Back to the Future for iPad: A welcome addition to the present

If you have a fondness for the movie or a penchant for old-school graphical adventures, you'll dig this lovingly designed tribute to both.

The graphics and gameplay may look more like "Back to the Past," but don't let that stop you from playing this terrific new "Back to the Future" adventure.
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Shortly before the calendar struck 2011, gamers and movie fans alike were treated to something special: a new "Back to the Future" adventure for PC and Mac. It was, by most accounts, a terrific game.

Now it's time for iPad owners to get their, er, McFly on: Back to the Future: Episode 1 HD ($6.99) has arrived. And it's the best thing to grace my tablet in recent memory.

Time (heh) didn't permit me to check out the PC version, so this represents my first look at the game. Ironically, it's something of an anachronism, a pleasant throwback to the graphical adventures of the past. If you ever played the old "Space Quest" or "Monkey Island" games, you'll feel right at home here.

Indeed, this is essentially a puzzle-solving game wrapped in "Back to the Future" trappings. Christopher Lloyd returns as the voice of Doc Brown, and mostly spot-on imitators give voice to Marty, Biff, and other familiar characters.

Although this is a totally new adventure that takes place after the events in the third (and final) movie, the game opens by plunking you into a classic (but cleverly altered) scene from the first movie--a great way to familiarize you with the gameplay mechanics. They're pretty simple: drag your finger to move Marty around the screen, tap something to examine it, store items in your inventory until needed, and so on.

If you want to know more about the game itself, I'll refer you to Eric Franklin's in-depth review. The iPad version has identical content, so I won't rehash it here. (Plus, I don't want to spoil any of the fun and clever surprises.)

I will lodge a couple complaints. First, there's no pause option. Some of the cut scenes run pretty long, and it would be nice if you could stop the action as needed. Second, the load/save game system is unnecessarily confusing.

Finally, and most importantly, the game suffers from a sluggish frame rate and frequent hiccups in the video. This gets annoying in a hurry, to the point where I question whether Telltale Games should have released the game with such a detracting flaw.

If not for that glaring issue, I'd give Back to the Future: Episode 1 HD a full 5 stars--6, even, for giving us such a wonderful (if somewhat late) tribute to one of the all-time great movies. As it stands, I still consider it a must-have for anyone who wonders what a fourth "Back to the Future" installment might have looked like--and how it would have felt to take part in it.