Time travel and manipulation have always fascinated humans, whether it’s the power to see progression and affect outcomes, or to take back something that you wish you hadn’t done; it’s all under time travel. Many TV shows and films have dabbled in time manipulation, from the timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbly of Doctor Who, or the more supernatural, a lá The Butterfly Effect. However, one set of films has always stood out more than any other; Back to the Future, and it basically needs no introduction. The story follows the actions of teenager Marty McFly and mad Doc who turns a DeLorean into a time machine (hey, why not do it in style?) and a whole manner of time related problems arise. The only issue is, do you mess with something that is looked so fondly upon in the hearts of many? Once again we’re whisked off into the future (or back) by Telltale Games, in Back to the Future: The Game. If the title seems familiar to you, don’t be too alarmed, it started life as an episodic journey on the PC and eventually made its way over to PS3. The Wii variety bundles all five episodes together at a very reasonable price and joins a host of point-and-click adventures already available on the system. The question is, however, does it stand the test of time?
Thankfully, Telltale games has opted to craft its own story arc rather than mess with an already well constructed formula, however that doesn't mean to say that the world feels alien -- far from it. Fans will feel instantly at home as soon as they hear the opening sequence with voice acting from Christopher Lloyd (Doc) and Claudia Wells (Jennifer) and a rather stellar performance from AJ Locasico as the replacement for Marty McFly. Back to the Future: The Game (try typing that acronym out a few times!) is set six months after the events of the original trilogy and broadens horizons by whipping these characters into unexplored time-zones and playing havoc with our perceptions of adults and tacit irony, much like the films were accredited for (did someone say teenage Doc Brown?). There are also plenty of little Easter eggs and references throughout that undoubtedly tie it Robert Zemeckis' world -- so much so that fans will find themselves smiling. Typically, you will be attempting to prevent events of 'catastrophic proportions' that threaten Marty's future...or present...or past...It's time travel!
Telltale's experience with point-and-click really shines through the corners of this game wonderfully, and you can't really expect less from the studio that refreshed Monkey Island and Sam & Max. Interaction throughout is succinct, and many actions strike up small cut-scenes that play out and progress the story and may add new items to the inventory. These objects are the key to progression throughout some of the puzzles that can get tricky and require some figuring out and a shufflin' through the inventory. Most items picked up are used and concluded within the section whilst others may lay dormant for quite some time, occasionally over-arching acts -- though nothing quite beats finishing a puzzle with an item you have glazed over for so long. Controls can often feel a little clunky, however, with a sluggish interface and the largest pointer I've ever seen (it's in the shape of a Flux Capacitor...fluxing) in a game that wouldn't be amiss in say, Metroid, but certainly not in a precision point adventure; it simply takes up too much space.
Unfortunately, the Wii version didn't make it over unscathed. That is to say, that visually it's a god-damned train wreck. Telltale has a poor track record when it comes to porting games since they often start their life on the PC. For Back to the Future: The Game it appears if they have turned down the graphical settings to the point that it just about runs on the hardware. In all my time playing it, I never had a cut-scene that didn't lag slightly, and I even encountered characters disappearing entirely! Similarly, the frame-rate made the title generally difficult to play, with it spreading to simple facets such as cursor control and menu navigation also. Upsetting considering that the original wasn't particularly demanding.
Back to the Future: The Game appears to tell two different stories for the Wii. On the one hand the whole point-and-click adventure is here, the puzzles are fun and challenging and the humour and tenacity of the films is painted everywhere; from the characters and themes, to the props involved. Speech and audio is also fantastic -- you would struggle to find a better example of entertaining voice over work anywhere. On the other hand, you've got to wonder whether Telltale Games was really bothered about bringing this to the Wii at all since the optimisation is just lazy; there are graphical bugs everywhere and the controls are fairly clunky. Even small things like finishing a chapter and having to back out to the menus to select the next chapter is just a hindrance. For fifteen British notes, though, the price tag is hard to argue with as it includes all five chapters. It's a fun game, to say the least, and of decent length, but it's just held back by Telltale's lax attitude towards the little white box.