Back In 1995

Several days ago I decided it would be fun to download another random indie game and share my thoughts about it as I did a few weeks ago with Coffee Crisis. The game I decided on after looking on the Nintendo eShop is titled Back In 1995 – a “retro indie game” which isn’t much of a novelty by now, but it sounded intriguing and might be worth a try.

Back In 1995 was developed by Throw The Warped Code Out and was published by Ratalaika Games, originally being released back in 2016(no pun intended) it found its way to the Nintendo eShop this May. The game was created as a very deliberate throwback to the survival horror genre games that were popular in the 90’s such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or Alone In The Dark. It was created to be as authentic to these types of games as possible, as if this game truly was developed…back in 1995. The game includes many of the characteristics of survival horror games from that time such as blurry character models and environments, fixed camera angles, lackluster voice acting, and tank controls…yes, they included tank controls to aid in game’s retro authenticity. Tank controls, for those who are young( and fortunate) enough to never have had to use them simply mean that regardless of where you are on screen pressing UP will always move your character FORWARD. Anyone old enough to grow up playing the original Resident Evil games with its cumbersome tank controls surely remembers the frustration of your character drunkenly stumbling down hallways and around obstacles as it is very difficult to move in a straight line.

Cloudy with a chance of…winged meatballs?

The storyline of the game(or lack thereof) begins with the game’s protagonist, Kent regaining consciousness and is convinced he needs to reach the top of a tower in order to find his daughter Alissa, or figure out what’s going on….or something? The story really isn’t fleshed out much more than that, with only a few notes and newspaper clipping that are scattered around the 3 (yes, ONLY 3) levels of the game. The main character has suffered some sort of trauma or has amnesia and tries to discover what is going on, typical of survival horror games of the PS1/Saturn/3DO era.

Back In 1995 does manage to recreate most of the atmosphere of the games it is trying to emulate, however that is about it. The fixed camera angles and fuzzy visuals you got from using an old cathode-ray tube (CRT) tv were limitations of the time that were utilized with the game to create a feeling of suspense, there was no sense of terror or even a single jump scare or anything like it during the game. I understand what the developers were going for with the aesthetic of the game and it does succeed in feeling like games of a previous era. Back In 1995 has most of the characteristics of Resident Evil or Silent Hill, but unfortunately none of the story or anything else that makes it very memorable. There are reasons why we STILL talk about making our way through a creepy mansion filled with zombies in Resident Evil or trying to piece together what happened to the foggy, eerie town of Silent Hill. Kent wanders around a hospital office, the rooftop of the hospital, and finally ending at somewhere I would describe as a rooftop luxury condo or some kind. The game is not challenging in the way of combat or puzzles, there is more than enough health and ammo and the couple puzzles are nothing more than a few switches or 3-digit combination locks. There is never really a sense of danger or urgency in the game, despite what is set up(or not). The enemies in the game are also forgettable as they never play much of a part in the story other than weird lumpy objects to maneuver around, remember the tank controls? The environments that take place in the game are all kind of same-y; a drab shade of beige or gray making it difficult at times to tell where an item may be lying around, causing you to wander aimlessly around the empty levels.

A luxury condo with a wonderful view…

Any challenge within the game is completely from your limitations of movement and patience. The game unfortunately gets to be a bit of a chore. You are unable move faster than a slow walk; no running or the ability to quick turn. I found myself holding down the B button as I was laboriously moving around, forgetting that you are simply unable to run. There is also not much in the way of sound effect or music to the game, just about all of the game is simply you listening to the sound of your loud footsteps clomping down the hallway which detracted from my patience while playing the game.

The ending of the game was also a little bit underwhelming as I found myself saying “oh….ok…that’s it?” as it tried to wrap everything up at the last second with a not so surprising realization that Kent was involved in a bad accident and it had left his mind so damaged that it rendered him incoherent and sometimes even violent with his family who had left him to be watched over by the staff of a psych ward of a hospital. I mentioned how inconsequential the monsters in the game were and how they were simply mentioned at the end of the game as “being in his mind”.

“Gotcha suckas!” – name the movie

Back In 1995 was created with the best intentions in mind of a genre of games they obviously were fans of, but were unable to capture the essence of what made the games of the era great. I would compare this game to a “cover version” of a popular song: it can sound(or look) like it, but more often that not it just doesn’t have the spirit of the original. Do I recommend Back In 1995? I can’t say the game is great, but if you played survival horror games on the PS1 back in 1995( last time, sorry!) it may be worth checking out.

