Gaming heroine Dot is back for her third adventure, and this time, developer ARVORE has gone even further back in time than with Pixel Ripped 1989 or 1995. Now, we travel back to 1978 and bask in the glory of the era of Atari.

Not only does the game deify and lampoon all manner of Atari projects, but with 1978, the title doesn’t have to dance around talking about certain games: Atari is explicitly involved, and even publishes the title. While it’s really cool to interact with Yar and find them a set of wings so they can seek revenge, the game strikes a good balance of references and original ideas. It’s one thing to stoke the nostalgia of many a gamer, but it’s another to go off the rails and devolve into a series of “remember this?” moments. ARVORE avoids the traps of nostalgia-baiting and instead crafts a clever, meta-story about a hard-working developer inside Atari.

Your character Dot must once again do battle with the Cyblin Lord, as it’s up to you to chase him through different eras and defeat him to reforge a series of energy crystals. While the environments are all visually distinct from each other – a traditional RPG land, a disco city, and a graveyard to name a few – the level design is homogenous outside of the very memorable boss fights. Each area has a series of checkpoints and secrets, but none feel distinct from one another apart from the visual variety. This extends to the gunplay too, which doesn’t change at all from the early game. While you unlock new abilities to interact with the environments more effectively, it's mostly stagnant.

What doesn't get stale is the game-within-a-game conceit. You control Dot via Bug, the aforementioned Atari employee, and this sees you playing a traditional sidescroller title at your desk. You guide Dot to unlock alternate pathways and abilities in this world that you can then make use of when you’re back in control of Dot. It’s a really unique way to approach the level design and helps to elevate the overall experience in a way that each component being separate wouldn’t. Much of the game’s great humor shows up while you’re in your office too, answering calls featuring some genuinely exciting cameos, or listening to water-cooler conversation about Missile Command. The Atari office offers a great glimpse into a very specific point in time for the medium, and the environment is absolutely littered with gaming history.

While the gameplay doesn’t evolve nearly enough given the game’s runtime, you still wind up with a fun experience. And for anyone invested in the history of the medium, there’s a lot to love.