Considering how poor previous attempts at creating games out of the iconic Back to the Future franchise have proved, it was only a matter of time before technology and Telltale Games caught up.
Rough edges abound in this introductory episode of Telltale Games's enterprising series - minor performance issues, occasionally awkward controls, and a couple of underwhelming puzzles - yet the faithfulness evident in the game's ace writing and generally enjoyable gameplay make Back to the Future Ep1 HD a surprising success.
Downtown Doc Brown
Telltale Games still has much to learn when it comes to designing games for touchscreen devices, though the growing studio clearly has the right creative direction. As with any adventure game, the experience hangs on the story and this first episode sets a compelling stage.
The story of Marty McFly in the months following the events of Back to the Future III is authentic and fresh.
Doc Brown has left 1986 behind, though months after his departure Marty witnesses the return of the DeLorean time machine. Sensing trouble, Marty uncovers Doc's whereabouts and heads back in time to save him from a gruesome death.
It's a simple story told through dialogue rich with humour and references to Robert Zemeckis's movies. Back to the Future Ep1 HD is almost better as an interactive story than adventure game - the most enjoyable moments are spent conversing with characters rather than fiddling with puzzles.
In typical adventure gaming fashion, you gather clues from conversations and hunt for objects with which to solve basic puzzles. There's nothing here that will blow your socks off: in fact, the gameplay is fairly predictable. Imaginative scenarios freshen up standard chain-of-events puzzles that have defined adventure games for years.
The early puzzles are underwhelming, though the second half of the game picks up and there are some fun situations that fuse the solid writing with equally good gameplay. Yet Telltale Games struggles to make Back to the Future Ep1 HD feel truly at home on iPad.
Wrinkles in time
Performance issues cut into the experience, although fortunately it's nothing more serious than graphical slowdown (for example, the main menu crawls onto the screen). Nevertheless, optimisation needs to be at the top of Telltale Games's to-do list given that this is a recurring problem.
Control is another issue that hampers the game. Using a virtual analogue stick to move Marty just doesn't feel right. Not only does the stick have problems - sometimes you don't move in the intended direction, having to slide halfway across the screen to run - but the touchscreen provides an opportunity to employ an alternative control scheme. Why isn't there at least an option to tap to move?
While the opening moments had me doubting that there was reason for putting up with the flaws, the good writing and fun scenarios in the second half redeem the game. With the next episode coming shortly, the question is whether Telltale Games has enough time to address these shortcomings.
Read our review of Back to the Future Ep 2 HD - Get Tannen. [Buy it.]
Read our review of Back to the Future Ep 3 HD - Citizen Brown. [Buy it.]
Read our review of Back to the Future Ep 4 HD - Double Visions. [Buy it.]
Read our review of Back to the Future Ep 5 HD - Outatime. [Buy it.]
Want more? Check out our growing collection of Back to the Future Ep 1 HD articles!