Review – Tape Recovery Simulator 96K

Tape Recovery Simulator 96K is a simulation game developed by Markt+Technik. The objective of the game is to recover lost files from damaged magnetic tapes, with as many levels as there are drives in your floppy drive.

Have you ever had a buddy who liked to tell raunchy jokes? People who couldn’t help but make a six-inch sandwich remark anytime Subway and Jared were mentioned, or the guy who was always saying “Just like Bill Clinton, right?” whenever there was anything nasty on the news? These people thrive on shock value and, for the most part, appear to comprehend the line. But every now and then, they’ll attempt to riff on something that’s a little too fresh or possibly too hot. I’m not going to offer an example because I’m afraid I’ll get fired in the middle of it, but you’ve all seen the classy replies to the status of the world in the past year or so. When this happens, we refer to it as “tone-deaf.” In the world around us, there is a method to generate fun and mood, and the finest comedians, even watercooler comedians, know when and when to utilize it.

(Isn’t that a scary intro?) Tape Recovery Simulator 96K is a simulation game that was made despite the fact that no one requested for it. Computer data used to be backed up on real tapes, from large tape rolls down to literal cassette cassettes: you know, the sort your dad recorded a mixtape on to entice your mom to attend to the prom with him. Anyone who has used a cassette tape for music is familiar with the hazards of the tape being twisted and shredded, the reels becoming damaged, or the tedious chore of having to rewind it anytime you complete a song or need to return to a certain spot.

That was a pain in the neck merely to listen to The Rembrandts, especially considering you purchased the record for the sole purpose of hearing that song. Consider genuine data, such as programs you’ve written, ASCII graphics you’ve diligently created, and crucial papers your firm will need in the future of everything. The prospect of this data being corrupt was, predictably, a waking nightmare for computer workers in the 1970s and 1980s, and it was a very real issue that cropped up on a semi-regular basis. Thankfully, wizards with machines and a knowledge of tapes that no person should ever have to put to memory were able to recover the data, at least in part, and rescue your hours of hard work from the garbage can.

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Because of the nature of the game, I had to take a snapshot of my whole desktop.

Tape Recovery Simulator 96K, to its credit, does an intriguing job of laying out what you need to do and how to achieve it. The user interface is comprised of a series of floating windows that resemble a Windows 3.1 program suite. The various cassettes are loaded via a series of side decks, and there are many training movies to teach you what has to be done. It becomes a question of patience and trial and error from the start in order to complete the task. To get to the core of the problem, you’ll need to load the tape, scan it to view the individual data sectors, use an emulator to examine the tape in real time as it’s being processed, and then modify different levels of volume and speed.

As you’ll discover in the last “test” before starting the game, you’ll sometimes need to jump about on the tape, pausing and resuming it in various locations to jankily assemble the data in a magpie-like manner. After all is said and done, you’ll utilize a memory screen to record the finished recovery and send it back to your employer, who will either berate you cruelly or brag about what a fantastic boss he is. I’ll get to it in a minute.

Because there is no accurate save mechanism in place, players must rely on an illusory series of checkpoints to resume their game from where they last left off. That is to say, if you don’t complete a tape to your satisfaction and completion, be prepared to restart the game from the beginning. Also, if the windows aren’t to your taste in their default location, be prepared to keep moving them about since the game will reset them regardless of how they were put previous to exiting.

If you dislike the digital noise of dialup computers of the 1990s, be aware that the sound of cassettes assembling and reading their own data is extremely similar and may be irritating (though I personally enjoyed it, nostalgia and all that jazz). You can’t play muted, though, since it’s crucial to be able to see how the noise is being read by the computer, and simulated volume may need to be modified on the go to keep the data read going. Oh, and the game will sometimes become unresponsive. You won’t crash, but you won’t be able to input code, change tapes, or respond to emails. I’m chalking everything that occurred in this area up to smoothing out the bugs, so take it with a grain of salt depending on how harsh you are with games.

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Take a look at the fruits of your labor. Allow yourself to be enthralled by the vision. BASK.

