Back to the Future (NES)

Back to the Future Box Art

Back to the Future

System: NES

Release Date: September 1989

Developer: Beam Software

Publisher: LJN

Genre: Shoot ‘em Up

Marty McFly travels back in time and gets his mom all hot and bothered under the collar in Back to the Future! Now Marty needs to ditch his mom and hook her up with his dad before he and his siblings disappear from the time stream. In order to do this, he needs to traverse Hill Valley and set the time line right so he can make his way back to the future.

The meat of the game takes place on the street. The screen scrolls vertically at a constant rate. You need to avoid obstacles and enemies to get to the end of the block. You have a timer quickly ticking down that will kill you if it reached zero. You also have a second timer in the form of the photograph on the bottom of the screen. As you move, this photograph slowly fades away. In order to counteract this, you need to collect clocks strewn about the streets. Each clock slowly replenishes the photo, but you can get it back to 100% when you collect 100 clocks.

To begin with, you’re unarmed and must avoid thugs, hula hoop girls that throw gunk at you, movers with a glass pane, all sorts of obstacles on the road, and Thomas J. Sennett’s greatest enemy, the common bee. At least, until you find the bowling ball. Then you have a projectile that you can strike your opponents with. If you’re doing well with the bowling ball, a skateboard will appear, which helps you finish the level in no time flat. The first several sections of street are easy, but in the last levels, bees don’t loop as much as make a bee-line for you. The gunk thrown by hula girls and pink thugs will curve, as if there is a second spitter. And I can’t tell if the level is longer or the clock runs down quicker, because I ran out of time during a couple attempts.

There are four street stages before you make it to an important building to the story. First, the cafe, where you have to throw milk shakes with the A Button at 100 thugs before they reach the counter. You can get a special super shake that knocks down every enemy on screen with the press of the B Button. At the school, your mom tries to give you her love, so you need to block all the hearts with a school book. Just like at the cafe, you need to block 100 kisses to move on. The dance is the place where your folks fall in love, so you’d better rock on stage so they rock each others’ world enough for you to be born. Here you have to catch the notes with the guitar. Sharps hit high, flats hit low, and notes hit center. Don’t miss, because one mistake is all it takes to kick you back to street level.

The final stage is a ride in the DeLorean with the goal of reaching 88 mph as a lightning bolt strikes the clock tower. No matter how many lives you have left, you get one shot. This is why I never beat the game as a kid. Lightning bolts keep hitting the road and slow you down if you run over them. That’s not how lightning works… If you miss your mark, you’re stuck in the 50s forever and have to start over again! Luckily, this is 2023 and I’m a master of time travel, so after four attempts, I succeeded and made it back to the 80s.

Graphics: 1.5

I can tell what everything is supposed to be, but that doesn’t make the graphics good.

Sound: 1.5

Duh duh dadaladaladadala duh duh. Johnny B Goode is pretty rocking, though.

Gameplay: 1.0

Avoid the bad guys, shoot them when you can, suffer through the building levels. I hope you have the endurance!

Difficulty: 2.0

The enemies ramp up in difficulty as you move through the streets. The only thing that is super unfair is losing on the last level kicks you back to the title screen.

Fun Factor: 1.0

It’s fine for most of forty minutes. Then you never have to play it again.

Overall Grade: 1.4

Back to the Future earns a D+. It’s not the worst game in the world, but it isn’t any good. If only they could go back in time and make a better game.

Back to the Future Video Review on YouTube