Talking Movies [Back to the Future Day]: Back to the Future

In the classic science-fiction film Back to the Future: Part II (Zemeckis, 1989), series protagonist Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels from 1985 to the hyper-realistic future of 2015. October 21, 2015, to be specific which, despite the numerous iconic dates and times visited in the Back to the Future trilogy (ibid, 1985 to 1990), gains additional significance for being named as “Back to the Future Day”, a day to both celebrate all things Back to the Future and all things science.

Released: 3 July 1985
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Universal Pictures
Budget: $19 million
Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, and Thomas F. Wilson

The Plot:
High school student Marty McFly is accidentally sent back to 1955 in a time-travelling DeLorean built by his eccentric scientist friend Doctor Emmett “Doc” Brown (Lloyd). Trapped in the past, Marty inadvertently prevents his future parents’ meeting, which threatens his very existence, and is forced to reconcile the pair and somehow get back…to the future.

The Background:
Back to the Future was the brainchild of long-time collaborators Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, who wanted to develop a film about time travel but were struggling for a satisfying narrative and were desperate for a successful project after a number of critical or commercial failures. After Gale was inspired by his mother’s conflicting memories of his high school years, the duo worked on numerous versions of the film’s script, which was rejected and criticised multiple times during development (and even after the film was greenlit). Michael J. Fox was the duo’s first choice for the lead role but, when the in-demand youngster’s schedule wouldn’t allow him to sign on, they initially settled for Eric Stoltz. Although several scenes were shot with Stoltz portraying Marty, the filmmakers were dissatisfied with his performance and unique approach to the role and he was eventually replaced, with full pay, by Fox when the young actor’s busy schedule allowed him to participate.

Eric Stoltz was initially cast until Michael J. Fox became available.

Initially, the time machine was conceived of as a refrigerator but, after concerns that kids would endanger themselves by climbing inside of fridges, the concept was re-worked into an automobile; Gale reportedly turned down a $75,000 deal to use a Ford Mustang in favour of the sleek and futuristic DeLorean. Three of the cars were purchased for the production and, though they were notoriously unreliable, the time machine became one of the most iconic vehicles in film history and creator John DeLorean personally thanked Gale and Zemeckis for using his unique, if flawed, automobile. Back to the Future was a big success at the time and eventually went on to gross just under $390 million worldwide. While the film was met with extremely positive reviews at the time, it has gone on to be regarded as one of the greatest science-fiction films ever made; the film’s presentation, performances, and comedic take on sci-fi drew significant praise and the film not only inspired two sequels and an abundance of spin-offs and merchandise but has gone down as one of the most influential sci-fi films ever made.

The Review:
Back to the Future is another of those formative, influential movies from my childhood; I was born in 1985, so I was watching this movie alongside the likes of Batman (Burton, 1989), Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984), and The Terminator (Cameron, 1984) in the early-nineties and distinctly remember taping it when it aired on, I believe, BBC One. However, full disclosure, I was always more of a fan of the sequel; everything about it was bigger and better and I always found the first movie a little tame and mundane in comparison since I was far more interested in the exciting technology seen in the future and the plot of Marty revisiting the events of the first film. Over time, my appreciation for Back to the Future has definitely grown and I’ve come to regard it more favourably but it’s still the weakest of the three films for me, much like I see Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (Lucas, 1977) the weakest of the original Star Wars trilogy.

Marty’s branded a slacker but just wants to make something of himself as a musician.

The movie follows the life of average high schooler and aspiring rock star Marty, who is a close friend and assistant of Doc’s. It’s never explained exactly how Marty and Doc met or became friends but there’s clearly a mutual respect and appreciation between the two; Doc depends on Marty to assist with his various science projects and ferry him equipment, while Marty gains the benefit of Doc’s inventions to help bolster his guitar playing. Though a good kid at heart, Marty suffers from all the usual foibles that befall a teenager: he’s easily distracted, a little clumsy, often loses track of time (he’s distraught to find out that he’s late for school, despite the fact that he’s wearing a watch and so should’ve known the time before arriving at Doc’s place), and is a little lazy at times. Because of this, he has earned a reputation with his principal, Gerald Strickland (James Tolkan), for being a “slacker” because he’d rather put his time and energy into hanging out with Doc, trying to steal a kiss from his girlfriend, Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells), or practising his music. However, Marty’s lackadaisical attitude is clearly attributed to an uninspiring and discouraging family life; his father, George (Glover), is a meek and pathetic individual with few aspirations and his mother, Lorraine (Thompson), is a slovenly alcoholic. Neither set the bar particularly high for Marty or his siblings, who are equally unimpressive duds, and his father’s wishy-washy attitude is starting to negatively affect Marty’s perception of himself and his abilities, much to the boy’s dismay.

