Return to Back to the Future II and III (thing)

Publisher [LJN] and game developer [Beam Software] teamed up in 1989 to create the [Nintendo Entertainment System|NES] adaptations of the popular films [Back to the Future II] and [Back to the Future III]. Unlike other games based on the [Back to the Future Trilogy|hit film trilogy], this [game pak] contained two games. After completing the [Back to the Future II|BTTF II] portion of the game, the [Back to the Future III|BTTF III] portion becomes available. Unfortunately [Beam Software|Beam] took an excellent license opportunity and created a sub-standard platform game. Yet, for some reason, I find it strangely addictive.

The game opens with a brief explanation of how [Biff Tannen] has changed history with the aid of the [Gray's Sports Almanac]. Apparently [Biff Tannen|Biff]'s meddling with history has caused a number of objects to be hidden in three different time periods: [1955], [1985-A], and [2015]. It's up to [Marty McFly] to seek out all the objects and return them to their appropriate time periods, making this game a massive scavenger hunt. However, there are a few catches to this mission. First off, items are locked away behind doors and the keys (which are good for one use only) can only be obtained by stomping certain enemies when they are motionless. Inside these doors are a series of platforms, traps, and ladders as well as a number of little clocks. If [Marty McFly|Marty] can dodge the hazards and collect all the clocks and the trophy cup before time runs out, he'll get one of the objects, such as a [hoverboard] or a [tombstone]. If he fails he can try the sequence again if he has another key to unlock the door. Now [Marty McFly|Marty] has to take the object to a specific hidden room in the correct time period. These rooms are hidden away inside sewer pipes and down other holes. Once [Marty McFly|Marty] finds a room he (meaning you) have to unscramble a series of letters to find out which object belongs in the room. Choosing the wrong object causes the item to blow up and return to the secret room in which you originally found it, meaning that choosing a wrong item will result in some massive backtracking. That is, if you are lucky enough to find your way back to the room. Each time period has fifteen different levels that are progressed through a series of large doors. The levels also look very similar, making it easy to become lost unless you keep your own maps and records of where you've been. There is a [compass] hidden away in [1955] and it will reveal which sector [Marty McFly|Marty] is current located in, but this is not much of a help without your own handwritten map. The constant searching and tedious puzzles make the game exceedingly long, somewhat boring, and overly difficult.

As mentioned above [time travel] is a key part of progressing through the game. The [DeLorean] [time machine] becomes available once [Marty McFly|Marty] finds the [remote control] to the car in [1985-A] (the remote is technically from the first [Back to the Future] film and did not behave the way it does in this game). The remote can summon the [DeLorean] at will and, providing that [Marty McFly|Marty] has collected enough [plutonium] symbols for fuel, he can travel to the other time periods in the game (once again the [plutonium] fuel for the car is from the [Back to the Future|first film] as well, not the sequels). A time travel trip from one period to the next costs ten [plutonium] units, but skipping over a time period (such as moving directly from [1955] to [2015]) costs seventeen units.

One thing that the creators did get right is that each time period's levels are virtually the same in each time period. For example, [Hill Valley, California|Hill Valley] High School is located in the same sector in each time period. The famous clock tower is in the background of one sector, but in [1985-A] it is replaced with [Biff Tannen|Biff]'s casino and hotel. Furthermore, events in [1955] can influence the future, such as if [Marty McFly|Marty] plants a seed in the past a climbable tree will exist at that point in the future.

There are a number of enemies in the game that can be stomped on when they stop moving. Beware the evils of walking garbage cans, hats, [Spiny]s (moonlighting from the [Koopa Troop], it seems) and a variety of animal pests such as snails, fish, and a dive-bombing bird. The only other human in the game besides [Marty McFly|Marty] is [Biff Tannen|Biff] himself, and he exists in each of the time periods (as the same sprite, cheaply enough). Sometimes he tosses rocks, sometimes he paces back and forth, and other times he's riding on a [hoverboard]. In each case a stomp will defeat him until you return to that sector. Making things more complicated is that the more [Marty McFly|Marty] time travels, the more doubles that will exist in each time period. If [Marty McFly|Marty] encounters his other self and damages him, both [Marty McFly|Marty]s will take a hit. Speaking of hits, [Marty McFly|Marty] (the "real" one, not a double) can also only take one hit. He begins with ten lives and can earn more by collecting [pizza] slices and bottles of [soda]. Also there are a number of hidden rooms that only house these goodies. [Marty McFly|Marty]'s sole offensive weapons are throwable rocks (that vanish after losing a life) and a [hoverboard] that can mow down enemies temporarily.

The graphics in this game are some of the worst on the [Nintendo Entertainment System|NES]. Spirtes lack detail and animation, the level colors are drab green and flat, and the music is monotonous and contains piercing beeps from time to time. Somehow the creators also licensed the [Huey Lewis and News] song [Back in Time] and a poor rendition of it appears in the game. The play control is sloppy and the different sectors all resemble one another, providing no change of pace during the game. Worst of all is that the game lacks a password or save feature, so the entire game must be completed in one sitting if one wants to win.

After returning the hidden items to their special rooms in the correct time periods the game explains that these actions have defeated [Biff Tannen], but now [Doc Brown] is trapped in [1875] (an error; [Doc Brown|the Doc] was actually sent to [1885]) and begs [Marty McFly|Marty] to come and rescue him before his presence causes damage to the [space-time continuum] (this is also wrong, as [Doc Brown|the Doc] forbids [Marty McFly|Marty] from coming to [1885] to rescue him in [Back to the Future III] so that [Marty McFly|Marty] can go back to the future). And how does [Marty McFly|Marty] save [Doc Brown|Doc]? By finding the ten hidden objects and returning them to their respective secret room. That's right, the whole madness begins all over again, this time with western items. No additional [time travel] is involved in this segment of the game, and the western levels feature brown drabness. The [Marty McFly|Marty] sprite is even wearing a little [cowboy hat]. After completing this set of tasks the game is over. There is a hidden password function that allows players to skip directly to the [Back to the Future III|BTTF III] portion of the game. At the game's title screen press Select and the B button which will cause a long string of letters to appear. It's another word scramble puzzle, and the game will load up the western part of the game if you unscramble the letters to read FLUXCAPACITORHASTHEPOWER ([flux capacitor] has the power).

As horrible as this game is I find myself coming back to it every so often. I don't know why; it's clearly an aggrivating and tedious waste of code and yet somehow I'm compelled to try and complete the game. Back in the day I rented it several times and never got very far. If for some reason you find yourself lured to this game you can check the usual used game places and online auctions. If you're looking for a more accurate and more visually appealing video game adaptation of [Back to the Future II|BTTF II], I recommend the [Japan]ese release of [Super Back to the Future II].

Playing the game