Back In 1995
Switch version tested
Review code provided
Back In 1995 looks to recreate the classic survival horror formula for the modern audience. Originally released on Steam in 2016 this nostalgia trip from developers Throw The Warped Code Out now makes its way to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One courtesy of Ratalaika Games. Drawing inspiration from the 90’s classics like Silent Hill and Fade to Black complete with old school controls, fixed camera angles, and CRT presentation, but does Back In 1995 provide more than just a trip down memory lane? Let’s take a look.
Taking control of Kent, you must search for your daughter in a world riddled with monsters, chatting to the few survivors you encounter and locating documents will help piece together the mystery. Most of the game takes place between two buildings full of classic tropes like lock codes and hidden keys that you will need to acquire in order to progress. Weapons ranging from wrenches to shotguns are on offer to defend yourself with painkillers providing health regen. The story is cryptic throughout but comes together surprisingly well in the closing ten minutes which avoids feeling rushed due to the campaign being so short. Two endings are on offer, but you can see all 1995 has to offer in under two hours.
The gameplay is right on the money for replicating the classic 90’s gaming vibe. Tank controls will be familiar to anyone who ever dabbled in the glory days or survival horror while combat is the basic aim and shoot in the general direction of an enemy affair, nothing fancy here. Graphics do a good job or mirroring the PS1 era with the fixed cameras taking the form of security monitors complete with CRT effects that can be toggled on and off to suit your preference. As a fan of survival horror and an avid player of Resident Evil, Alone In The Dark, Silent Hill and beyond I loved this concept but this imitation is hollow once you scratch the surface.
First of all you just need to look at the genre name, Survival Horror, so called as you must survive a series of horrors, this is usually done by utilizing a fight or flight response when faced with enemies, do you stand your ground or look for another way past thus conserving ammo for the inevitable monster boss that will be lurking somewhere up ahead. Managing resources, do you take the healing item with you at the expense of not being able to pick up more ammo or a key that you might need? Keeping clean underwear close at hand, after all, this is a horror. At no point in Back in 1995 did I ever feel like I was at risk, the enemies move at a snail’s pace and can generally just be walked around even when they appear in numbers. On occasion, I found myself in a pickle by being blocked in but a few blasts of the shotgun cleared monsters and I pressed on with no issue. Ammo is generous as are painkillers, so item management was never an issue to contend with either.
The monsters themselves were somewhat interesting, though at first, I wasn’t sure if I was fighting a creature of a Christmas turkey! All of this left the whole experience feeling like a wasted opportunity. Restrictive controls and blocky combat were half of the challenge that always had you feeling vulnerable in the classics but in the absence of any real threat, they just become tedious. Sound design is very basic with voice acting sounding so terrible it’s hard to tell if this was by design in a nod to the bad delivery from resident evil days or if it was just generally bad. Luckily most of the story unfolds via text so you don’t have to deal with too much.
Back in 1995 ticks a good few boxes in its efforts to provide a nostalgic experience for fans of the 90’s era. Unfortunately leaning too heavily on nostalgia will only get you so far, with the key ingredients missing this title becomes a clunky slog with nothing to really call it’s own. Granted there is a pretty good story which hooked my interest towards the end but even with two endings, there is little to take away or return for once the experience is over. Luckily I encountered no performance issues, playing on the Switch in both docked and handheld was a smooth affair and I imagine other home consoles will be just as good considering the style of the game. Back in 1995 will appeal to a small audience that will likely comprise of Achievement/Trophy hunters but if you are looking for a survival horror fix new or old, there are better options on the market.
TBG Score: 5/10
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox, Steam
Release Date: 24/05/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Survival Horror
Developer: Throw The Warped Code Out
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: eShop