Doc’s an eccentric mad scientist who vows to help Marty return to his proper place and time.

Doc is the quintessential scatter-brained, well-meaning mad scientist; his home is little more than a giant garage filled with all kinds of gadgets and inventions of the Rube Goldberg variety that have been designed to automatically take care of menial chores such as turning on the television and feeding his dog, Einstein (Tiger), and a massive sound system for his young apprentice. Doc has been working pretty much around the clock for about thirty years on perfecting his time machine, which came to him in a moment of inspiration after falling off a toilet and hitting his head and envisioning the “flux capacitor” that makes time travel possible. Doc has not only sunk his entire family fortune and estate into the project, but has also acquired a consignment of plutonium from a group of Bolivian terrorists in order to power the machine; this sets in motion a chain reaction that kicks the film’s main plot off as the terrorists track down Doc, brutally riddle him with machine gun fire, and force Marty into the time machine and back to 1955. Luckily for Marty, the Doc of 1955 is every bit the same madcap scientist as the man he knew, except he lives in slightly better conditions and is frustrated by a string of unsuccessful and unremarkable scientific failures. At first, Doc is incredulous to Marty’s claims of being from the future, but his interest is piqued when Marty shares his knowledge of Doc’s life and past with him. Upon discovering the time machine and corroborating that it’s actually his invention, Doc is ecstatic to have finally invented something that works and instantly resolves to help Marty by any means necessary. Unfortunately, the flux capacitor can only work when fuelled by plutonium, a substance that’s not exactly easy to come by in 1985 and all-but-impossible to acquire in 1955. Thankfully, however, Doc is nothing if not adaptable and brilliant and suggests that a direct bolt of lightning could serve as a suitable substitute; thanks to Marty having advanced knowledge of an upcoming lightning storm, the two prepare to channel the lightning’s awesome power into the time machine, a plot that requires precise time and cobbled-together scientific equipment, but which is compromised by Marty jeopardising his very existence.

Marty is shocked by his father’s creative side and his mother’s promiscuity back in 1955.

This is, of course, a completely unintended side effect of Marty’s desperate escape; he had already witnessed the time machine proving to be a success, as it transported Einstein a few moments in time, and was preparing to wish Doc a farewell on his trip thirty years into the future, but the boy was so caught up in his fleeing from gunfire that he didn’t really think about exceeding eighty-eight miles per hour and what the consequences of this would be. Arriving in 1955, Marty is disorientated and in disbelief as he stumbles through downtown Hill Valley, and decides to turn to the only person who can possibly help him: Doc Brown. However, he runs into his father’s teenage self along the way; in 1955, George struggles with confrontations and is every bit the insecure and awkward character he was in 1985, only fuelled by teenage hormones and more interested in keeping his head down and writing science-fiction stories than pursuing girls or trying to stand out. Forgetting all about his mother’s whimsical story of how she met and fell in love with George as a teenager after her father (George DiCenzo) hit him with his car, Marty doesn’t even hesitate to push his would-be father out of harm’s way, thus taking the hit himself and altering his future. Marty thus finds himself being cared for by the young Lorraine, who instantly becomes infatuated with him. While George’s character is mostly the same, if not worse, between the two timelines, Lorraine’s is significantly different; in 1985, Lorraine has let herself go somewhat and is a jaded, cynical woman who disapproves of “girls chasing boys”, so Marty is shocked to find that she was such a horny, rebellious girl in her youth.

George has been bullied by Biff all his life but Marty teaches him the confidence to overcome his tormentor.