Does anyone out there remember the old survival horror games of the 90’s tank controls and all? What are some indie games that you feel were negatively effected due to insisting on “retro authenticity”?

Keep on playing…

Coffee Crisis – A Caffeinated Blast of Retro Gaming

I thought it would be interesting this weekend to pick up a random indie game on my Switch without knowing really anything about it and write my thoughts about it. In looking through the Switch Online Store, which I believe could use a bit more organization as it seems daunting to look through page after page of titles without there being much for filter options…but I digress. I found the game Coffee Crisis which was developed by Mega Cat Studios and published by Qubic Games. The game appeared to be a bit of a retro throwback to all the 16-bit side scrolling beat-em-up games that I played as a kid on the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo. It also happens to involve metal music, retro games, and as the title would suggest….coffee.

I have fond memories of playing beat-em-ups like the Streets of Rage, Final Fight, and Golden Axe games; everything about this game fits right in with these games. I enjoyed the aspect of playing a game so reminiscent of the previously mentioned early-90’s titles. Mega Cat Studios I discovered, even produced an authentic Homebrew version of the game on cartridge with case and manual to play on Sega Mega Drive/Genesis that you can purchase on their website.

The story is set on Smurglians – a race of aliens who’s entire planet runs on the energy generated from coffee, metal music and WiFi( that’s right!) and have set their sights on planet Earth’s most precious resources. You play as either Nick or Ashley, two metalhead baristas at the Black Forge Coffee House who are not going to sit idly by and let this travesty occur as you fight your way through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh.

Walloping the elderly to save the metal…

The gameplay is pretty standard as far as beat-em-ups go; you progress through multiple levels with the occasional mini-boss appearing every several levels until finally making your way to the boss at the end of the game, which I was mildly disappointed in the abrupt not-quite-an-ending of the game, it more or less just….stops. The length of the game overall I was satisfied with, being roughly the same length as others of the genre. My criticisms of the game are pretty mild, as I any drawbacks to the game are the same that you would hear of games like Streets of Rage. For better or worse, Coffee Crisis is authentic to a fault with negative attributes that are commonplace in games like it. You screen position is difficult to keep track of when multiple enemies attack and you get “Caught In A Mosh”( couldn’t resist!). There is also the annoying abundance of enemies who can shoot projectiles at you or simply have “weapons” such as a lasso or a cane…yes, among the enemies you fight off are humans that have been taken control of by the Smurglians. These can be range from random looking “dude bros”, to western looking…uh…cowgirls, to I guess….the elderly? You fight your way through the streets of Pittsburgh drinking coffee, listening to metal, and pummeling old men and women that attack you with canes and walkers. There is also an array of Smurglians to fight from purple aliens sporting mohawks to tuxedo-clad aliens in wheelchairs who can shoot “mental projectiles” at you ( Professor X as a Smurglian). The game in premise alone is not any danger of taking itself seriously, I ALMOST felt like I shouldn’t have been enjoyed this developing chaos as much as I did. My other critique is also all too common in games such as this where, you have a powerful special move at your disposal HOWERVER, using it costs you a small portion of your health. The game is not an easy game, as it was clearly intended to be played in “couch co-op” with another player alongside you.

I still feel these negatives don’t overly hinder any enjoyment to be had playing Coffee Crisis, I had a blast playing this game. The soundtrack to the game is excellent as well, with tracks being provided by Pittsburgh area metal band Greywolf. There is also a couple small cameos from retro-gaming YouTubers Metal Jesus Rocks and Alpha Omega Sin. Mega Cat Studios clearly shows a lot of love for the 16-bit beat-em-ups of yesteryear and I very heartily recommend to anyone looking for an entertaining indie game to play, it’s got coffee, retro games, and metal, hell yeah!

I thought these dudes looked familiar….

Side Note: Coffee Crisis is currently available for LESS than the price of a coffee house brew at $1.99, a GREAT DEAL until May 27th. https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/coffee-crisis-switch/

For anyone else who would like to purchase a physical cartridge version to play on Sega… https://megacatstudios.com/collections/16-bit/products/coffee-crisis-sega-genesis

Keep on playing…