Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's About Time Review

Back to the Future: The Game: Episode 1: It's About Time is Telltale's first game to be released as part of their partnership with Universal. It is a direct continuation of the story as featured in the films, taking place six months after the events of Back to the Future Part III. Like Tales of Monkey Island before it, the Telltale crew has consulted one of the creators of the license, in this case Back to the Future co-creator Bob Gale, in order to keep the game faithful to the films. The result is very impressive, but there are a few hiccups in Telltale's first foray into the Back to the Future universe.

Telltale has opted to interpret the game in the art style of their other humorous adventures, rather than using realistic characters and scenes like their CSI games. The result is very pleasing, especially considering Telltale targets low-end hardware as much as high-end hardware so they can attract as many audiences as possible. This is a good thing, as it helps keep the game out of the uncanny valley. Telltale has captured the look of the Back to the Future characters very well in this style, and the characters do exude more emotion in their faces and movements than in Telltale's previous games. The animation is still stiff, but they still managed to capture the erratic nature of Doc Brown well. The background images also are done well. They captured the look of the iconic images from the films, and the reimagining of the town of Hill Valley in a different time period was just as fun to see as it was in the films.  I did notice one hiccup with the animation where the mouth of a character was moving when no words were being spoken.  It didn't happen too long, and it only happened once, so it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the game too much.

In this case, the time period that is visited is the 1930s during the prohibition era. We also get a glimpse of the 1980s at the start of the game and hear from all of the main cast except for Marty's girlfriend Jennifer. Telltale did a remarkable job of finding voice sound-alikes. The only actor to return from the films was Christopher Lloyd as Doctor Emmett L. Brown, and he still does the character brilliantly. A.J. Locascio is just as spot-on as the marketing for the game led you to believe. It really is amazing how much he sounds like Michael J. Fox as Marty. The rest of the cast isn't as eerily accurate, but they do sound like the characters from the films. We only get to hear Lorraine, Marty's mom, in the opening, but she does a classic line from the film, and she nails it.  George McFly is very convincing as well, and we get to hear more from his middle-aged self than we ever do in the films.  We only get to hear Biff as his pushover middle-aged self, but Andrew Chaikin has his voice afflictions down.  

The new characters are also all voiced very well.  I especially like James Arnold Taylor as the 17-year-old Emmett L. Brown.  He has Doc's vocal oddities down pat and really does sound like a young Christopher Lloyd.  Members of the Tannen and McFly family always show up in the past, so here we get Artie McFly, Marty's grandfather, who looks very much like Marty's dad, and sounds a lot like Crispin Glover in George McFly's teenage years.  We also finally get to see Biff's father, who was absent in the films.  He's a gangster named Kid Tannen, who surprisingly doesn't look or sound like Biff, but rather has a New York accent.  It's a bit of a departure from the films, which always had the actors portray their relatives.  However, it works well.  My favorite new character is Edna Strickland.  Her 1980s elderly voice is a bit jarring, as it sounds a bit forced.  However, the voice is given a lot of range, so it doesn't quite jar as much as the Soda Poppers did in Telltale's Sam & Max series.  Her 1930s voice, on the other hand, is very well done.  Her voice fits her character perfectly, and in retrospect, the 1980s voice does as well since we see how her character got to be the way she is 55 years later.  As long as Telltale doesn't overuse elderly Edna in future episodes, I'm sure her character will sit just fine with most people.

The music is always a high point in games by Telltale Games, and it certainly doesn't disappoint here.  The thing I was glad about was that get to hear period music in the 1930s, as was the case in the movies, and fans will be glad to know there's a bit of Huey Lewis and the News in there as well.  As far as orchestration, Jared Emerson-Johnson does a great job blending the film's soundtrack with new music.  The soundtrack that is taken from the films is the original orchestrated score, which helps bring a sense of grandeur to the game.  The new music is not performed by a full orchestra, but it fits in the game just fine.  As evidenced by Poker Night at the Inventory, Jared is skilled at blending different music styles together, and he does the same remarkable job here.

Telltale's first episodes in any season always have easier puzzles than usual, but since they were aiming to attract an even more casual crowd than usual, the puzzles are easier than most of their first episodes.  A previous interview mentioned that Telltale was taking steps to attract even non-gamers, and the problems mentioned have been addressed here.  There is now an objective screen, which will tell players what they have to do next.  This can be turned off in the options, with the exclusion of the intro tutorial which is similar to that found in the first episode of Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse.  Even when the objectives are turned off, they can still be viewed by clicking the exclamation point in the right corner of the screen.  

