Back in 1995 is heavily inspired by video games of a bygone era, complete with low resolution models, “tank” movement controls, static camera angles, and a rudimentary inventory system. All of the components here are dated for the sake of a nostalgic trek into an important moment in gaming history, but does it deliver enough modern, original content to be worth playing in today’s sea of Action-Adventure titles?
Released on April 28th, 2016, Back in 1995 is an Indie Adventure title developed by Throw The Warp Code Out and published by Degica. It was a “labor of love” for developer Takaaki Ichijo, who wanted to “replicate the unique feeling he had from his first gaming experiences: the PlayStation and the Sega Saturn.”
Who Are We, And What Are We Doing Here?
The plot in Back in 1995 is fairly simple, but there is a twist in the end – which I won’t reveal here – that helps to flesh-out the story and lend more substance to the whole situation. Players take on the role of Kent, just your average, run-of-the-mill Joe trapped in a post-apocalyptic world without any idea of how to survive. His only goal is to reach a tower off in the distance, moving from building to building in order to traverse the fallen city, in hopes that someone will be able to help him there.
The journey begins up on the rooftops, and Kent must make his way past monsters (which resemble floating livers with arms, strange slug-poles, and flamingos on stilts) in search of help; a doctor by the name of G.P. is the first to offer assistance, but first Kent must help him with tasks of his own. There’s quite a bit of running back and forth, but, fortunately, the monsters pose almost no threat; even the crawling horrors that seem to be “Boss” level bad guys are so slow moving and cumbersome that a few shotgun blasts is plenty to take them out. The low difficulty level certainly reduces the suspense, and most of the time I just maneuvered easily around these opponents rather than stopping to slay them. I did find plenty of pills for healing and revolver/shotgun ammunition, though I could have run out eventually, so there is an aspect of the resource hoarding from the Silent Hill era.
A Nostalgic Trek, or Out-Dated Adventure?
As someone who was actively playing the titles from around 1995, I was thrilled to see someone trying to do justice to the Survival Horror genre and its roots. Dated graphics, minimal sound effects, and clunky controls don’t scare me, as long as they are lending something to an overall package that is worth that added frustration. The interface is basic and the commands are simple, so there’s very little learning curve to be had here in 1995. The problem is that there isn’t much to be had here, in general; it’s a very brief game, with sparse environments, and little explanation as to why the world is what it is until the very end. That being said, I did enjoy the plot twist well enough, but it just didn’t do enough to compensate for how bland and watered-down the rest of the experience was for me.
I only found out about the brief developer commentary via Steam reviews from other players; I discovered that there’s an additional ending by reading a guide on getting 100% of the Steam Achievements. A prompt or some kind of indication that additional content has been unlocked would be a wonderful update down the road, because I would hazard a guess that quite a few people have missed out on these bonuses.
Players have the option of adding a CRT filter or playing without one, depending on how gritty and static-y they’d like for their screens to be. Unfortunately, I found that playing with the CRT filter was just too hard on my eyes, so other than a brief portion of having it towards the end of the game due to storyline elements, I kept it absent from my play-through. It’s one more complication to an already cumbersome static camera system, which often left me turning corners and walking down hallways completely blind rather than just momentarily interrupted, so instead of adding to the suspense it just increased my frustration.
I appreciate the dedication the developer put into creating Back in 1995 as a tribute to yesteryear games, and a very important era in the progression of gaming technology. However, this title relies far too heavily on nostalgic and old-school charms, and it simply doesn’t offer enough to merit its insanely lofty purchase price ($11.99 USD on Steam); it took me two hours to defeat it, and that’s after the game glitched and reverted two of my saves during my original completion.
I’m a huge fan of Retro titles, and both Resident Evil and Silent Hill – two obvious inspirations for Back in 1995 – but everything that was frustrating about those exceedingly popular titles is present here, without all the perks and boons that made those series a huge success. Back in 1995 could be an awesome tribute to those bygone days, if only it had more content, some additional polish, and a less ambitious price-point for the amount of gameplay and replay value. Until then, this definitely felt more like a tech demo than a completed project, and I simply can’t recommend it to anyone – especially those of us seeking to revisit our Survival Horror roots.