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Back in 1995 Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Inspired by games like Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark, Back in 1995 attempts to take the survival horror genre back 20 years. While it nails the look, the limited scope and repetitive puzzles make for a lackluster experience. What's more, this Steam game is a stark reminder that there's a reason why everybody stopped using tank controls. Rating: 40%
Back in 1995
Back in 1995 Back in 1995 Back in 1995 Back in 1995
  • Review Score:

  • C-
Back in 1995, I was a teenager in high school. I had long hair, wrote terrible articles and started a poorly run video game shop. I was a fairly typical kid, sick of a diet full of nothing but 2D action games and eager to dive into a brand new world of survival horror. Games like Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark left and enormous impact on me, helping to shape my expectations for what an atmospheric game should be.

For as much as I loved those old school horror games, I find it nearly impossible to play them today. Between the frustrating tank controls and fixed camera angles, those old Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark games have not withstood the test of time. But if you're somebody who finds all of the 1990s survival game quirks endearing, then it's time to take a trip back in time with Degica's appropriately named thriller -- Back in 1995.

You play Kent, a mysterious character drawn to a nearby tower. He's troubled by something in his past, and he feels like he is simply treading water. Something has to change, and it starts with that tower in the distance. Unfortunate for him, the tower is several buildings away, and Kent will need to run odd jobs for the colorful cast of characters. If he can get everybody on his good side, he'll gain the access he needs and will come one step closer to reaching the goal.

Not unlike the survival horror games that inspired it, Back in 1995 doles out its story through a series of newspaper clippings and discarded letters. We learn early on that something terrible has happened, and there are ghoulish monsters killing everybody in sight. This may or may not have something to do with recent scientific experiments that could involve the discovery of additional dimensions. Kent seems to be just as in the dark about what's going on as we are, which sets up some fun twists late in the game.

Mechanically, Back in 1995 looks and feels a lot like those early survival horror games. Kent roams the halls using traditional tank controls, making the very act of walking around a real nightmare. He'll get stuck on objects and constantly run up against invisible walls. The camera angles are also fixed, giving players no control over what they're looking at. This can be especially bad when Kent is completely obscured by a wall or large object.

Back in 1995 (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

While all this may seem authentic at first, it won't take long before Back in 1995 begins to fall apart. The first problem is the scope, which is just a fraction of what you would get in an older Resident Evil game. The early survival horror games had the player scrounging around for useful items that would later be used in clever puzzles. This game doesn't bother with all that, instead choosing to boil it down to simply finding keys and cracking three digit padlocks.

It's also disappointing seeing how short and limited the game is. Kent only visits three buildings, which doesn't offer much opportunity for variety. This extends to nearly every element of the game, from the way is looks to only having four different enemies to fight. Worse yet, the handful of supporting players have very little to say, they're just around the keep the plot moving.

The novelty of tank controls and bad combat gets old within the first hour, but it's still worth seeing through to the end. While some of the late game developments are predictable, they are handled well and make up the most compelling part of this package. It's a short game that won't take long to finish, even if you end up getting lost hunting for keys dropped in the most obscure locations.

Back in 1995 (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Although limited in scope, I liked the retro art style. Everything is created with few polygons and ugly textures, helping to sell the 1995 look. Curiously, it was the music that ended up breaking the illusion. For whatever reason, Back in 1995 employs a synth-heavy score that sounds like it belongs in a John Carpenter movie. While I liked how moody it was, nothing about it reminded me of the 1990s. This score comes directly out of the 80s, which started to mess with my head after a while.

As somebody with a lot of nostalgia for games like Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark, I love the idea of somebody creating a throwback horror game mimicking those 32-bit classics. Sadly, Back in 1995 isn't the game to do it. It gets the look right, but doesn't do enough with the concept to compete with the greats of the genre. And if nothing else, it's a stark reminder that there's a reason why everybody stopped using tank controls.
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