Go Back to The Future: The Game

My wife and I have this running argument around the house. We both agree that the original Back to the Future is an excellent film, no doubts there. But the disagreement comes with the sequels. I say that Back to the Future III is an excellent film, she says it’s the worst in the series. This is obviously a tipping point in our relationship.

When I first discovered Back to the Future Ep. 1 for the Mac, I wondered if it was going to accurately represent the awesome movie series, or if it was going to be another Back to the Future II.  Now that it’s on the iPad, has it made the transition? Let’s go back in time to find out. 

Going Back in Time

I first purchased BTTF Ep 1 for the Mac a year or two back, before I was the editor of iPad.AppStorm or iPhone.AppStorm. Back then, I pitched the idea to my editor at Mac.AppStorm, just to see if I could do the review. He approved, and I bought the game to have some fun — and I did. It was a blast to play, up until one certain point happened in the game. It was a glitch — not just a little one, a big one, and without it being fixed, the game was a dud. I emailed the developers several times to try to get it resolved, and even though other players complained about the issue, it never got fixed. I abandoned the app and the review, and went on my way.

The intro screen, complete in its non-Retina display glory.

The intro screen, complete in its non-Retina display glory.

I was a bit hesitant to review the app for the iPad because of these issues. But since it was free, I decided to pull the trigger and give the game a shot. Then I just had to play through until I found the spot where it glitched in the Mac version, and see if it happened again. That was my mission.

The Premise

We’ve all seen BTTF, right? Well the plot starts out the same — Doc and Marty are at the Twin Pines mall, testing out the time travelling DeLorean for the first time with Einstein the dog. But this time, the car doesn’t come back, and the Doc disappears. What is Marty to do?

Back at the Twin Pines Mall.

Back at the Twin Pines Mall.

Turns out that Doc ended up in a time period between the setting in BTTF III and the original BTTF (I won’t spoil the location for you), and he’s stuck. If Marty doesn’t get him out, he’ll be trapped forever! Now he just has to figure out where — and when — Doc has landed.

How The Game Works

The game itself is billed as a cinematic adventure, which means that there are a lot of cut scenes which then lead you to a series of questions which you have to answer to proceed forward in the game. Sometimes you have to do certain actions, which aren’t always very clear, and other times you need to get hints to find out what to do. This is an old-school game, with an old-school feel, so it’s all very appropriate.

Each situation has various courses of action.

Each situation has various courses of action.

Your controls then, are very simple. There’s a joystick, which appears anywhere on the screen that you like, but only when you touch the screen. It’s a bit tricky to control, but only because there’s no camera control, so you’re more prone to bumping into things. Occasionally you also have to answer a series of questions, which appear in the left corner of the screen. It’s not rocket science, but it’s also not a fast-paced game, just in case that’s what you’re looking for. Really, it’s more of a puzzle than anything.

Graphics & Sound

The game was last updated in 2011, so the “HD” doesn’t mean Retina display graphics, that’s for sure. They’re cartoony and fun though, and it’s only in certain cutscenes that things look a bit dated. Otherwise, the graphics are acceptable.

The graphics aren't horrible, but a Retina display upgrade would be nice.

The graphics aren’t horrible, but a Retina display upgrade would be nice.

What’s even better though is the team of voice actors assembled for this game. Christopher Lloyd is back as the Doc, and the guy who plays Marty does such a spot-on Michael J. Fox impression that it’s hard to believe it’s not really him. The soundtrack also comes from the original trilogy, and it’s so perfect that you just recognize those same tones as you progress through the game.

Is It Fun?

Yes, but in a weird way. For me, it was more about nostalgia than anything else.  This is a puzzle game at heart, and you’re not just romping through time trying to shoot the bad guys and move quickly. This has a deliberately slow pace, which can get annoying at times. Again, I enjoyed it for that very reason; we tend to get caught up in the latest FPS, but sometimes a good adventure is where it’s at.

The Downside

Again, no Retina display, which is a legitimate bummer. There were a few graphical hiccups on my new iPad, which tells me that it’s not my device, but the app that’s causing the problems. And the controls aren’t awesome, because without a camera view, it can get tricky to move Marty around accurately. This is particularly frustrating in the town square, because the camera is constantly shifting, and you have to adjust your movements accordingly.

You can get hints along the way as well.

You can get hints along the way as well.

In addition, since this is an adventure game, there are times when you’re replaying the same scene and want to speed through the cutscene. There’s no skip feature here that I could find, no matter how many times I touched the screen. So if there’s a long cutscene coming and you’ve already seen it once, get ready to see it again.

Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads

As a free game, I think Back to the Future Ep 1 HD is worth the download. It’s a lot of fun to play, and even though it’s a bit antiquated in some respects, that’s part of its charm. The game is also part of a series, so if you like Ep 1, Ep 2 and so on are available today as well.

Even though it has its flaws, the voice actors and storyline really help propel this game forward. And if you’re a fan of the series, there really is no reason not to get this game.


Play as Marty McFly and go back in time to save Doc from his time travelling woes.