Sunday, June 2, 2019

Review: Back in 1995

I remember 1995 pretty well, having just started writing for tech magazines. Every week was a new adventure, some new 3D chip being hailed as gaming's Hollywood moment, polyphonic sound cards belted out whole orchestras, and Windows 95 (almost) just worked. All the while new consoles and batches of amazing, crazy, games arrived from Japan, while modems were getting faster, beyond 56K! The future was here, until the next week!

But those early 3D games, thrown out to demonstrate the technology, many of them don't hold up that well, offering single-digit frame rates, appalling controls and terrible use of textures. If you want to go back to those times, here's Back in 1995, a nod to the early survival horror games and adventures like Alone in the Dark.

Its actually quite a modest little adventure with minimal threat and a decent sense of progress, and just enough exploring. Using tank controls, you spin around on the spot then push to move in that direction, bouncing off furniture and other obstacles. Most doors are locked, needing a key or code and there's a few characters littering the plot to talk to.

Back in 1995 (trailer), developed by Takaaki Ichijo, starts with you in a world-going-wrong, waking up in a hospital bed with mutant creatures lurking nearby and an unexplained need to head to a radio tower. Most of the game's tasks are simple enough, open the doors, explore and find the information to advance further and get the odd gesture to explain the plot.

Spin Moves and a Few Bullets

You start off with a wrench but can soon upgrade to a pistol or shotgun, making the larger creatures more manageable, thankfully there's auto-aim to keep you sane. You can save progress at computer terminals, and in the menu can tweak the retro-scanline effect - but nothing else - how cool would it have been to play the game in 1996/97/98 modes with slightly better visuals or effects added? That would have been neat!

Back in 1995 also totally lacks character, early games relied on strong, totem characters or quirky figures to make the weak plots and scripts bearable. There's no jokes, our hero no noticeable sense of humour or bitterness about his situation, just plodding on - which is a shame.

What is true to the era is the benefit of drawing your own little maps, I loved this part of the game (even though it isn't part of the game) - noting down the locked doors or the routes through the tricky gantry section - so that's kinda fun.

I guess we can't criticise the retro graphics, although the monster are more plain weird than terrifying, but the foreboding music and functional sound effects do their job. Perhaps as a college project, Back in 1995 would have merit, but today, a few years after its PC release, it feels way shallower than many of the games it tries to pay tribute to. Back in 1995 is a good idea, but poorly executed in a way that can't be attributed to the source material or hardware of its time - shame!

Score: 4/10
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Price: £7.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: Throw the Warped Code Out/Ratalaika
File size 86MB
Progress: Strange Days with an Outbreak of Dead Men Walking against a Crimson Tide

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