George’s lifelong tormentor is local bully and blowhard Biff Tannen (Wilson); in 1985, Biff works at the same miscellaneous company as George and uses his position as George’s supervisor and physical stature to intimidate George into lending him his car (which Biff totals while driving drunk and insists that George should compensate him for) and writing up his work reports. Biff’s personality is very much the same back in 1955, only he’s bolstered by being in the prime of his life and surrounded by a gang of cackling hyenas who eagerly follow his lead in tormenting the young McFly. An arrogant, loud-mouthed youth, Biff sees everyone as beneath him and revels in overpowering and intimidating “Buttheads” like George while lusting after Lorraine, whom he makes several uncomfortable and unappreciated advances towards. Obsessed with his car and determined to force Lorraine to accompany him to the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance at their high school, Biff is a constant thorn in Marty’s side as his negative influence is largely responsible for George’s timid demeanour. Thus, in order to correct the timeline and ensure he’s not erased from existence, Marty has to bolster George’s self-confidence with his 1980’s sensibilities, and this inevitably means George having to summon the courage to not only approach Lorraine but also overcome Biff.

The Nitty-Gritty:
One area where Back to the Future makes an immediate impact is in its sound design; while Alan Silvestri’s bombastic and iconic theme doesn’t kick in until the time machine is first introduced, it provides the necessary emotional and dynamic punch to accentuate scenes with the time machine and help create a sense of awe at the DeLorean’s capabilities and design. The film is bolstered by two absolutely fantastic tracks from Huey Lewis and the News, “The Power of Love” and “Back in Time” (which, thanks to being covered as the theme song for the short-lived cartoon series (1991 to 1992), has become synonymous with the franchise for me), which perfectly capture the rock ‘n roll lifestyle Marty leads. Marty is even the lead singer and guitarist for a high school rock band, the Pinheads, and (thanks to singer Mark Campbell) concludes the film with a banging rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”, unknowing birthing the musical genre that he loves so much!

After shaking his disorientation, Marty uses his 1985 technology and knowledge to his advantage.

Back to the Future is a film all about parallels and repeating elements, which would be continue throughout the two sequels; we get a decent amount of backstory and a good look at Hill Valley of 1985, in which the central clock tower has been damaged following a lightning storm and farmland has been converted into a sprawling mall and housing estates. When Marty arrives in 1955, he is stunned to see how different the town is; cars and clothing styles are dramatically different and lacking in denim and “life preservers”, the clock tower chimes, and technology is far behind the convenience and excess that Marty has grown up with. While the disorientation means Marty struggles at first to acclimatise to the time period (he’s initially mistaken for an alien, Lorraine’s family is confused by his talk of “re-runs”, and even Doc is sceptical of the idea of Ronald Reagan becoming president), he eventually uses his future knowledge and technology to his benefit. As the DeLorean and his radiation suit are mistaken for a spacecraft and alien suit, Marty uses this to his advantage to scare the wits out of the imaginative and sci-fi mad George; posing as “Darth Vader, an extraterrestrial from the planet Vulcan”, Marty hooks some Eddie Van Halen up to George’s ears with his Walkman and threatens to “melt [his] brain” if he doesn’t as Lorraine out to the dance.

Marty is against the clock to keep himself from being erased from existence.

For many people, Back to the Future was one of the most influential sci-fi films in establishing a clear and simple portrayal of time travel; the rules of time travel in Back to the Future may be a little different than in the sequels, but it approaches the element in a way that’s easy to understand and makes for great dramatic tension. The film presents time as a straight line of causality; while the present is currently in progress, the past has happened but can be changed and the future has also happened and can be affected by events in the past and present. When Marty saves George’s life, he endangers his very existence because now he will never be born; rather than addressing the mind-bending implications of such a “Grandfather Paradox”, the film uses this device as a ticking clock for Marty rather than immediately blinking him out of existence the moment he alters the timeline. The more it seems like Lorraine and George won’t get together, the more his brother, sister, and even Marty himself are erased from his photograph of the three from the future; indeed, Marty himself begins to fade away at the dance and is only restored to full health and vitality, his future assured, when George finally kisses Lorraine on the dance floor.

Marty secures his future, gets back to 1985, and finds things have changed for the better.

