It’s no secret that I love old technology. So, when the developer of Tape Recovery Simulator 96K e-mailed me to talk about the game he is working on, I didn’t hesitate. Today, I want to take a look with you at the press demo provided. In this article, you’ll read my 100% honest opinion that I have of the game while I played that demo with a developer-provided key. So, I hope you are ready to dive into the world of tape fixing and decide with me if this game is worth following or not.
Keep in mind that I played a development version for this article. It’s possible that things change quite a lot compared to this preview/first impression.
Tape Recovery Simulator 96K is a game focusing on recovering data off of reluctant old tapes.
During the 80s and early ’90s, the audio analog tape was one of the main storage mediums with a capacity of 600 Kb stored as actual sound. It wasn’t very reliable, to begin with, since tapes and tape recorders varied greatly in quality and compatibility. If not stored properly, tapes have a tendency to degrade over time, especially if left near strong magnetic/electric fields (like cathode monitors/TVs, speakers, children, power sources, power plants, EMP bombs, any kind of star, …). Sometimes, some data can still be recovered even after decades of mistreatment.
Tape Recovery Simulator 96K builds new game mechanics around old data recovery tricks. Caffeine Withdrawal Games’ philosophy is “games you haven’t played before” and TRS 96K is the perfect example of it.
- Enjoy using a real simulated tape player with all the proper buttons (play, stop, ff, rew) + a few new ones.
- Audio tapes holding data with multiple degrees of corruption.
- Rediscover the lost art of loading data off tapes:
- tweak sound (volume, pitch, tape speed, revert, …) to appease the 8bit loading routine that is extremely unforgiving to data errors
- learn and use old data recovery tricks (header swap, audio channel swap, leader short-circuit, …)
- play with data (descramble, decrypt, decode, search, piece together, …)
- Work and suffer for a pittance as an EES employee with an absurd boss and (semi-)impossible tasks.
- Discover and assemble stories, fake art, real art, conspiracy theories. Everything is sprinkled with lots of plain old insanity fueled by EES’ boss.
- 8bit applications and mini-games (BASIC / machine code) waiting to be recovered, repaired, executed, re-executed and re-re-executed.
- The 8bit look, feel and simplicity we all crave for.
- Turbo tape loading speed of up to 1.6 KB/s
- Mock advertising
- No cutscenes (unskippable or otherwise)
- True tried and tested eye care advice for the player.
The A+ Side
The story approach in this game is excellent. You would expect a silly, over-the-top story about a world where saving and fixing tapes is important. But no, you are part of a company that creates technology and also fixes tapes. The e-mails you’ll receive are nicely written and really pulled me into the world of this game. And it’s a great simulation all right since it feels quite real.
The tutorial section of this game is top-notch. It guides you perfectly through the whole game and teaches you every little mechanic. There are a few minor mistakes, but I’m quite certain that those will be fixed in a future version.
Gameplay-wise, I have played what’s already there. From what I have played, this seems quite promising. It already has some quality-of-life features, like being able to disable the sound effects on the fly. Since the beep tones that sometimes can be generated from corrupted tapes are quite loud.
Visually, this game might still be in development, but I think they work great already. I really like the visual style the developer is going for. I would love to see more animations and feedback in the finished version. Like, only a sound effect when you receive a mail is a bit too weak to draw the attention of the player. But, it’s getting there!
The F- side
It’s going to be quite tricky to write this section of the article. Since this game is still in its early stages of development and I played a pre-release version. So, it would be a bit unfair of me to talk about issues that this version has. Since they might be fixed in the released version and only cause confusion then.
What I can say is that most of the issues I experienced in playing the demo have to do with visual glitches and UI problems. Sadly enough, some of these were game-breaking. But, that’s the developer’s current focus. So, I think those issues will be ironed out before or after release in the first few patches.
All the other things are solid. I’m really curious what other mechanics and things the developer is going to throw into the mix in future versions since this has a lot of potentials.
So, should we play it?
Now, is this game fun? For me, it is. Because I enjoy playing around with old school technology and I work as an IT admin in two big art schools, so this game is right up my alley. But, I do have to warn you. This game is a real niche game. If you don’t enjoy niche games about old-school tech and puzzles, I don’t think this game is for you.
But, if you do enjoy things like that… This game can become a must-play! Just look at this trailer:
I’m so glad that I can play games like these. I’m so happy that people take the time to explore something like this and make an enjoyable game out of it. While this game has some ways to go in terms of the UI and some visual glitches… This game has a really solid foundation. One with a lot of potential for amazing puzzles and experiences.
So, I’m going to keep an eye out on this game, and you can be sure that I’ll write a more detailed review when this game gets released and the developer had time to iron out bugs, polish, and fine-tune the game. Consider me quite interested to see where this game is taken.
So, that’s the end of this article. I want to thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed reading this one as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.