Game Review: Back to the Future
Back to the Future

Back to the Future Title Screen

Back to the Future Screen 1

Back to the Future Screen 2

Back to the Future Screen 3

Back to the Future Screen 4

Back to the Future Screen 5

Game Ratings:

  • LJN
  • Beam Software
  • September 1989
  • Action
  • 1 Player
  • PRODUCT #:
  • D (Common)
  • Adam King (11.22.2005)

    Video games based on movies have been a part of gaming since the Atari 2600 days, and most of them run the spectrum from great to poor. One not-so-fine example is Back to the Future. Based on the 1985 blockbuster hit, LJN and Beam tried to bring the fun and excitement of the movie to the NES just in time for the release of the second sequel, but like most movie cartridges, they forgot to include the fun and excitement and the end result is a dismal failure.

    In this game you get to play as Marty McFly, a teenager from 1980s Hill Valley. Using Doc Brown's DeLorean time machine, Marty has accidentally traveled back in time to the year 1955, and inadvently disrupts the meeting of his future parents, George McFly and Lorraine Baines. As a result history is about to be rewritten as his parents may never get married and never have a family, threatening his very existance. Now, Marty must reunite his parents to set history right, and he must return to his own time before he fades into nothingness, never having been born.

    This game has you travelling to four different locations in 1955 Hill Valley to engage in a mini-game, each based on a scene from the flick. Each area is connected by a series of four street sequences. Each stage ise seen from overhead and has you automatically marching forward to get to the end of the segment, not unlike Paperboy. Along the way you have to avoid several obstacles including bullies, hula girls, potholes and bees, and you have a time limit to reach the end. Bumping into an obstacle trips you up causes you to waste time, and if you run out of time you disappear and lose a life. Marty can pick up a bowling ball to defend himself and can also find a skateboard to help him speed down the road. As you do this you also have to keep an eye on a picture of Marty and his brother and sister on the bottom of the screen; throughout the level they start to fade away, and you must collect clocks to keep them from disappearing entirely.

    Once you pass through four straight street sequences, you finally get to go through one of the four mini-games, each with a single-screen side view. In the malt shop, you must fend off 50 bullies using milkshakes as ammunition. At the school, you must block Lorraine's hearts with a textbook to break her crush on her future son. At the school dance, you have to keep up with the band by blocking musical notes so Lorraine and George will kiss and secure your future. In the final level you take the wheel of the DeLorean and you must drive down the road to reach 88 mph while dodging lightning bolts so you can zap back to 1985. Lose, and you could be stuck in 1955, or fade from existance.

    Both the graphics and sounds are poorly done. While the backgrounds and levels are only below-average, the small characters look like stick figures with hardly any detail and stiff animation. The background tune that plays through most of the game is repetitive and very annoying to listen too. The only time the music changes is when you reach the school dance; then you get to listen to a poor rendition of "Johnny B Goode".

    As you might expect the gameplay itself is the worst part. The street sequences are very monotinous and frustrating, and you have to go through them over and over and over for the majority of the game. For some reason B is used for jumping and A for attacking, which can be confusing, and Marty doesn't jump very well, so you may not want to try to jump over anything. The mini-games aren't much better; they get difficult fast and if you fail to meet the requirements in each screen, you have to repeat the last street sequence before you get another shot (minus one life. The controls are also pretty stiff; one too many pushes of the control pad will cause you to fail the stage. The worst part is the DeLorean level; controlling the car is a hassle, and if you fail at the end you have to start the WHOLE GAME over. Add on the fact that there's no continues and there's very little chance you'll see the ending, which isn't even worth the effort; it's just one screen with very little text.

    Overall this game is universally hailed as one of the worst NES titles ever, with very good reason. Everything about this cartridge is poorly done, and overall the developers just failed to capture the sprit of the movie with too many liberties taken. Where in the movie did Marty have to worry about dodging killer hula girls and angry bees? Even if you're a fan of the movie, Back to the Future is one trip through time not worth taking; somebody needs to erase this cart from history.