The hints system has also been overhauled, getting a system similar to the Universal Hint System format, where the player can get a simple hint, a more detailed hint, or a hint that tells the player what to do.  I have always liked the UHS format because players can choose how detailed of a hint they want, so I'm glad to see Telltale adopt the format in-game.  I personally didn't have a problem with the easy puzzles and the catering to casual gamers, as the rest of the game design made up for it in my opinion, but it may be a problem for some.

It's About Time is a great start to what looks to be another great series for Telltale Games.  The story, voice acting, art design, and music all stay faithful to the source material.  The story is engrossing, and it makes you want more.  There are a few technical hiccups that take you out of the experience somewhat, but they happen few and far between.  The puzzles are easier than a lot of adventure gamers would like, but in my opinion, the rest of the game design makes up for it.  The game shouldn't disappoint most people who are fans of Back to the Future and the adventure genre.

Update: December 1, 2015: Since I wrote this review, a remaster called the 30th Anniversary Edition has been released.  The improved textures aren't really that noticeable, however, they also managed to get Tom Wilson to reprise his role as Biff.  The authenticity of having Tom voice Biff works really well in the situations where we get to hear the tough Biff, which we only get a taste of here, but is much more noticeable in later episodes.  If you have yet to play the game, pick up the remastered version if you can. If you've already played it, it's not really worth picking up again, unless you're a big Back to the Future fan.

Final Verdict:

3½ out of 5

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People For PSN

Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, the five-part episodic adventure by Telltale Games starring characters from Homestar Runner is now available for the PlayStation 3 through their PSN download service.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Back to the Future: It's About Time Out Now

It's About Time, the first episode of Telltale's five part episodic Back to the Future: The Game, is now available for PC and Mac. The episode follows Marty as the DeLorean suddenly appears and he has to travel back in time to save the Doc.

The game will be released on iPad and PSN at a later date.

Doctor Who: Episode 4 Available Now in the UK

The fourth and final episode of the first season of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games has received an early release in the UK for PC and Mac.  This episode takes place right where the last episode left off, with the doctor and Amy in an undersea colony.  The episode sees the return of the Vashta Nerada, the monsters from The Silence in the Library.

Those outside the UK will have to wait until the game is released on Direct2Drive (for $4.95 for a single episode or available in a bundle) to play the game.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Four Adventure Games Ported to Apple iOS

Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, the first episode of Telltale Games' Tales of Monkey Island, is now out on iPad. The 7th Guest, Trilobyte Games' 1993 first person horror adventure, is also available on iPad, as well as iPhone and iPod Touch. Broken Sword II: Remastered, a remastered version of Broken Sword II in the same vain as Broken Sword: Remastered is also now available on iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. Finally, Riven, the sequel to Myst, is now available for iPhone and iPod touch. The iOS platform has certainly become a great venue for adventure games.

Gray Matter Demo for PC and Xbox 360 in Europe

A demo for Jane Jensen's adventure game, developed by Wizarbox, Gray Matter, is now available for PC from the official Gray Matter website. It is also available for the Xbox 360 in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, France and United Kingdom. A publisher has not yet been set for North America, so North American gamers will have to wait a while for the Xbox 360 demo. PC games and demos are region free, however, so feel free to download the PC version if you have a computer capable of playing it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Doctor Who: The Adventure Games Conclude On Christmas

The fourth and final episode of the first season of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games is scheduled to be released on Christmas day, December 25, 2010 for free download in the UK.  The episode will be available to purchase on the same date to those outside of the UK for a small fee.  The episode takes place on Christmas, and begins right where the last episode left off, with The Doctor and Amy materializing just south of London, and about 1000 miles to the left inside an aquatic sea-bed colony called Poseidon.  It is written by Phil Ford, and takes place entirely underwater, featuring the enemies first introduced in Silence of the Library and Forest of the Dead.

This is the final episode for the 2010 season of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, but the BBC has commissioned a second series of episodic adventure games which will be released next year.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Back to the Future: The Game Trailer

Game Trailers has the official exclusive premiere of the trailer for the Telltale Games five-part episodic Back to the Future Adventure Game series.

The trailer sets up the basic premise of how Marty and Doc manage to get back together, and the art, voices, music, and storyline shown is very faithful to the original movies. The first episode, It's About Time, arrives some time this month, and the rest of the five part series comes out one game per month after that, beginning in February. The game is available to pre-order now, for PC and Mac, at the Telltale Games Store. The pre-order gets you into the exclusive Back to the Future insiders forum, with behind the scenes interviews, the ability to chat with some of the staff and cast, and exclusive deals on merchandise.

Sorry for the Lack of Posts

Sorry for the lack of posts here. I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, and it got pretty bad for a while. It seems to be in remission now, so I should be able to get this page back up and running now.

Thank you for your patience,