Marty continually attempts to use his knowledge of Doc’s impending fate to save his friend’s life, but the scientist vehemently rejects wanting to know too much about his own future; concerned about the metaphysical impact this could have on reality and the timeline, Doc is focused only with helping Marty right what he put wrong and getting him back to the future, and is content to let fate play out as uninterrupted as possible. Against all odds and with time literally against him, Doc is able to set up an elaborate system of wires to channel the bolt of lighting into the flux capacitor and send Marty back to 1985; upon arrival, Marty desperately races across town to save Doc’s life and is stunned to find that his friend took his warnings to heart and came prepared with a bulletproof vest this time around. While Marty doesn’t notice subtle changes to the timeline (Twin Pines Mall has become Lone Pine Mall), he awakens to find his home life dramatically different compared to what he left behind: his parents are deeply in love, his father is a published science-fiction author, and his brother and sister are both successful and attractive. George and Lorraine show nothing but encouragement and love towards their kids and George’s knockout punch to Biff has reduced the once unruly bully to a meek car washer who ekes out a humble existence. Just as the film ignores the plot hole of why George and Lorraine don’t recognise Marty as the mysterious “Calvin Klein” who brought them together and changed their lives so much, it also glosses over the fact that Marty has interfered so heavily in the timeline that the alternate-1985 he returns to would probably have produced a similarly different version of himself who might not have socialised with Doc. However, I maintain that Doc’s knowledge of the future meant that he probably took a proactive role in meeting and befriending the teen and ensuring that things played out as close to the original timeline as possible.

The Summary:
Although I admit to seeing the first Back to the Future as the weakest of the three films, it’s still an incredibly enjoyable experience; by focusing on the characters and infusing the script with a charming, bumbling comedy, the film expertly approaches the subject of time travel in a way that remains incredibly accessible and was massively influential on many subsequent time travel stories that followed. Sure, under close scientific scrutiny, the film’s depiction of time travel may go against what we understand of physics, but I don’t really think anyone watches Back to the Future, or any sci-fi film, expecting a lesson in quantum mechanics and, if you do, then you’re kind of missing the point. It’s a film made to entertain, and it certainly does that; it’s quaint focus on the 1950s allows it to be grounded in a way its bigger, better sequels aren’t as they veered more towards fantastical spectacle and, at its heart, it’s a story more about characters overcoming their insecurities and becoming the best versions of themselves. Marty initially despairs of his father’s weaknesses and wishes not only that he could be more assertive but also to avoid becoming him; when stranded in 1955, Marty has the opportunity to impart life lessons to his teenage father that help him to become a more confident and self-assured man in the future, thus changing all of their lives for the better and getting a better understanding of his parents and himself in the process. The relationship between Marty and Doc is equally pivotal to the film, and equal to the sci-fi elements surrounding the iconic DeLorean, and cemented the duo as one of the most amusing and memorable in all of cinema, and the film as one of the most exciting and poignant movies about a kid travelling back in time and being seduced by his teenage mother!

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Are you a fan of Back to the Future:? How do you rate it compared to the other two films and which of the trilogy is your favourite? What did you think to the film’s depiction of time travel and the use of a DeLorean as the time vehicle? Were you a fan of the relationship between Doc and Marty and what did you think to the plot of Marty having to unite his teenage parents? If you had a time machine, what year would you travel to and why? How are you celebrating Back to the Future Day today? Whatever you think about Back to the Future, feel free to share your thoughts down below or drop a comment on my social media.

Game Corner [Back to the Future Day]: Back to the Future: The Game: 30th Anniversary Edition (Xbox One)

In the classic science-fiction film Back to the Future: Part II (Zemeckis, 1989), series protagonist Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels from 1985 to the hyper-realistic future of 2015. October 21, 2015, to be specific which, despite the numerous iconic dates and times visited in the Back to the Future trilogy (ibid, 1985 to 1990), gains additional significance as screenwriter Bob Gale chose this date as the most absurd prediction for when the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series and for being named as “Back to the Future Day”, a day to both celebrate all things Back to the Future and all things science.


Released: 13 October 2015
Originally Released: 29 September 2011
Developer: Telltale Games
Also Available For: Mobile, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360

The Background:
The Back to the Future trilogy is one of the most beloved, iconic, successful, and influential film trilogies, and science-fiction movies, of all time. Sitting in a rare category where each film is as good, if not better, than the last, the trilogy made over $960 million in worldwide gross and has seen numerous adaptations in comic books, cartoons, and other media. For years, talk and rumours of a sequel and reboot have, thankfully, been shot down by both co-writer Bob Gale and co-writer and director Robert Zemeckis; despite this, a pretty decent animated series and a series of comic books could have been seen as the official continuation of the films until Telltale Games secured the license to create videogames based on some of Universal Pictures’ most successful film franchises.

The Back to the Future story has been continued in a variety of media.

