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 to playing his forefather William.
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 in 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. 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).
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.
It has been six months since Marty McFly witnessed Emmett "Doc" Brown depart into an unknown time, and the bank has foreclosed on Doc's home. While helping his father George sort through Doc's possessions, Marty is surprised to see a DeLorean time machine, which he thought had been destroyed, appear outside the house. Inside is Einstein, Doc's dog, and a tape recorder with a message from Doc explaining how the time machine would return to this present should Doc ever run into problems. Einstein helps track down Edna Strickland, the elderly sister of Marty's school principal and a former reporter for Hill Valley's paper. Marty reads through her newspaper collection to find Doc had been jailed in 1931 and killed by Irving "Kid" Tannen, Biff Tannen's father. Marty and Einstein set off to 1931 in the DeLorean to prevent Doc's death.
There, Marty is able to talk to Doc who explains he was accused of arson upon the Kid's illegal speakeasy, and thus needs to escape. Doc tells Marty to seek the aid of his younger self, Emmett, who at this time assists his father, a judge at the courthouse who strongly dislikes Emmett's desire to go into science. Along the way, Marty encounters his grandfather Arthur "Artie" McFly, his girlfriend Jennifer's grandfather, Officer Danny Parker, and a young Edna. While convincing Emmett to help, Marty convinces Artie, who serves as Kid's accountant, to testify against Kid as to help prove Doc's innocence. Believing all is well, Doc and Marty prepare to return to the present when Marty finds himself disappearing. Doc discovers Artie would be killed the next day for testifying, thus affecting Marty's existence. They travel seven minutes back to rescue him and instead convince Artie to flee town instead.
On return to 1986 they find it has changed: without Artie's testimony, Kid was able to expand his criminal operations and owns all of Hill Valley. Marty and Doc return to 1931, and find another option: they convince Trixie, Kid's moll who has become smitten with Artie, to testify instead and get Officer Parker to arrest Kid. Kid and his gang are jailed, and all appears well. Marty and Doc return to the future unaware that their actions have caused Edna to fall in love with Emmett, and their relationship causes Emmett to forgo his scientific inventions.
When they return to 1986 again, Doc disappears and the driverless DeLorean crashes into a billboard. Shaken up, Marty finds Hill Valley has become a totalitarian walled society, run by "Citizen Brown". Sneaking inside, Marty learns that Edna has brainwashed Emmett and used his genius to craft the means to craft a perfect society in her eyes. Marty is able to get close to Citizen Brown and show him a notebook he recovered from 1986 with the first drawing of Doc's flux capacitor. Citizen Brown is awash with memories and realizes he was meant for better things. He helps Marty to repair the DeLorean and the two set off for 1931 to try to undo the earlier mistake. However, the damage to the time machine ends up leaving them two months after Marty's initial appearance in 1931, where Edna and Emmett's relationship has grown. Marty is ready to take whatever steps are needed to end it, but Citizen Brown becomes concerned over what will happen to Edna and upset that Marty does not consider her feelings, and drives off alone in the DeLorean to contemplate the situation.
Marty, with help from Trixie, first ends Edna and Emmett's relationship, but Emmett still is reluctant to return to his science pathway. Marty convinces Emmett to enter his flying car into the upcoming Hill Valley Science Expo. Meanwhile, Edna is picked up by Citizen Brown, and when she relates what Marty has done, Brown decides to help her to stop Marty's plan. At the Expo, Edna and Brown attempt to sabotage Emmett's display, but Marty discovers them in time. During this, he happens to learn that Edna was responsible for the arson of Kid's speakeasy. During the Expo, Emmett successfully demonstrates his flying car, just as Judge Brown arrives. Marty is able to help Emmett and Judge Brown reconcile their differences, with Emmett's father now accepting his son's science pursuits.
Edna is furious as her plan has been foiled, and when Citizen Brown refuses to help further, she steals the DeLorean, running him over, before inadvertently disappearing in time with it. As he dies, Citizen Brown tells Marty he was right about Edna. Marty gives Emmett a sealed note with instructions to be opened in the future, shortly after a second DeLorean appears with Doc at the wheel, having been summoned from the present by the note. As they talk about events, the town of Hill Valley disappears around them. They find, from Marty's great-grandfather William "Willie" McFly, that the town burned down shortly after its founding in 1876. Doc and Marty use the time machine to return to 1876, discovering a crazed Edna had traveled there and attempted to burn down the tavern which had led to the whole town becoming ablaze. They find and stop Edna in time before she can commit the act, returning her and the first DeLorean back to the restored Hill Valley of 1931. Edna is quickly arrested as she continues to ramble about her act of arson, and put into jail with Kid. The alternate DeLorean then disappears. As Marty and Doc are preparing to return, Marty spots Artie and Trixie, having fallen in love with each other, and worries about his future since Artie was to be wed to his grandmother Sylvia, but Trixie reveals that Sylvia is her real name.
Doc and Marty return to 1986 where all is normal. Doc had been able to travel in time to stop any foreclosure on his house, and because of reconciling with his father, he and his family live in the larger mansion. They find that Edna and Kid had fallen in love while in jail, and afterwards married and both became much happier and friendlier since. Doc reveals his previous absence to Marty, that he had been traveling in time to compile a history of the McFly family to present to Marty as a graduation gift. Suddenly, three separate DeLoreans 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.
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. 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.
The development team sought input from fans on various scenarios by means of an online survey and brought in trilogy co-creator, co-writer and co-producer Bob Gale as story consultant. 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. Telltale Games found adhering to the films' established timelines to be one of the greatest challenges regarding the development of the script. Many ideas had to be scrapped due to conflicts that would have caused paradoxes with the stories of the films. Gale stated that although the game is not part of the series canon, it is possible that it could take place in alternate timelines.
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. 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. 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.
As Fox was unavailable to reprise his role as Marty for the game, newcomer A.J. Locascio voiced the character instead, 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. 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. Lloyd returned to voice Doc Brown and began his first recording session for the game in late September 2010. Later, Claudia Wells joined the cast, reprising her role as Jennifer Parker from the first film. Kid Beyond provides the voice for Biff Tannen in place of actor Tom Wilson, and James Arnold Taylor as the younger Emmett. 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.
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. 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. 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. A promotional offer was made on Telltale's web site to download a free copy as well. Via this promotion, however, the first episode began distribution on February 16, 2011. As of April 2011, Telltale offered the first episode for free for anyone with a registered account at their website. 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.
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. 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." 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." 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." 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. 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. Review aggregator Metacritic assigned the episode an average review score of 74/100.
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.
The game reached number 3 in the PS3 sales charts.