Hypnospace Outlaws, Emily is Away Too, and Her Story are three games inside games that I’ve had the pleasure of exploring. Being able to enhance the gameplay with a fun interface contributes to a better game overall, making it memorable in both what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. There is no narrative to talk of with Tape Recovery Simulator 96K that works from the start. You’re a corporation employee tasked with data recovery. A lot of success, and I mean a LOT, is based on pure chance. To be honest, I still didn’t completely understand what I was being asked/told to do, so I asked a colleague to teach me how to pass the basic exam before I could start the game.

During the third tutorial of the game, you’re told to use a different load option, and you’re told it’s the best way to do it, but if you do that for the final exam, you’ll never pass: you need to effectively reject your new instructions to progress forward. As a consequence, you never know whether to “LOAD “”” or “LOAD “” SCREEN$” on the following tape. You have to keep guessing and hoping that what you’re looking for will appear in a reasonable length of time: I spent over an hour simply going through the tutorial before getting to the main game.

The ambience and tone of Tape Recovery Simulator 96K, however, elevates it beyond “not for me” to “not for anybody.” You have an email inbox that serves as your sole means of communication with the rest of your firm (all three members), as well as a tool to keep track of work missions and explain why things are done the way they are. To begin with, this game takes place in the current day, fully admitting the existence of optical media, solid state drives, and even cloud servers for data backup.

Your company likes to think of their services as incredibly specialized, catering to clientele who are either too elderly or too insane to care about better alternatives. While this should create a pleasant tone for the rest of the story (sticking to outmoded technology like a Laserdisc addict), it instead emphasizes the futility of it all. Why are you doing all of this when there are more efficient ways to accomplish it? I get that gaming, particularly simulators, adheres to the maverick principle of “because we can!” yet something about the entire affair feels innately wrong.

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Yes, this is exactly what I need when I am attempting to appreciate anything.

Furthermore, Tape Recovery Simulator 96K begins each game with a statement that it is a hypothetical universe, that all names are coincidences, and that the CEO’s management style should not be mimicked by actual staff. This is used to defend the fact that you are working at a job that no one in their right mind should be doing. The CEO berates you incessantly about how quickly you work, why he’s losing money right now, how you’re inept, and so on.

When you accomplish anything well, he brags about his great recruiting skills rather than your job abilities, and the rest of the firm (again, two other people) will write you to complain about their egotistical, pigheaded CEO. But why is this even a thing? It adds nothing to the short game and totally detracts from the desire to continue playing. The excitement comes from performing a job that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but having fun with hilarious interactions and clients who appreciate your efforts, no matter how incompetent, in VR games like I’m Hungry or The Cooking Game VR. Why would you remain in a job if the majority of your work is based on luck and guesswork, you get no joy from doing it, and you’re actively being belittled and harassed by a powertrip? Furthermore, why would you engage in this as a leisure activity?

If you were formerly immersed in the realm of COBOL and BASIC programming, this can bring back some memories, and you can laugh and remark, “Yea, my boss was like that.” But I was being paid ridiculous 1960s money, so it didn’t matter.” However, in the midst of a tremendous migration of people fleeing violent, low-paying employment, Tape Recovery Simulator 96K could not have chosen a more inappropriate topic to float their already little boat in a vast sea of games. It’s tedious, difficult, and unintuitive, and it makes me feel horrible about attempting to play a game. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to avoid at all costs and to find anything, anything, better to do with your time.

Although there was a lack of variation in the tape types, it did a good job of conveying why we quit using Windows 3.1.

Pretend to be familiar with the controls. Continue to fiddle with it till it works. Maybe it’s time to move on.

The loudness is fine, but it is noisy, so if that isn’t your thing, then stay away.

Since the last time I was in civil court, I don’t believe I’ve loathed anything so much.

Final Score: 1.5

On Steam, Tape Recovery Simulator 96K is now available.

On a computer, I reviewed it.

The publisher provides a copy of Tape Recovery Simulator 96K.

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