With Gale brought onboard as a story consultant and reworking several of Zemeckis’ original concepts for Part II, the game has been stated to being the closest to a fourth film fans can expect but also taking place in an alternative timeline in the Back to the Future multiverse. With Christopher Lloyd returning to voice his iconic character Doctor Emmet “Doc” Brown and even Michael J. Fox popping up in a cameo appearance, Back to the Future: The Game featured music ripped straight from the films and an extremely faithful recreation of the trilogy’s distinct visual aesthetic despite its cartoonish graphical style. The game was originally released in five individual, downloadable episodes before being collected in a physical edition and, a little later, re-released for the next generation of consoles with Thomas F. Wilson returning to lend his voice to this updated release. Though the game was eventually delisted after the closure of Telltale Games, it received generally positive reviews upon release and, despite some reservations about certain aspects and mechanics of the game, it was Telltale’s most successful title prior to the release of The Walking Dead: The Game (Telltale Games, 2012).

The Plot:
Six months after the events of Back to the Future: Part III (Zemeckis, 1990), Doc Brown has gone missing and is presumed dead. However, when his DeLorean time machine randomly reappears in 1986, Marty McFly travels back to 1931 to find his old friend and bring him home only to run into Doc’s younger self, his own father as a youth, and inadvertently create a dystopian alternative timeline that the two must work together to repair to finally return back…to the future.

Back to the Future: The Game places you firmly in the role of Marty McFly, the young protégé of crackpot scientist “Doc” Emmet Brown. As Marty, you’ll explore various locations and time periods in the fictional town of Hill Valley, interacting with both new and familiar Back to the Future characters, solving rudimentary puzzles, and obtaining and using items to progress the plot further. Telltale Games were famous for creating digital adventures games, essentially interactive movies, rather than traditional action-orientated videogames. My experience with their titles has, so far, been limited to playing free episodes of some of their other titles and Back to the Future: The Game is the first time I’ve sat down and played one of their games from start to finish.

Player interactions seems more of an emphasis than in other Telltale Games.

Interestingly, Back to the Future: The Game plays very differently from the Telltale Titles I’ve played before; unlike titles like Batman: The Telltale Series (Telltale Games, 2016), Back to the Future features much more emphasis on exploration and player movement over quick-time events or altering the story through a variety of responses. Sadly, though, the game’s controls are quite stiff and clunky; Marty plods around like wading through thick sludge and, while you can hold B to “run”, you’ll never move much faster than a sluggish pace. Considering the game is a glorified point-and-click adventure rather than an action-packed game, this isn’t a massive issue except that the game’s dodgy camera and some awkward map layouts can make it more of a chore to control Marty than it needs to be and I found myself getting unnecessarily turned around or confused thanks to the camera’s positioning or stuck on parts of the environment.

Sadly, you can’t skip cutscenes, which can make repeated playthroughs tedious.

As the game was originally released in five separate chapters, this collected edition is similarly divided in such a way; from the main menu, you can select any chapter at any time and begin a new game as you wish but you’ll need to make liberal use of the game’s save function if you want to earn all of the game’s Achievements with a minimum of fuss as there’s no way to jump to different parts of each chapter. This also affects the game’s replayability as there’s no way of skipping cutscenes or quickly advancing through story elements, which can make subsequent playthroughs far more tedious than they need to be and make gameplay frustrating when you’ve made a mistake and have to sit through entire cutscenes or lines of dialogue with no way of skipping them.

It can be amusing to try out different dialogue options and items just for the hell of it.

As far as I can tell,  unlike other Telltale Games, there’s no way to really “lose” when playing Back to the Future: The Game; even if you fail to figure out some puzzles or events, you won’t get a traditional game over screen and can simply continue until you get the right sequence or choose the right dialogue option. It can be amusing to select the wrong option and see how characters react or to try and use various items on other characters or parts of the map as Marty, or other characters, will generally have something funny to say or will chew you out for being stupid. The bulk of Back to the Future: The Game’s “action” is made up of character interactions and interacting with the various detailed environments you find yourself in. You can talk to and interact with pretty much everything, learning more about these familiar and new characters and the various timelines Marty ends up in, which can be fun and interesting. Generally, you’ll pick up subtle hints and tips by talking to certain characters but you can also enable or disable in-game hints and mission objects to give you a vague idea of where you need to go and what you need to do. Because of this, it can sometimes be a little difficult to figure out exactly what it is you need to do; you can take your time and explore multiple options at your leisure but, if you’re chasing Achievements, you might want to use a guide as there are a lot of missable Achievements in this game and it can be tiresome having to play through the majority of one of the game’s five chapters just to get to the part you need.

