D/Generation HD is a reworking of a fondly remembered action/adventure/puzzle game that was first released back in 1991, on PC, Amiga and ST. According to developers West Coast Software Ltd, the game has been recreated from the original source code and still contains all the original features, but has had a visit from the HD graphics fairy. Amiga Power voted this game the 40th best game of all time on the Amiga platform, and even glossing over what happened to the other 39, can a 25-year-old game still cut it today?
The game has a fairly ridiculous premise, in which you are asked to take control of a courier (on a jetpack, natch) who has to deliver a package to a scientist called Jean-Paul Derrida. So far, so humdrum, right? There is a slight twist in the case of this particular delivery though, it will probably not surprise you to find out. You need to make the delivery to a company called Genoq, that is in the business of creating bio weapons, and has had an outbreak of some kind that has resulted in the building being locked down and the security system going haywire. The intro to the game is deliberately minimalistic, and before you can say "What about hazardous delivery pay?!" you are landing on the 80th floor of the Genoq building.
Once inside, the game switches to an isometric view, which was a real flashback to the way things were done in the late 80s. The first game comparison that flashed into our heads was the original Shadowrun back on the SNES, which was presented the same way and that we spent way too long playing. The game is then presented as a series of discrete rooms, each having its various hazards to negotiate. The hazards range from worm-looking creatures sticking up from floor grates, to electrified panels on the floor, complete with electrical sizzling noise. In addition, there are also survivors to rescue and escort to safety, who you can also have conversations with that will hopefully give you clues as to some of the puzzles. Strangely, safety is only ever as far away as the entrance to the room you find these guys in, where a big red arrow helpfully appears on the floor. A word of warning however: Survivors can and will die horribly if you open a door at the wrong moment, or lead them into an electric floor panel, or press the wrong button while talking to them and shoot them with your laser pistol. In almost every other game in the world, the A button is interact, but in this one, the A button is shoot, and X is interact. You'll get mixed up. It is worthwhile saving the survivors and only pressing the correct buttons however, as each one that you rescue provides you with an extra life. Remember those? Yep, in this game the number of retries you get is strictly limited, and woe betide you if you haven't (manually) saved, as if you lose your last life, its back to the start of the game. And we mean back to the start, back to the 80th floor rooftop before you ever entered the building. Thankfully, D/Generation HD allows you save every ten paces if you so wish, so we quickly got into the habit of saving every couple of rooms to be on the safe side. Although we did manage to overwrite our progress by saving at the beginning of the game instead of loading, but...ahem...we'll gloss over that.
The game's isometric viewpoint is eased somewhat by walls becoming translucent as the player's character approaches them. This is very helpful indeed, as quite often, things that you will need are hidden in the angle of walls, and there are also a number of traps concealed there also. One example of a room early on that illustrates this requires you to navigate around and operate a series of switches, then double back and run through a series of electric floor panels to grab a security key. From a distance, the key is invisible, and indeed on the first couple of run-throughs we ran right past it. The moral of the story is to check everywhere! In addition to the security system hazards, there are a number of the company's bioweapons running about the place, just to make life a bit more exciting. The trusty laser pistol that you pick up is incredibly useful in dealing with these, and can generally remove the threat in one shot. However, its not quite that easy as often there is a vent in the floor that will allow more enemies to spawn, and these require the character to run over them to close the vent and stop that from happening. Once the room is cleared of threats, a message appears at the top of the screen confirming that the room is secure and it should then be safe to speak to any survivors or look for any pickups. This then, is the whole of the game for the next 10 floors: Secure the room, rescue survivors, pick up useful stuff and survive. Later levels throw in things like teleporters, and will force you to get creative with the laser pistol. The shots from this device can ricochet off walls and then press buttons, so it's possible to stand in a safe location, trigger a button and continue on your merry way. It is also possible to ricochet a shot out of the room you are stood in, activate a button, and lock yourself in to a small room with no possibility of escape. Obviously, we never did this, honest...
The game is not without its issues, however. Graphically it doesn't stretch the Xbox One's capabilities, to the point that we think that HD or not, "serviceable" would be a fair description of the visual performance. The inventory and statistics screens appear on the right and left of the screen respectively, and sadly are truncated so you can't read, for instance, the number of breakable things you've destroyed on this particular floor. There are no screen sizing options available, so unfortunately you are stuck with it. The sound has a couple of gremlins too, the most annoying of which is that if you exit a room to a new one while an electric floor panel is sizzling away, the noise will persist until the next room is loaded. Its a small irritation, but after a while it really starts to grate and we found ourselves pausing on the threshold until the noise has finished, before running through. The AI for the survivors you have to rescue could have done with a little more attention as well, as if you cut a corner too tightly while one is following you, they will invariably get hung up on the scenery and probably die. Quite often we'd run to the exit to save the person following us, only to turn around to see them stuck next to a filing cabinet, legs pumping but going nowhere. We had to go back, then run a little in the opposite direction to get them to clear the obstacle, then carefully run back to the exit. However, we've saved the worst glitch we saw for last. and this one's a doozy. In one section of the game, you need to get past a purple laser fence that requires a username and password to be entered into a terminal. The terminal failed to appear, so although we had spoken to the survivor nearby and got the login credentials we needed, we had nowhere to enter them, so the fence couldn't be deactivated, so we couldn't progress in the level. "No problem", we thought, "we'll reload our last save a few rooms back, run through and the terminal is sure to be there!" Nope. We had to abandon that runthrough, and start again from the beginning. This was a real blow, and the frustration level was beginning to run out of control. Add to this some occasionally dodgy collision detection and the game can feel like a chore rather than a pleasure. Another thing that would have been nice on a remaster like this would have been the chance to play with the original graphics. Both the Halo and Another World remasters did it, and it feels like a missed opportunity here.
D/Generation HD is a game that is a product of the early 90s. Story? Not much. Scenario? Ridiculous. However, what it does bring from that era is character and gameplay that all too often today are replaced by graphical flashiness. This is an unashamedly retro experience and even with the (gamebreaking) bugs we found, the urge to finish the game remains strong. To us, that stands in its favour. However, this isn't going to be for everyone, and there's no getting around the fact that if you're unlucky, you won't be able to finish the game. Add to this the relatively high price point of £19.99 and it turns into a product that we can't really, in good conscience, give a recommendation to. Fans of the original will enjoy it as a slice of nostalgia, but that's about it.