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'Silent Hill' Homage 'Back in 1995' Is Fogged in Nostalgia

Listen, I liked the '90s as much as anyone else, but not for its control schemes.

by Zack Kotzer
May 1 2016, 4:00pm

Sweet, tangy 1995 soda, just how I remember 1995. Credit: Back in 1995

In Back in 1995, a new PC game that looks like an old PlayStation game, Kent, a low-polygon man in a jacket and jeans, stands on a rooftop looking at a different rooftop in the distance. Before he can ask "What is going on?" Kent finds himself being assaulted by a snarling, floating raisin with arms, or perhaps a melting chocolate Slimer. It's hard to tell.

It appears that while Kent's back was turned, the city had become overrun with some sorts of demon folk, and the remaining humans live on the upper floors of their buildings trying to survive. This is the foggy setting for Back in 1995, a game made by Takaaki Ichijo as an homage to PlayStation horror games like Silent Hill, though perhaps only in the bluntest, most superficial ways.

Back in 1995 received hype in recent years after appearing at Japanese game festivals and even winning the Spark Award the Tokyo Game Show. With a very conscious, specific visual aesthetic, it seeks to recreate the halcyon days of '90s horror survival games, which focused less on action and gunplay and more on dread, claustrophobic environments, and gurgling brownish monsters.

Caption: Really burying the lede there. Credit: Back in 1995

Oddly enough, most of those games being honoured here came out after 1995. Resident Evil started in 1996. Silent Hill in 1999. Before you start you can select one of three types of visual filters based on display errors from a CRT monitor. You can play without these errors, though the game suggests you don't, but I'd argue they don't add much. Back in 1995 aspires to recreate the PlayStation/Sega Saturn era, from molten texture-mapping and dysmorphic polygons to a d-pad control scheme that feels like a human trying to parallel park. Similar to Eternal Darkness, Back in 1995 will throw some prankish television gags your way, like pretending to change the video input, but because you are probably playing on a computer I doubt they'd cause you any panic.

This game feels like it's looking at the wrong things through its rose-tinted glasses. The non-plot zips by, and even beyond the straight-talk translated dialogue (which, admittedly, is pretty 1995) there's a death of subtlety. Horrors simply pop up without any dramatic build up. Back in 1995 seems more concentrated on recreating the technical limitations of a generation instead of interesting things that happened despite them. Not nearly as fun as Resident Evil, nowhere near as subversive as Silent Hill, not even as spooky as Alone in the Dark. A concept that could have been done right, Back in 1995 is a disappointing tribute to pawn store televisions instead of the games you enjoyed on them.