It can be awkward to target people and items with the game’s clunky controls.

Compounding the issue is that the game’s interface is quite clunky at times; you can access your inventory at any time with X. From here, you can examine items and place them into your hands to use on other characters or your environment but, oddly, items will automatically remove themselves from your hands after a few seconds, which gets very annoying as you might find an item you need to use has randomly vanished from your hands right as you need to use it. Similarly, it can be difficult to interact with characters and other elements thanks to the game’s clunky “targeting” system; as you wander around, points of interest will be automatically highlight so you can interact with them but your point of interest might suddenly switch as you get closer, meaning you talk to the wrong person at the wrong time. By holding down the R trigger, you can see every element in the immediate area highlighted and use the right analogue stick to select the one you want but I found this to be equally awkward and clunky and that it was generally easier to just position myself near where I needed to be and edge myself closer to my intended target.

Some of the game’s puzzles are needlessly obtuse and annoying.

Even without these issues, some of the game’s puzzles can be needlessly frustrating; most are a simple case of talking to the right people to learn what you need or where to go but others involve pressing panic switches at the right time, selecting items around your environment to distract other characters, or finding certain items to convince a character to help you. While most of them boil down to a simple case of trail and error, and some are quite fun (like getting into a play-off against Marty’s rival and recreating his iconic and elaborate guitar performance from the first film), others are extremely complex or annoying. In particular, you’ll be required to listen out for certain code words from Doc’s younger self to correctly make rocket fuel (which must be done flawlessly to earn an Achievement), tediously manipulate your environment to create an incriminating Mind Map, or rescue your younger father with as little disruption as possible.

Graphics and Sound:
Like all Telltale Games, Back to the Future: The Game utilises a distinctly cartoony visual aesthetic that takes the general likeness of the franchise’s iconic characters and transforms them into amusing and charming caricatures of themselves. It’s a unique aesthetic, to be, sure and, while it does work for this style of game, characters can tend to look a little…off, at times, plodding and jerking around like marionettes and looking quite basic. I also noticed a few oddities and graphical glitches at times, such as items not breaking like you might realistically expect, background elements glitching out, or items and graphics randomly vanishing from cutscenes.

The graphics and aesthetic are decent if a bit bland at times.

The game’s environments can be quite bland, at times, but all the iconic locations you remember from the films are here: Marty’s house, Doc’s lab, and, of course, the iconic clock tower and town square. While the maps and environments aren’t especially large, they are varied in that you can enter different buildings in different chapters to learn more about different characters, and there’s generally a lot to do, see, and interact with despite how empty and lifeless some of the locations can be. It’s simple but largely very effective and, thanks to the game visiting new time periods (mainly 1931 and another alternative timeline), adds new wrinkles to the lore of the franchise.

The game’s soundtrack and voice acting elevate it and add to its appeal.

Honestly, my only real complaint with the game’s visual style is that Marty takes his appearance largely from the first movie; I don’t know why it is that so much Back to the Future merchandise only ever seems to recreate his attire from the first film rather than giving him a new look but it’s a little disappointing so I was glad to see him dress in period-appropriate clothing as the story progressed. Of course, what really makes Back to the Future: The Game an attractive prospect is the top-notch voice acting (A.J. Locascio does a great Michael J. Fox impression, Lloyd is fantastic as always as Doc (if noticeably aged in his gravelly delivery), and Fox himself even crops up in the game’s final chapter for a voice cameo) and the soundtrack, which is largely comprised of Alan Silvestri’s iconic score from the movies. It’s just a shame, then, that a lot of the game’s dialogue is muted or drowned out by the music or sound effects, meaning you may need to adjust the audio settings from the main menu.

Enemies and Bosses:
Given the nature of the game, there aren’t traditional enemies or bosses as in other videogames; instead, as per the plot, you will be stopped or obstructed by numerous characters who require you to say the right thing, bring them certain items, or you to perform a certain action before they will help you or let you pass.

As always, you’re hounded by Tannens throughout your journey through time.

