Back in 1995 is “A throwback to the survival horror and mystery games of the mid-90’s 32-bit generation”, but I’m going to split hairs and say it feels more like early-90s. It does nail the 32-bit claim insofar as it reminds me of what a beta for a lost 3DO launch title might’ve looked like. The game does appeal somewhat to my retro sentimentalities, but beyond that I find it to be a subpar experience.

Which isn’t to say I share many of the common criticisms being thrown at this game. Yes, I broke my rule and read some thoughts on the prior Steam release. Popular complaints are directed at both the plot and the various threats to the player. The former being called lousy and underdeveloped, the latter being called corny and uninteresting. First of all, the story is billed as an indistinct mystery, so I don’t mind being left to my imagination until the very end. Secondly, the hazards, which of course must fit the plot, aren’t overly important in the sparse settings. Yeah, the main “monster” looks like a fortune cookie, but who cares? Would you rather have clichéd supernatural enemies?

While sparse sights and jejune threats don’t bug me, the way they’re presented does. The game defaults to CRT emulation, which thankfully can be turned off. You’ll really need to do so, as it makes things very difficult to see. Even when disabled, the camera hinders gameplay regardless. It doesn’t fully commit to being static, instead often moving in the most random and inconvenient manner. It makes necessary items hard to see, paths easy to walk by, and more. It’s just bad, failing to match games like Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil, let alone emulate them.

Therein lies the main problem. Back in 1995 seems content to try and “faithfully re-create” where it really should be trying to surpass the games it uses for inspiration. Honestly, it can’t even match them in most respects. There’s not even a way for your character to run!

The 32-bit generation is one that I feel more indies should look toward after a plethora of 8-bit and 16-bit inspired titles have already dominated the scene. But Back in 1995 is too visually distracting, too slow, and too short for its $9.99 price. Nonetheless, the idea here is sound. With a better camera, a bit more speed, some expanded gameplay, and less negligence towards full-on emulation, a future installment could provide a nice retro fix.