Back in 1995 is a title that was explicitly created with the purpose of paying homage to the PSOne era of survival horror and mystery genres. Being a gamer that grew up during that time playing and falling in love with franchises like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and Alone in the Dark, I immediately perked up at the sight of Back in 1995 sitting in my inbox. Little did I know that after installing and starting it up, the next four hours of my life would be an excruciating exercise in patience and willpower.
The story follows a confused man named Kent as he tries to find a way to get from rooftop to rooftop in order to reach a tower in the distance. It doesn’t get much clearer than that until you reach the final 15 minutes of the game where they promptly drop a few illuminated details via notes dropped around the level. The story is fairly weak: the awful voice acting and sound quality doesn’t help. I feel like they were trying to go for a low-quality feel, but the main character sounds like he’s speaking into a tin can whereas the few other lines spoken by the other characters have a slightly better quality to them. It seems like a poorly executed attempt to make the game feel authentic to the era: Back in 1995 is full of missteps such as this.
Graphics! The developers aim for a 32-bit style of low-poly graphics and that’s exactly what they did. Everything looks as it should, but what boggles my mind is why they decided to add all the graphical glitches as well. The wall and floor textures have a habit of shifting before your very eyes. There is an option for CRT lines. You can have them set to hard, soft, or you can turn them off completely. That last option is an eye saver because I find the CRT effects make everything seem dark and muddy, which isn’t so great in conjunction with the already low-quality graphics. Enemy design is another big issue for me. For the most part, they look like untextured bags of brown meat. There are about 4 or 5 varieties and only one is actually interesting. I kid you not, one enemy looks like two longs legs attached at the top by tonsils. It looks a lot goofier than it sounds.
Even with a bad plot and odd graphic design choices, there could still be hope for a game as long as it offers up some fun and engaging gameplay. Sadly, you won’t find that here, either. The whole thing is a painstakingly slow affair. First of all: no sprinting. Your character is incapable of running, which sucks especially hard when you need to run around the bigger areas looking for stuff. You’re limited to using melee at the beginning, which is normal for these types of games. What isn’t normal is the incredibly slow speed in which you strike, which is a problem since most enemies take at least three hits to kill. It quite literally looks like you’re playing the game in slow-mo. Slooowly attack, slowly back up as the enemy slowly swings at you, walk back up again and slooowly attack again. Rinse and repeat. What about the guns? Well, once you unlock the pistol and shotgun, it doesn’t get much better. You can’t reload unless you empty out your clip. Pain in the ass, but manageable if you’re careful. No manual aiming either. That wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that the auto-aim is totally unreliable. More than once I had a pair of enemies come at me and my weapon wouldn’t take proper aim, even though they were close. Once I did peg one of them, the aim just gave up and wouldn’t track the other one as he moved slightly out of my line of sight. There is no way to manually adjust while aiming, so you need to lower your weapon and take aim again. By now, the last monster was too close for me to shoot. I tried to turn and move out of the way, but even the simple act of turning took so long that I was killed before I could finish.
I can’t think of a single redeeming feature in the entire game. Between the sluggish and uninteresting gameplay and the lack of a coherent story, there is really no reason to pick up Back in 1995. This could have been something special, but it seems the developer was more interested in replicating the bad parts of 90’s gaming instead of focusing on the things that made us remember them fondly. As far as I’m concerned, this game is full of outdated issues that should have stayed back in 1995.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 2/10
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