With each new generation, the game grows, advances, and changes in new ways that we didn’t even dare to dream of before. Much of what was impossible more than twenty years ago is standard practice today, and design philosophy has also evolved to take full advantage of it.
The results are games that are bigger, smoother, more complicated, and in many ways better than anything that has come before. However, this doesn’t mean that those old ideas, frameworks, and features were bad; quite the opposite. Many of the old classics are still celebrated today precisely because they were so well designed.
Still, one doesn’t necessarily always want to go back to a game from the early 2000s for a bit of that flair, and luckily you don’t have to, as there are more and more new games celebrating those old graphics, mechanics, and limitations. are being released these days. A little research is all it takes for a nostalgic trip back in time or an exciting excursion into the unknown. Alternatively, one could just check out a few of the following and then branch from there.
On the merit of its story, music, and art alone, Signalis easily stands as a must-play for anyone who enjoys a good psychological horror experience. It’s the kind of game that tends to stick with a player after they put down the controller. However, in terms of gameplay, Signalis largely works as a callback to the original Resident Evil games. Combat is slow and clunky, resources are limited, and you can only have six types of items at a time. That might not sound good on paper, and actually feels frustrating in practice. However, that frustration actually improvement the experience somehow.
Only being able to carry the bare minimum creates a sort of minigame within the larger Signalis experience. Players must time their runs to and from different points of interest. Enemy types and locations along the planned route, what might come next, and what needs to be done at the destination all need to be factored into the take and leave item box.
Get it right and no problem. However, if he messes up, Elster will end up at the last save point sooner than expected. It all feeds into the already tense atmosphere as well, making it all that much more stressful. It’s horror but with a different flavor than most modern titles.
Tormented Souls’ story isn’t quite as strong as Signalis’, but it makes up for it with an even greater focus on puzzle-solving gameplay. It’s the kind of puzzle any Silent Hill fan will instantly recognise, requiring the player to pay close attention to everything in order to guess the solutions to its many challenges.
Some are as simple as remembering a set of numbers from a pocket watch, but most are not as easy to handle. Seriously, it takes some serious mental effort to get through to the end of this one. Beyond this hair-raising puzzle style, Tormented Souls brings back two classic mechanics from the Silent Hill and Resident Evil era: limited saves and fixed camera angles.
Both mechanics have long been abandoned in mainstream games thanks to advances in game technology, but it turns out they’re still effective techniques for increasing the fear factor of a game. The limited savings are self-explanatory. No one wants to die and lose twenty minutes or more of progress, so the prospect of not being able to save every five minutes or so will feel off-putting.
The flip side of this is that Tormented Souls does get more tense about it. The enemies are much more threatening, the unknown spaces are even scarier thanks to the fact that the player has some real skin in the game. Save items are not so limited that has to spend more than twenty minutes without, but they are sparse enough to make one wary.
Fixed camera angles, on the other hand, help maintain the dense atmosphere of Tormented Souls. Players can never see all or sometimes even most of a room at any given time, forcing them to proceed somewhat blindly and rely on sounds and other cues to figure out enemy locations and status. . Players will usually have enough ammo to deal with whatever is thrown their way, but there is always the risk of being caught off guard if one is too careless. It’s a clever way to keep players on their toes without completely stripping them of their defense capabilities like more modern horror games like Outlast or Amnesia tend to do.
Consumer Softproducts’ Cruelty Squad is the kind of project that doesn’t even seem like a full and proper game at first. Rather, it looks like the kind of mid-2000s home mod that some would make just to mess around with Garry’s Mod or Star Wars Jedi Knight III: Jedi Academy; The kind of thing that’s fun to do with friends for a while, but is so silly that the manufacturer would never let it out on the Internet in general. In fact, Cruelty Squad almost crosses that level of insanity as well, but it’s short enough that the final product is still weirdly fun to play.
Cruelty Squad is probably best summed up as an immersive sim that doesn’t really want its players to understand what’s going on. Players can try anything to complete their objectives in each stage, but they’re likely to be more than a little confused along the way. “Why did this kill me?”; “Why is that hidden there?”; and “why the hell did they do it like that?” are all questions that will surely come up several times as one progresses.
However, just like with someone’s pet mod for their favorite game, it becomes part of the charm. You could even say that a lot of the fun of Cruelty Squad is in going back and finding all the weird secrets and discovering all the techniques and tactics that inexplicably work (and do). Well to that). Whether Cruelty Squad is objectively good or not is anyone’s guess, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.
While modern games are largely the way they are for good reason, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s still no value in what’s left behind. Certainly some of the conventions employed by the games listed here are passé to the point where they might never return to the mainstream, but all that means is that their value has changed somewhat.
Instead of being big money makers like before, they serve as a foundation for developers to explore their passions and iterate on the old in new ways. However, for average gamers young and old alike, these games provide us with new ways to remember, understand, and enjoy the gaming past. That’s another great thing about modern games: we can still enjoy the past without having to dig it up.