Review

Back to the Future II & III

Reviewed by Stan, Posted on 2010-05-03

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Developer: Beam Software Publisher: LJN
Release Date: 1990 Also On: None

Now, before you get caught up in the previous review, please keep in mind that this game has nothing to do with the first NES Back to the Future title. It's a totally different game with a totally different direction. I remember when it first came out to meek reviews in Game Pro, where it looked like total crap. After finally taking the time to give it a proper playing, I have to say Back to the Future II & III is basically total crap because of one, huge, incredibly annoying detail.

Back to the Future II & III has hideous graphics. The story section does its job, but the game proper looks really weird. It has that typical, dark, 'Beam Software' feel with lots of odd creatures everywhere. Seriously, what in the world am I supposed to be looking at? Why am I being attacked by hamburgers, green worms, trash cans, and flying cameras? What in the hell does this have to do with anything? The backgrounds look fine, but they're pretty repetitive, and this becomes a big issue during play. Marty is another problem. He looks more like a greaser and has this really goofy, unlicensed design to his walk. Looks like a Color Dreams character, in fact, so that's all you need to know. Overall, the graphics do their job, but they could have been much better. I have to say in spite of how awful the first Back to the Future looked, at least it seemed to relate to the film. Many times in Back to the Future II & III you'll be scratching your head.

The sound, however, is slightly better in Back to the Future II & III. It's kind of catchy, though dark and weird for the most part. For 1955 you get the expected 'rock-and-roll' track, for 1985 it's this eerie sort-of thing, and the future is just strange altogether. Still, not necessarily bad. The sound effects are okay, could have been better in some cases, but overall they do their job. If you're familiar with Nightshade, you'll recognize a ton of them. It probably would have been a good idea to try to duplicate the songs from the movies, but whatever.

The gameplay is where Back to the Future II & III almost shines. In fact, if it weren't for a critical flaw, this area alone could have made it enjoyable. So, it does at least follow the general plot of the second and third films. Not sure why they threw them together. Anyway, Marty finds that Biff has ruined everything. You need to access Back to the Future III by first completing II. To do this, Marty has to move around various streets in 1955, 1985, and 2015 in order to find items and place them in various locations. You eventually come across the remote for the Delorian, which you can use to move from the different time periods and access other streets. It's thus almost identical to The Goonies II. On usually every street there's some item to find and then a hidden puzzle room where you have to unscramble a series of letters to discover which item to put where. There are a number of bonus levels where you can collect extra lives and fuel to different time periods. Otherwise, you can collect the majority of these items from different enemies. When find items rooms, you have to complete a variety of mini-games. After you collect them all and place them all where they need to go, you can then access Back to the Future III, which is essentially the same thing but only consists of a small number of streets and is easier to navigate. Check it all out here:

Back to the Future II & III is actually quite fun, at first. The variety of rooms to locate is a cool approach to gaming that wasn't done too much after The Goonies II. The mini-games serve to really spice up the action and the word scrambles are also a welcome change. In addition, I found the usage of different time periods to access every street (each has a whopping sixteen different, huge screens) provided a lot of challenge. You literally have to map this game out to get anywhere, and luckily they included a 'compass' which lets you know your current position and street. This is a requirement because, due to the repetitive graphics, it's often impossible to tell if you're on a different street. But, that's not even the major issue.

Back to the Future II & III completely lacks any password or save feature. That's right, if you want to complete this game you have to sit down for a long time, and I mean really long. There is so much to do it's shocking. You end up getting a secret password that allows you to start fat Back to the Future III once you complete II, but in this part is so much shorter it's almost an insult that they waited. What a horrible way to ruin a game, you really won't understand until you sit down and try it.

I had a bit fun playing Back to the Future II & III until I realized how damn long it was. I came back to this game time and time again because it's easy to play, the controls are fluid, and it's got a lot going for it. The only problem is that it first took me about six whole hours to just map the dang game (including item locations, solving the puzzles, etc.), and then about another six hours to actually try to complete it. If you cheat with a Game Genie you can cut it down, but it's still a lot more time than most care to waste. Funny thing is, if they had a password feature, this wouldn't matter. You're looking at a game where you have to mark a spot on your calendar if you want to have a chance in hell of finishing it. Way too long. Several times I was actually quite far and just shut off my NES because I was simply tired of playing it or had something else to do that actually applied to real life. Not having a password or save in a game like this is totally inexcusable. In fact, I got so sick of it that this remains one of the few games in my collection I don't care about finishing. I just shut the damn thing off and said it's not worth it because it took me nearly a full day to get 3/4 through it.

Back to the Future II & III is not a welcome addition to the NES' platforming library, though its inclusion of mini-games and a 'treasure hunt' plot is pretty cool. When it comes down to it, the lack of a password or save feature will frustrate anyone that plays this terror. It doesn't look very good, the sound is a little strange at times, and the gameplay is fun until you realize it takes an eon. If it weren't for the fact that you have to sit down and play through the whole damn game in almost one sitting, it would have received much higher marks. Make sure you can devote a whole day or two to playing it if you want to get to the end, one for mapping and the other for finishing. That's the kind of thing that gets on my nerves and it's the main reason why I stopped playing. I feel a void in my being, but I don't care, it's not worth the effort.

Graphics: 5.5
Sound: 6.5
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 0
Final: 5
Written by Stan Review Guide

Reviewed by Stan

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