I honestly couldn't believe what I was seeing: I sincerely thought they were the best graphics ever, and there was no way possible that games could get any better looking.
It took less than a year - until the release of the original PlayStation - for me to feel like one of those Victorians who fled the cinema when they first saw moving pictures, fearing they were about to be run over by a steam train.
The point of revealing my gross and humiliating stupidity is to underline that game graphics progress. They improve. At least, they should improve, but for some reason, a lot of game graphics seem to be stuck in the past right now. Which of these things might that be: good thing or bad thing?
Lovely Ste Pickford - who, along with his equally lovely brother John, has worked on more games than you've had brown dinners - talked about pixel art in his introduction to the ZX Spectrum visual compendium, published by Bitmap Books.
He said something along the lines of this: classic pixel art was pixel art, because that was the only choice open to designers back in the day. More or less. I'm paraphrasing, you see, because I'm writing this from bed, and my copy of the book is in the living room, and if I go and get it I'll need to have a wee, and... well... might as well get up then, and it's too cold for that.
But the thrust of Ste's argument was that pixel art wasn't pixel art: it was just art. Which begs the question: if games no longer need to look like that... why do so many new games look like they were released 20 or more years ago? I get that we all love a bit of nostalgia - nothing in the world is as good as it used to be - but aren't we at risk of becoming an industry that eats its own tail?
I'm mostly talking about indie games here: you couldn't quite imagine a Far Cry game, which was done entirely in pixel art (though I would be very curious to see them try...).
Blockbuster games will, no doubt, keep on finding ways to make sunsets and rivers look even more compelling...
But the fact that so many indie developers are obsessed with recreating the past is perhaps the biggest shame. As the indie scene is showing us time and again, that's where the real creativity is in gaming right now, where the real ideas are burning bright - and it seems a wasted opportunity not to bring some of that creativity to the visuals.
Punch Club is but the latest in a long line of indie games, which are evoking the games of yore, and the point at which my patience with pixel art sort of broke in two. In the case of Punch Club, it reminded me of the old Police Quest games, with its 80s homages and urban grit... but there was no real context to why it looked the way it did.
The novelty of a new game looking like an old game has worn off, and with Punch Club I didn't understand why I was playing a game which looked like that. I didn't get what it was trying to say with its visuals... and, consequently, concluded that it wasn't trying to say anything.
At first I enjoyed these homages to the past, but as more and more games have come to adopt that retro-new look, the more I've found myself questioning why.
The turning point for me set in around the time of Downwell - a vertical, gravity-assisted shoot 'em up, which reminded me of the old Spectrum game Underwurlde. It's a decent game - but I started wondering whether pixel art is becoming a crutch; a substitute for actual creativity. In essence, is it nothing more than graphical cosplay?
For a while now we've been lapping up all the retro-looking indie games.
Shovel Knight is one of the more notable examples, taking its cue from the NES, even if I may not be as in love with it as most people seem to be. Weird fencing sim Nidhogg goes even further back, looking like an Atari 2600 game, sort of.
Smear your eyes across Steam, or the PlayStation Store, or Xbox Live, and it feels like every other title is some sort of retro homage; Toast Time, Undertale, Nuclear Throne... all good games, but not a one of them has an art style it can call its own.
When pixel art works - step forward Hotline Miami, Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery EP, Fez, Pony Island - it's using the past to create something new... or to use the old to say something. Or to reinterpret pixel art through the lens of modern technology.
I get that indie games don't have big budgets... but that's all the more reason why pixel art for the sake of pixel art is a bad idea. Games looked like that because the designers were working within tight budgets, and with limited resources. So are you. Now use that to your advantage to create things we've never seen before.