Throwbacks can be a beautiful thing in gaming; serving as means to transport players back to a time in which things were much simpler and more straightforward. I remember the good old days well. No cut content for use of overpriced DLC, no microtransactions or loot boxes, game manuals, the works. It truly was a grand time. Whenever a game attempts to take me back to that time, I always get a bit giddy. Ratalaika’s Back in 1995 aims to do that, offering up a survival horror that’s seemingly akin to classic Resident Evil. Does it work?
No, not at all. This is the worst survival horror throwback since Outbreak: The New Nightmare, and believe me, that’s a tough POS to dethrone. The game throws you into the role of Kent, a man that’s desperately trying to make sense of his past and seems to think that the answers to that rest in a tower on the far side of his city. The store description states that Kent is also looking for his lost daughter, but this is never touched upon until much later in the game, and even then, it’s just kind of slapped on your lap in an instant.
It makes very little sense, and even if it did make much sense, the game fails miserably to build a connection with its players. In short, you’re unlikely to give a crap about any single character within. Between the poor writing and the horrendous voice acting, it all just falls flat. Nevertheless, that’s the crux of the plot. You need to make your way to the tower, with the game’s few levels getting you there bit by bit. Starting out, you’re afforded the option to apply some CRT effects, which if anything, merely serves as a means to heighten nostalgia.
Regardless as to what you select, you’ll be thrown straight into the thick of it once you’re good to go. It’s here where you’ll become acquainted with the game’s many, many drawbacks. First and foremost, the handling is all over the place. The game sports tank controls, which would be fine if they were refined. In Back in 1995, not only does Kent not know how to run, but he slowly shuffles on the spot when you need to angle him in a specific direction. Further, he walks backwards at a snail pace and has limited functionality.
This makes something as basic as trying to dodge an attack practically impossible, not to mention how frustrating it can be to simply try and interact with an item in the game. Granted, the game’s few enemies are that stupid that they cant attack at the same time as moving, but still, I found myself sustaining blow after blow for not being able to walk backwards fast enough to avoid a hit. Tank controls can be a wonderful thing in the hands of the right developer, but here, it’s far too messy to overlook, or even persevere with.
Secondly, combat is equally as annoying. Kent will pick up a few weapons on his travels; be it a wrench, a pistol, or a shotgun. Though, it really doesn’t matter what you pick up, because the’re all awkward and clunky to handle. Due to the restricted movements, when you’re using a melee weapon, there’s very little chance you have of getting in an attack before getting attacked yourself. The result, nine times out of ten, is that of you hitting your enemies whilst they hit you; with the hopes that they’ll fall down sooner than you will.
The kicker? If you’re attacked, the animation of your own attack is interrupted. Essentially, if you get cornered by two enemies that attack a second or two apart, you’re screwed. Gunplay is better, but only marginally. Kent doesn’t seem to understand how vital a manual reload is, nor does he particularly know how to aim and shoot in unity. It doesn’t help matters that unless you’re perfectly aligned with your target, your bullets will miss. Due to the fixed-camera system, it can be hard to know when exactly you’re lining your aim correctly.
So, there you have it, story, movement, combat and pretty much every element that’s vital for making a good (classic) horror experience, is well off the mark. Surely the game is better elsewhere? No, no it’s not. Each of the game’s few levels are small and compact, and much of your time throughout will consist of little more than picking up items and notes to progress to the next area. Occasionally you’ll come up against a puzzle of some sort, but these are easy to the point of insulting; turning on a few switches or moving containers.
The game’s inventory system is really only good for using painkillers, the go-to item for healing yourselves once you’re health is low. Whilst you can indeed use this system to swap around weapons and use key items, I managed to make my way through the entire game using just the pistol. Kent will use the majority of his key items by default, so there’s really little reason to go in there outside of performing health checks. Of course, you can also check out notes that you’ve picked up along the way, but in truth, they’re not interesting.
What’s worse is that whenever you pick up a note, you have to wait several seconds for the animation to play out, and then some more time as a screen transitions to provide you with the note’s text. It’s all relatively pointless though, because very little adds up. Classic survival horror games made excellent use of notes and documents to further enrich their respective stories, but here, it just feels half baked, if even that. That ladies and gents, is the crux of Back in 1995. You’ll dive in, spend two hours doing the same boring thing, and you’re done.
There’s some replay value to be found in chasing alternate endings, but between its clunky overall handling, its bland uninteresting premise, and its several core drawbacks, I couldn’t muster the will to run it through again. I wish I could at least commend the visual and audio work, but I cant. Back in 1995 attempts to relay that classic aesthetic, but doesn’t even come close to filling those proverbial boots. Many of the game’s levels rely on recycled assets far too often, making for a very samey-samey experience throughout its entirety.
What’s worse is that the game is chock-full of texture issues and technical faults; in regards to its visuals. Several times did I witness walls and flooring seemingly melt out of shape, and if that wasn’t breaking immersion, structures religiously popping in and out of view got the job done. The game’s audio is equally as awful, with delayed effects and terrible voice acting making up for much of the trek. Whilst I commend the developer for their efforts in trying to give us a throwback, the end result is not something I can recommend whatsoever.
Back in 1995, survival horror games were much deeper, better refined, and a lot more engaging than this. Furthermore, they were vastly interesting and, more importantly, scary. Back in 1995 is the polar opposite. The game falls flat on all fronts, from its underdeveloped mechanics, right through to its awful overall presentation. It’s the worst throwback I’ve ever played, worse than even Outbreak: The New Nightmare, and that’s saying something.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.