Retrogaming Review: Back to the Future (NES)
Back to the Future for the NES is so bad that you will simultaneously and immediately hate Huey Lewis, Michael J. Fox, hula hoopers, bees and even the movie itself.
As the first retrogaming review on The Scruffy Pixel, why not kick things off with one of the worst movie tie-in games of all time, a game so bad one of the Back to the Future screenwriters called it “one of the worst games ever.” He was right, but he undersold it.
As the Wikipedia entry for the game so gently puts it, Back to the Future for the NES is “loosely based” on the game, a term that is probably a little too generously positive about the connection between game and movie.
Core gameplay involves dodging all manner of obstacles while running down a vertically strolling street strewn with misplaced alarm clocks. Pick up clocks and keep the “picture” at the bottom of the screen from fading out, thus killing everyone Marty McFly holds dear and ending the game.
If it sounds thrilling, it’s not. Even worse, that running is split up into too many stages to care about, interrupted by even more infuriating mini-games that attempt to recreate some pivotal scene from the movie.
But hey, it’s not all bad. After the first set of levels you earn a skateboard that enables you to experience the debacle even faster.
What Went Right
This is a tough section to fill in. The 8-bit Back to the Future logo is perhaps the most redeeming feature of the game, though the sheer absurdity of the obstacles strewn about Hill Valley is entertainingly ridiculous.
Deadly obstacles include:
- Carelessly discarded bowling balls
- Nefarious hula hoopers
- Two men holding a literally invisible plane of glass
- Bees (presumably killer African giant bees)
- Planters in the middle of the road
- Something that is either an overturned trash can or a lone tire (could not be determined)
- Evil men in tank tops that resemble old-time side show strong men
And did I fail to mention that a sped-up version of Huey Lewis’ “Power of Love” plays throughout the whole game? Hearing it on repeat gives new appreciation to Christian Bale’s assessment of Huey Lewis during American Psycho.
What Went Wrong
This is also a difficult section to fill out as explaining the full game again seems redundant. Of particular offense are the mini-games interspersed throughout Marty McFly’s endless sprint through Hill Valley.
Each mini-game takes on a scene from the movie (encountering bullies at the shake shop, trying desperately not to be into your mom, and re-inventing rock & roll), of which only the rock & roll mini-game brings something new to the table, a second song to the game’s soundtrack (Johnny B. Goode).
And should you fail, fade away or just generally give up hope, you’re treated to this pleasantly ambivalent screen describing your plight.
Retrogaming Enjoyability Estimate: 5 minutes
Not quite long enough to regret the time wasted playing it, but long enough to understand its place in history.