere near as prominent in the marketplace as they were in the late ’80s and mid ’90s, when Sierra On-Line (King’s Quest, Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Gabriel Knight) and LucasArts (Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Sam & Max Hit the Road, Grim Fandango) were in their glory.
Over the last few years, though, Telltale Games has been quietly pushing back on this bit of conventional wisdom. They’ve built a nice little niche for themselves in the gaming marketplace by making classic-style adventure games with modern 3D flair, based both on original stories of their own and on clever adaptations of familiar properties. They deliver their games in bite-sized “episode” chunks, and give them a nice price — individual episodes are usually around $9, with a full 5-6 episode “season” running from $25-30. (And if you buy one episode and then later decide you want the whole season, they’ll usually knock $5 or so off the full season price.)
Lately I’ve been playing through one of Telltale’s newest series, Back to the Future: The Game, and it’s good enough that I wanted to recommend it to you. Based on the hit movie trilogy, the game follows Marty McFly and Doc Brown through five new adventures along the space-time continuum.
Normally games licensed from popular movies are mediocre cash grabs at best, but in this case, Telltale really went the extra mile to make the new game feel like a real, bona-fide set of Back to the Future stories. They worked with Bob Gale, producer and co-writer of the movies (he wrote Part 2 and Part 3, and co-wrote the original film with director Robert Zemeckis) to develop the story. They licensed the movie’s memorable score and soundtrack, right down to the ’80s Huey Lewis tunes. And they got Christopher Lloyd to reprise his role as Doc Brown.
While Michael J. Fox wasn’t able to voice Marty McFly (for obvious reasons), he gave Telltale the permission to base their in-game model of Marty on his likeness — a big deal, because he’s generally been very protective of these likeness rights to avoid having his face plastered on a ton of cheap junk — making it possible for the Marty McFly in the game to look like, well, Marty McFly. And the big surprise is the voice actor that Telltale found to step into his shoes as Marty: a young actor named A.J. LoCascio, who absolutely nails it. It’s really kind of spooky how accurate his Marty voice is. Here, have a listen:
Anyway, I’m about halfway through the season so far, and it’s been great fun — the writing is sharp, the puzzles are clever, and overall it’s a great example of true adventure gaming in the classic style. You should check it out.
But you won’t, because you’re cheap. Right? Of course. I know you too well.
However! Turns out that Telltale’s taken away your last excuse — you can now download the first episode completely free. Just go to Telltale’s BTTF site and click the big “get it free” button to download it for PC or Mac. (Or you can also get it for your iPad from the App Store, though it’ll cost you $6.99 there, presumably because if you can afford an iPad you have no right to be whining about games being expensive.)
So, if you remember the grand old days of adventure games, or just enjoy a good story and a good puzzle, give Back to the Future: The Game a spin. You won’t be disappointed.