Game Review #303: Back in 1995 (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Shaun Hughes
Developer: Throw the warped code out
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Category: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 4.24.2019
Price (at time of review): $9.99
Buy Back In 1995 from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
Toy Story, Braveheart, Rayman, Worms, and The Lost World - what do they all have in common? They were all released back in 1995. As well as this, they are bound by the same cult status: classic. Continuing to withstand the test of time some 25 years after their initial inception, they’ve seen sequels, remasters, and reinterpretations aplenty.
Back in 1995 seeks to remind us of all that was great in the mid-1990s with a faithful recreation of the survival horror genre. Hearkening back to the good ol’ days of Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and the like, developer Takaaki Ichijo has brought a low-res, texture-warping mystery horror to the Nintendo Switch—tank controls and all.
Haven’t We Heard This All Before?
Alluding to the idea that all is not well in the cityscape in which you find yourself, Back in 1995 is a mystery waiting to be uncovered. Told through conversations with NPCs en route, and notes scattered throughout the environments, it’s a standard tale of disappearance and disgusting creatures. The main protagonist, Kent, is on a quest to find out what has happened to the world he inhabits, and he believes accessing the tower off in the distance will provide the answers he seeks. What follows is a journey from building to building, exploring rooms filled with key information, painkillers, and ammunition.
Along the way, Kent comes into contact with a handful of characters who provide some context behind his despair, and a number of otherworldly creatures to dispatch. Over the course of its 2 or so hours’ worth of gameplay, the story is drip-fed to you in a manner befitting of games in this genre. There is nothing ground-breaking here, and this is a recurring theme in Back in 1995. We’ve seen it all before, only the first time around it was fresh and inviting. Now, this title serves to remind us of what was, and why it no longer is—something that will divide would-be purchasers of this title.
This Is Not the Greatest Game in The World… This Is Just a Tribute
The all-too-faithful recreation of the horror genre from time gone by has made Back in 1995 its own worst enemy. Every perceivable issue that one would associate with a carbon copy of a game from this bygone era is present and correct, only this time, it doesn’t have enough nostalgic value to forgive its shortcomings. The original Resident Evil is successful now more so because of what it embodies and what it represents, not because of its gameplay or storytelling.
The same cannot be said for Back in 1995, and, whilst I think that’s the point, it isn’t that enjoyable to play. It has its moments: wielding a shotgun and unleashing bullet after bullet on a large monster is oddly satisfying, and piecing together the clues from notes to crack codes and unlock doors is well-placed. Outside of that, however, the movement of your character is cumbersome and slow, the fixed camera angle is quite a hindrance, and the low-resolution textures of the environment are unsightly at best.
I did find the inventory intuitive enough though, with the ability to swap in and out weapons and items by using the ‘X’ button to bring up the menu being sufficient. Effectively pausing the game, I could then switch between my statutory combat weapon, the metal wrench, and my guns. With a limited-but-effective set of weapons at my disposal, it was never too much of a challenge to defeat the enemies in front of me. In fact, in most cases, the poor AI meant I could maneuver myself behind my foes and just hack away.
Audio & Visuals
Understanding that Back in 1995 is a love letter from a faithful indie developer allowed me to appreciate what was attempting to be achieved. With that in mind, I could begin to enjoy the visual elements, if nothing more than to understand just how much times have changed. I did also develop a newfound appreciation for how much thought had to go into games when created in their infancy, particular those looking to recreate environments similar to the world in which we live.
The audio elements of Back in 1995 are simple, but effective in building atmosphere and tension. The sounds of doors creaking and monsters breathing down your neck were enough to produce the desired effect, without ever breaking that steadfast mold of horror from the last decade of the 1900s.
For a game so inspired by the greats of the genre at the time, Back in 1995 feels rather uninspired. The indie scene has been built on solid foundations by developers who either express their heartfelt thanks to games that have inspired them, or redefine the gaming experience with ideas of their own. Whilst I can appreciate why Back in 1995 falls firmly into the first category, I struggle to believe that there is a market for it now. If I wanted a trip down memory lane, I would look for the authentic experience, not one that does little to reinvent what has already come before it.
Buy Back In 1995 from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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