As you might expect, you’ll run into Biff Tannen and his various ancestors and incarnations throughout the game’s story. His father, mobster Irving “Kid” Tannen is one of the game’s primary antagonists while you’re back in 1931. You’ll need to work with Marty’s father to get Kid arrested, lie to him about your credentials as a mobster, and set up an elaborate series of events to burn him out of a high-rise window as he shoots at you with a Thompson machine gun. After Marty and Doc inadvertently alter their future, you’ll also have a confrontation with Biff and his newly-acquired brothers, dodging swings from their baseball bats until you can get them all in position to be electrocuted.

Citizen Brown is an antagonistic version of Doc who plots to keep his timeline intact.

After altering the past in 1931, Marty crash-lands in an alternative version of his present in which Hill Valley is a veritable utopia thanks to a stringent police state lorded over by none of than a heavily altered version of Doc, known as “Citizen Brown”. While Marty is able to win Doc over and make him see that his dreams have been perverted by his new wife, Edna Strickland, this version of Doc later grows directly antagonistic when he has second thoughts about restoring Marty’s timeline. This leads Marty into directly opposing his friend and mentor to ensure that Doc’s younger self stays on the path towards science rather and societal correction.

Edna comes in many forms and is the game’s primary antagonist and all-around pain in the ass.

As a result, the game’s primary antagonist turns out to be Edna Strickland, a seemingly harmless character in the game’s first chapter who ends up manipulating Doc’s brilliance into brainwashing the “hooligans” of Hill Valley into being more law-abiding and docile civilians. So committed against sin and vice is Edna that it leads her to not only burn down the local speakeasy, setting in motion the events of the game’s plot, but also stealing the time machine and accidentally erasing Hill Valley from existence. When Doc and Marty travel back to 1876 to confront her, they must manipulate her fragile state of mind to learn the date and time of her arson to set things right, which ultimately leads to the player having to set up an elaborate trap involving sand bags and a chandelier to end her misguided plot.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As an interactive movie, there aren’t really any power-ups in the traditional sense of the word to be found. Instead, as you interact with others and further the plot, you’ll acquire a variety of items to be used in specific situations. Some of these will need to be handed to Doc’s faithful dog, Einstein, to progress the story or set up distractions and events you need to move the plot along, others will need to be brought to specific characters to convince them to help you or otherwise alter their destinies.

Additional Features:
There isn’t really much else to Back to the Future: The Game; as mentioned, there are a number of Achievements to acquire, with a lot of them being easily missed without a guide, which is probably where the bulk of your next playthrough will be concentrated. Don’t get me wrong, the game’s story (essentially a new take on the familiar story beats of the original trilogy) and the voice acting is entertaining enough to warrant another playthrough but, as you can’t really affect characters in the same way as in other Telltale Games, there isn’t as much incentive to try different dialogue options as in the studio’s other releases. The 30th Anniversary Edition of the game also comes with a behind the scenes video…that can no longer be viewed as the servers and Telltale’s website have long been shut down. I would have expected this edition of the game to come with, at least, a gallery of concept and development art but apparently this was too much to ask for and you simply get a questionably improved version of the base game.

The Summary:
Your enjoyment of Back to the Future: The Game will most likely depend on how enjoyable you find glorified point-and-click adventures and your level of patience. It’s not an especially hard or lengthy title (each chapter takes maybe an hour or so, depending on how you get on with the game’s vague hints and fetch-quests), nor or is an especially attractive or complex game, but it’s a fun enough distraction for what it is, with far more required of the player than other Telltale Games I’ve played. What elevates the game is, of course, the voice acting and the level of fidelity it has to its source material. As a continuation of the trilogy’s storyline, the game works incredibly well, advancing each character’s story while still exploring new, unseen avenues into their pasts and characterisation. Like Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Terminal Reality/Red Fly Studio, 2009), Back to the Future: The Game is a worthy continuation of a beloved franchise that is let down only by some graphical and gameplay hiccups and, perhaps, the genre of game the films have been adapted into. Had the game, perhaps, mixed up some of its methodical pace and adventure aspects with a few more action-orientated sections (like actually driving the DeLorean or taking part in one of the iconic chase scenes) and had some actual branching pathways, it might have been even better but, as is, it’s an inoffensive and decent enough little game.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you ever play Back to the Future: The Game? Is so, what did you think of it? Did you find any oddities or get scuppered by the odd camera and control scheme? What did you think of its plot and attempts to continue the Back to the Future trilogy? Which Telltale Game, or Back to the Future film, is your favourite and why? How are you celebrating Back to the Future Day today? Whatever you think about Back to the Future, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.