D/Generation HD is a remake of an Amiga 500 game originally released in 1991. The title, published by West Coast Software has undergone a revamp and a lick of HD paint and been released on the Xbox One, how does the 1990s gameplay stand up in in 2016?
The plot is delightfully over the top and certainly in keeping with a Cyberpunk theme that was popular at the time of its original release. The premise of the game revolves around Genoq, a French Bio-weapons company which has been conducting Bio-engineering experiments that have gone horribly wrong. The story puts us in control of a courier tasked with delivering an emergency package to a leading scientist at the Genoq HQ. Like all Cyberpunk couriers we arrive on the roof of the building unaware of the horrors that lie beneath.
Sadly, the aforementioned horrors aren’t just the monsters lurking in the corridors. Its the game itself. D/Generation walks up and repeatedly hits you in the face with its 1990s game design. At times its hard to decide whether to applaud the team for staying true to the values of the original or hold your head in your hands at the decision to keep some of the design choices.
Lets get one thing out of the way, this game is hard, really really hard. 1991 games didn’t hold your hand and guide you. There is no tutorial, its straight in at the deep end. You start the game with five lives. You can earn extra lives by rescuing the beleaguered staff who are stuck in the building. The survivors are normally found in perilous situations or behind a puzzle you need to figure out. The decision of risk and reward is in the hands of the player, the extra lives are always needed, however you could use all your lives trying to rescue the survivor anyway. When you run out of lives it’s game over, back to the roof you go. This was a bitter pill to swallow, especially with a game that has no intention of easing you in gently, or guiding you in what to do. There is a conflict between the need to use trial and error to succeed and the game not allowing you the room to do so. Ultimately this stopped me from progressing into the latter stages of the game. Maybe all the blame shouldn’t be laid at the feet of the game, after all, it first came out in 1991. I can’t help but think that the 11 year old me that owned an Amiga 500 would have faired better.
D/Generation sits firmly within the action puzzler genre and in keeping with its 1990s heritage (see Syndicate, Diablo and Fallout) it uses an isometric view. Personally, this caused problems when navigating electrified floors in tight corridors filled with overly aggressive and hideous creations intent on either blowing me up or absorbing me in to their gelatinous mass. Genoq isn’t making it into the Times top 100 companies to work for any time soon.
To get to the end game of delivering the package the player is required to traverse through a series of floors in the building. Each floor contains over a dozen rooms, and each room presents a challenge to overcome. To progress past each room the Bio-enemy in each location must either be trapped or destroyed. You can use skill and cunning to outwit the enemies by staying out of their line of sight and activating the right switch to close the shield door and trap them, or just use brute force and your trusty laser gun to blow them up. The gun isn’t all about brute force though, it plays a vital role in solving puzzles. The laser can be bounced off walls to activate switches to open doors or open and close panels in the floor to trap enemies. The game balances the puzzle and action elements well, formulating a plan to get through a room and seeing it come to fruition was a satisfying experience. However, any satisfaction I felt was normally wiped off my face in the next room when i was immediately blown up or eaten.
What the game does get right is its sound design. As soon as the music kicks in my mind was transported back to the 1990s and the imagery of my childhood gaming years came flooding back. The soundtrack, composed by Mark Knight is a fantastic homage to 1990’s gaming. It is both foreboding and menacing in its composition and perfectly complements the desperate situation you find yourself in when entering the Genoq building.
The UI also deserves a mention, it was pleasing to be able to remove the UI from the screen and fully concentrate on the game. When the UI is present it provides a lot of useful information, on the left hand side of the screen it showed the sub goals such as how many survivors you have rescued, items destroyed and importantly how many rooms on the floor you have cleared. The inclusion of sub-goals will please the completionists out there. The right hand information bar shows you how many lives left and what equipment you currently have. Having the option to call up and dismiss the U.I. with a click of the triggers is a welcome addition.
D/Generation HD is a game out of time. It defiantly stays true to its heritage but ultimately that is its downfall. Its a very hard game and only those with true determination and patience will progress through to the end.
D/Generation HD was reviewed with a download code of the Xbox One edition, provided by Microsoft Xbox