Review by MartinIIIa
The shoddiness of this port doesn't change the fact that this is a great game well-suited to the Wii
Revisiting old intellectual properties rarely works out well. Even when the original creators are involved, there's often nothing worthwhile to be done with any of the old plot threads, and on the occasions where there is, they usually prefer to just milk the property for nostalgia value. After all, there are hordes of aging fans who will shill out money just so that their kids can experience a "new" version of what they enjoyed at their age.
But Back to the Future: The Game gleefully rides roughshod over my cynicism, revs up to 88 miles per hour, and jumps to a fresh new set of time travel adventures. True, the game does go for nostalgia at a few points, mostly towards the beginning, but the story as a whole feels like an authentic continuation of the film series, delivering the same unique formula of adventure, humor, and wonder without repeating plot points. The quote from Joystiq on the back cover says it perfectly; this game really made me feel eight years old again.
The plot starts off with a bit of mystery: Doc Brown's gone missing, and the Delorean returns to Hill Valley with only Einstein inside - no driver! To make things worse, the time circuit display has gone out of whack, so Marty can't tell what time the Delorean traveled from. The one thing for sure is that the Doc is in trouble, so Marty's go to find out when he is. But his quest to rescue his friend will set off a series of events leading to a dark and nightmarish present for Hill Valley.
There's really an impressive amount of plot in this game's five episodes, with twists and turns coming fast and strong. The Episode 4 cliffhanger ending ensnared me, because I couldn't even imagine how things were going to work out to happy ending! The cast is excellent; the old characters are handled faithfully, and the new ones are given a solid level of depth and personality. The story becomes quite dark in the last few episodes, without losing the Back to the Future spirit, and the angst is genuinely moving.
The sole complaint I have with the story is that Marty and Doc Brown spend all five episodes cleaning up their own messes. Granted, this is just what they did in all three movies, but by that same note, it would be a nice change to see Doc's time machine being used to combat a disaster that it didn't cause itself. Still, this is a pretty subjective complaint, and the fact that it's the only one I have says a lot about how well thought-out the plot is.
The presentation adds to the plot's excellence. The character models and settings are decent if unexceptional by Wii standards, and stylistically, they suit the old characters and are compelling enough to make you sympathize with the new ones. The voice acting is solid, with Christopher Lloyd reprising his role as Doc Brown, and A.J. LoCascio sounding like Telltale Games used a Delorean to get late 1980s Michael J. Fox to voice Marty McFly. Seriously, it's scary how much he sounds like the Marty of the films. This is not to dismiss the other actors, either, as all of them deliver lively, confident performances rich with personality.
It's taken me quite a while to get around to discussing the gameplay, but there's a reason for that: Simply put, the story and presentation is this game's selling point. The gameplay is pretty standard point-and-click adventure - solid and enjoyable, but if you've played a few games in the genre you aren't going to find anything startlingly new. It's also a bit on the easy side, as you're typically restricted to a small area and a handful of useable items. I did get caught on a few puzzles, but you spend about as much time watching cutscenes as you do working your noggin.
Mind you, the puzzles are important in that they draw you into the adventure, and a few of them are ingenious in their own right. But ultimately, if you love this game, you love it because it lets you interact with a great story. If you're not interested in seeing a superb continuation of the Back to the Future saga, your best bet is to move on to another point-and-click game.
A good way to make a great point-and-click adventure is to bring it to the Wii. The console's infrared pointer capability makes it ideal for the genre, and that's certainly brought to bear here. Indeed, had this port of the game gotten an all-around solid treatment, I'd have given it an 8/10. Sadly, this is not the case.
The technical performance of this port is shameful; at times the framerate hiccups and even temporary freezes seem near-constant. Since this is a point-and-click, this rarely gets in the way of the gameplay, but it's frustrating when you're trying to enjoy a thrilling cutscene only to have the animation broken up and the voice track go out-of-sync with the character models. The game is certainly not a serious test of the Wii's processing power, so the blame for this falls solely on the developer's shoulders.
I don't want to make a mountain out of a molehill here, though. For all the technical problems, Back to the Future: The Game is still a delight on the Wii. However, you may want to consider getting the PC version instead (though I haven't played it myself and thus can't swear that it doesn't share any of the Wii version's technical problems). Whichever your preference, it's worth getting this game in one format or another.
And now for the small details:
Gameplay 7/10 Not challenging for the most part, but it sure gets you involved in the story
Graphics 7/10 - Character models are well-suited to the source material, even if they're not technically impressive
Sound 9/10 - Wonderful voice acting and effective use of the the soundtrack for the original films
Longevity 6/10 - Quite easy, but with over 20 hours of content, and multiple conversation options makes it a little more tempting to pop the game in again
Loyalty to Source Material 9/10 - Had the original film team made a "Part 4" back in the early 90s, it could scarcely have been any more true to the series than this.
If you're a Back to the Future fan, this game is a must-have. If you're not a Back to the Future fan, I have no clue why you're reading this review to begin with.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Back to the Future: The Game (US, 10/25/11)
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