Great Scott! Telltale Games has brought the film classic, Back to the Future, kicking and screaming to the iPad. Can the current masters of the graphic adventure genre succeed in creating a decent game out of this venerable franchise?
Well the answer isn’t as clear as i thought it was going to be.
Back to the Future the game stars Marty McFly who begins the game in search of Doc Brown, who has been missing for some time. It’s not long before the DeLorean shows up with Doc’s dog, Einstein and the adventure ensues.
The story is good, with a decent plot and plenty of surprises on the way. It is fair to say that the first half of the game is rather slow paced, while things really pick up in the latter stages of the title. While slow paced, the first half is still pretty enjoyable, especially for franchise fans.
The script is the best thing about the game, as it is witty and intelligent. The characters behave exactly as you would imagine if you know them through the films, and there are also plenty of in-jokes and mentions of things you might remember from the movies. The jokes come thick and fast, and despite a few miss hits, most of them are funny, and it’s nice to see some movie style visual gags involving the characters too.
The voices actors are excellent, with Marty deserving special praise in particular as you would barely know it wasn’t Michael J Fox you were listening to. The old music is still there, and is well placed and timely and thankfully not over used.
The style of the graphics also deserves praise as, although the cast are all cartoonised versions of the originals, the artwork manages to maintain the feel of the movies while also adding Telltales own unique style to proceedings. That brings me to the main problem with the game, and it’s a shame as it is something that was entirely avoidable.
While the art direction is indeed praiseworthy, on a technical level, this game has some terrible graphical issues.
The graphics appear very low res, with blocky edges and some very muddy textures. The edges of the DeLoreon look horrendous, and compared with the impeccable crispness of the iPad version of Monkey Island 2, this looks pitiful.
That, although disappointing, wouldn’t be a huge problem. Blocky graphics are not the end of the world, as they don’t usually directly affect gameplay. Frame rates, however, do affect gameplay.
The frame rate here is nothing short of abysmal. When nothing is happening, the frame rate is low, but manageable. When there is more than two or three things moving on screen, the game skips frames for fun, with things slowing to an absolute crawl at times.
The cutscenes deserve particular scorn. Well directed, acted and scripted, the fact that the game literally pauses at times because its running so slowly absolutely ruins them. What a shame.
The reason all of this is unacceptable is that things like this break the suspension of reality, they actually remind you that your playing a game and in doing so make you care just a little bit less about what you are doing.
Control wise, the game opts for a virtual stick to move Marty around the game world, which strikes me as a mistake – surely using click to walk makes much more sense on such a large screen tablet? The option would at least be nice.
Overall then, awful technical problems prevent me from scoring this much higher. If Telltale release a decent performance update then add another ten to the score below. A good story, great script and the chance to truly capitalise on an awesome franchise is ruined by shoddy technical issues. Needed another couple of months in development.