Sunday, March 17, 2013

VGR:Quickies Sega's Back to the Future

Every time you get a successful big budget movie, chances are you'll always be treated to the usual tie-in merchandising.

Which nowadays means the traditional video game tie-in.

Here's the various SEGA Back to the Future games!

Gotta get back in time? Check these previous reviews below!

Ah! Back to the Future!
Of course I had to check out the games, afterall it's my favorite movie series of all time!

There's been several BTTF games around the movies' release.
If the best game - in my eyes - never made it outside Japan for some reason (see my review of Super Back To The Future) the rest of the world got treated to many other games... of questionable qualities....

The NES got treated by a BTTF and a BTTF Part II & III games, developed by Beam Software for the dreaded publisher LJN.
Meanwhile other BTTF2 and BTTF3 titles were all developed by Probe Software for the publisher Image Works.

This is a review of those second titles.
They are mostly quick adaptations loosely based around the second and third film, following little scenes from the plot and a perfect example why most people dismiss and hate movie tie-in games to this day.


And they were developed by one of my favorite game adaptations developer, Probe! What did happen behind the scenes? I imagine, a rushed production, a very tight deadline and a published that didn't even care, they just wanted it on time for the last movie.
These games were ported on Amiga, Amstrad, Atari ST, Commodore, Spectrum and Dos!
But I'm only gonna check the Sega ports here.

Title: Back to the Future Part II
From Probe Software/Image Works/Sega 

On Sega Master System
Type Arcade action/mini-games
Year 1990

BTTF2 is the most straifghforward one.
It opens with little simplified cutscenes recapping the movie's opening.
Doc Brown appears back to Marty McFly in 1985, he has to come with him, Back to the Future!
This series of games are like little minigame compilations of 3-4 levels. Through these different playable segments they sort of recreate famous scenes from the film.
The game then jumps to 2015 where Marty has to uses his hoverboard to run from Griff's goons.
The second level sees Jennifer trapped in her future home, she has to escape the house without seeing future-people.
In the third level, our crew is back in 1985...but in an alternate dark 1985 actually! It's a sort of "sidescrolling beat'em all". Very simplified since it's using this game's basis. You have to leave the neighborhood and reach Biff's building.
Then it's back to 1955. But it's a very short simple sliding block puzzle, while listening to a strange rendition of Johnny B. Goode.
Finally another hoverboard chase, this time in the 50s.
To be concluded in.... Back to the Future Part III!!

Overall: It's a very amateurish experience - Probe?! How could you guys do that to me?! - but at least it's playable.
The hoverboard levels play like a sort of Paperboy clone with very poor hit detection and controls. They are the hardest bits and take a lot of getting used to.
The first stage takes specially quite long, with about 7 little sub-segments. The street will change from an horizontal scrolling to a vertical one, 6 times. The difficulty is avoiding to get hit by the old Biff, the other hoverboards,, the debris, robots, etc.
Really a pain.
Jennifer's level is kinda fun. Very simple. Once you'll beat it, it won't ever be a problem because the layout of the top down house never change. She just needs to go from a room to another, while you open a couple variation of doors. Some strategy.
The Johnny B. Goode puzzle is really silly.
Anyways, it's "okay" enough.
But it offers so little.
At least the BTTF theme song is present on the opening screen, and sounds great in 8-bit. The rest of the music in this game is actually decent.
The game is fun, but bad.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Title: Back to the Future Part III
From Probe Software/Image Works/Sega 

On Sega Master System
Type Arcade action/mini-games
Year 1991

Released only a couple month after the previous one, like the films, it's a very similar experience to BTTF2...only way shorter.
After the previous episode, Doc got stuck in 1885. Marty went to 1955 Doc to help him go back to the past, find the original Doc and get back to the present of 1985!
The game opens with a little chase. Doc is riding a horse in the old west Hill Valley and needs to get to school teacher Clara Clayton before she falls into that Clayton Canyon. (wait, where did I see that name before...?)
The second level takes place in the Hill Valley Festival. Mad Dog Tannen has sent a bunch of his goons after Doc, but Marty is here to save the day! They got have pies!
Finally, it's back to a sidescroller beat 'em all stage, on the last train level.
You have to jump from wagon to wagon while collecting Doc's bombs to power up the engine. Oh, and did I mention Tannen has sent some more henchmen to annoy you?
The End~

Overall: It's a very short game.
I mean, it still plays a bit sloppy and doesn't offer much, but the main problem is just how short it is!
It actually looks quite nice for an 8-bit game.
But it is so short...
The first chase level is the most problematic one. It's a very long stage. And difficult too.
On the horse, Doc can only duck, jump and shoot. But you can also shoot around you by pressing a direction or grab objects down by crouching. You just need to make super attention at your surroundings.
The pies level is a bit annoying. The isometric view looks quite nice, but there's so many goons, they need to be defeated 3 times, then Mad Dog will pop up.
And finally the train sidescroller level. Which is also harder. But the simplest to play.
The problem lies in the fact the game tries even less that the previous one. It skips most of the film, offers only 3 levels.
The BTTF theme song is back at the title screen, but the new reinterpretation doesn't sound as good.
It feels even less inspired, they just copy/pasted the formula from the past game but it gets even worse.... I feel like these two games should have been bundled together.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Title: Back to the Future Part III
From Probe Software/Image Works/Sega 

On Sega Megadrive
Type Arcade action/mini-games
Year 1991

I won't write down this paragraph because it's basically the exact same game as the one above.

Overall: This one's so bad...
Simply put, it's the exact same game. I know the Megadrive had just been released, but they could have at least tried to make it somehow different. Or fixes problems here and there.
If graphically it was actually passable on the Master System, it is simply inexcusable on a 16-bit system.
And why does it look worse here than on its MS counterpart? On the 8-bit Sega system it looked more colorful and even quasi-impressive by 8 bits standards.
Here the game looks dull and so basic. (I mean Altered Beast looked better and that was the actual first release on the MD! At least Altered Beast was fun to play....)
The music is also so bad this time doesn't use properly the 16-bit sound... I mean, you can barely recognize the theme song!
They did add something though...
In the form of a new level in-between stage 1 and 2. The shooting gallery.
In which you replay the scene in which Marty aims and shoots at the targets. But it's not a bonus! In order to pass you also need to reach the high score!
All in all, it feels like a worse experience. The horse controls worse since it's using now more buttons instead of the intuitive directions. The pie stage plays worse and is harder, since now you can't even control the trajectory of the pies aynmore. And the train lets you miss bombs which will mean you often have to backtrack...and there's no time for that!

I give this one a: 1 / 3 Score!

These games are "decent" to pass some time..but not worth taking too much of your time.
They only take about 15-20 min. to go through... not counting what it will actually take you with their high difficulty and so little continues. (that means going back to the title screen a few times!)

The BTTF franchise got so many titles based on only three films... The Nes games, the ports of these above on the Spectrum, Atari ST, etc.
Yet, not only one respectful playable title for us gamers and fans alike!
Why was it so difficult to turn these movies into a good game?

(Not counting SuperBTTF) it wouldn't be until nowadays that a developer, Telltale, actually tried making something playable AND worth of the series.
Perhaps it says something of what publisher think, if the name's big enough to sell, why even try making a good product?

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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