GEE, I guess I must be the only kid on my block not to have seen Back to the Future - that latest blockbustin' slice of small town hokum from the Spielberg stable. But now I've got the computer game and I still want to see it. And that's no thanks to Electric Dreams which deserves a highly commended prize in the Friday 13th Awards for tie-ins.
For other unfortunates who've not yet seen the movie, the plot concerns Marty McFly, a regular teenage guy who makes the mistake of accepting a lift from a stranger. It's a mistake because that stranger happens to be Dr Emmett Brown, a scientist who got his PhD in whacky ideas, and the car is a converted DeLorean - one which travels through time. For the first time in his life Marty is early for something. Thirty years early!
Luckily Marty has benefited from the fine American education system, so when he meets his parents as teenagers 1955 vintage - he realises that unless they... well, you know... get together then he won't be born. To add to the complications his mother, Lorraine, falls for him rather than shy, head-hanging wimp, George. Not stopping to consider the Freudian potential of becoming his own father, Marty attempts to unite his parents-to-be, and avoid the school bully, Biff.
Apologies for going on at such length about the plot, but it is this that the Electric Dreams programmers have seen fit to try and convert into a game. The action - and I use the word lightly - takes place along the main street of a small American town and in four buildings off it - the school, Doc's lab, the dance hall and the coffee bar.
Each one has its own associated object. You find love poems on the school shelves; an alien suit in the lab; a guitar in the dance hall and you'll never guess where the coffee comes from. You'll need all of these for Marty to arrange the marriage.
The main screen is taken up with a view of the main street or the rooms. I've always associated Spielberg's films with a certain visual richness, and not the rather plain looking scenery here. Down these bland streets the characters wander aimlessly.
At either end of the street you'll find a pile of packing crates which Marty can convert into a skate board. This is the only time there's any real speed as Marty leaps onto the board and zooms along for the length of a full four screens.
Beneath this positively underwhelming vista lie the status panels. First up is a picture of Marty which fades as he becomes less of a potential twinkle in his parents' eye. Centre screen are four unrecognisable portraits of the major protagonists in this drama of love and intrigue, and below them is a clock so you can judge how you are doing.
To the right is a family picture. Each time you lose a photo of Marty another section fades, and once it's all gone there's no future for our hero. If you choose a higher level of difficulty you'll get fewer sections to start with, and people's behaviour will become more erratic.
Above the main screen are five little icons for the objects already mentioned. When Marty passes the location of one its icon turns yellow, which is just as well because, apart from the guitar and alien suit, you'd never know they were there.
Providing Marty is close enough, each object will interact with another character causing one of four results when the person's icon turns white. The character may turn away, stand still, follow Marty or ignore the object.
People being people they also respond individually so that, in theory at least, Biff always walks away from the loony Doc but hits Marty at every opportunity.
Yes, you ask, but what about the... nudge, nudge, wink, wink... other bit? All you have to do is get George and Lorraine to stand together long enough to fall in love. Stand together! Is that all it took back in '55?!
You do this by exploiting the effects of the objects, just as in the film when Marty dresses up in the alien suit to scare George into going to the dance with Lorraine. Of course, it's not easy with everyone wandering about, living their own lives, and I think if all the future held for me was games like this I'd prefer not to be born, thank you.
I'm sure the game is playable as a sort of frustrating puzzle if you want to persist. The main problem is that, apart from the opening rock 'n' roll theme, and the reproduction of the poster on the packaging, it's so unappetisingly presented that I can't see why anybody would want to persist. The stick figures may be slightly better than those in Friday 13th, but at heart this shows all the same failings of game play and lack of sophistication.
I can't see those who enjoyed the film having good memories revived by this. Back to the Future? Back to the ZX81 more like!
Publisher: Electric Dreams
Programmer: Martin Walker
It's the start of the game and Marty's picture is almost all there but Doc's already leaving.
Outside the coffee shop with the photo of Marty fading away. And here's Biff, goose stepping in from the left.
Got 'em together at last, in the library of all places.