Twenty years ago Flashback was permanently in my Amiga disc drive – I remember finding it hard as nails but kept being drawn back into that futuristic world. While this modern version is a shadow of its former self, I couldn’t help but enjoy being transported back to the world of Titan…
Back in the day, Flashback was recognized for its outstanding visuals and was arguably one of the best-looking times ever to grace a home computer. With its hand drawn backdrops and silky smooth animations, the developers Delphine Software (also behind the awesome Another World) thrust us into a world full of danger, intrigue and aliens keen on world domination. It was certainly a showstopper and a must have game in the early 1990s… and now it’s back, available on XBLA as part of Summer of Arcade and also soon due for release on PlayStation Network and PC.
You take on the role of Conrad B. Hart, an agent for the Galaxia Bureau of Investigation, who awakes to find himself in a lush jungle, completely unaware of who he is or why he’s there.
"Besides its HD face lift, retro fans will be pleased to see the inclusion of the original game – in the now obligatory arcade cabinet frame – tucked at the bottom of the main menu screen."
A few screens later, after some climbing and jumping about, our hero retrieves a holocube, which starts him on a journey to foil an alien conspiracy that threatens humanity.
Besides its HD face lift, retro fans will be pleased to see the inclusion of the original game – in the now obligatory arcade cabinet frame – tucked at the bottom of the main menu screen. The lure of one of the greatest games of the time ensured this was how I spent the first half an hour after completing the download.
Understandably, it all looks rather dated nowadays, the graphics failing to live up to my rose-tinted memories… Nevertheless, you can never tire of making Conrad repeatedly run to the edge of platforms and watch as he flails his arms to regain his balance. Brilliant.
Anyways, nostalgia done with, switching over to the revamped version and it’s clear to see the advances made in the graphics department over these past decades. The HD overhaul, with its new 2.5D visuals, ensures Flashback is really very pleasing to the eye – although I can’t help but feel some of the charm of the rotoscoped animation circa 1992 has been lost. Everything is well defined and just as colorful as it used to be, and the way the fore- and background moves and appears “active” really gives an impression of depth. In reality, what you’ve got is a very simple side-scrolling platformer, with basic puzzles and a lot of backtracking… oh, and some incredibly annoying voice acting.
"As you progress, completing missions and the VR challenges help you earn additional XP, leveling up and gaining vital skill points. These are spent on improving your abilities, such as accuracy, technology and stamina."
This is certainly a dumbed down – and decidedly easier – version of the game us older gamers came to love all those years ago. Ledges are highlighted by a small icon denoting that they’re scaleable, while a mini map in the corner of the screen keeps you informed about objectives and helps you stay on the right path. Then there are the plentiful checkpoints as well as unlimited ammo and countless opportunities to regenerate your health bar. With a simple button press you can even highlight useful objects and collectibles in your immediate surroundings.
The aiming mechanic allows you to direct your chargeable gun at all angles and is easily controlled via the right stick, and you can also defend yourself by booting up your force field for a bit of added protection in more heated moments.
As you progress, completing missions and the VR challenges help you earn additional XP, leveling up and gaining vital skill points. These are spent on improving your abilities, such as accuracy, technology and stamina.
Most of the game sees Conrad running from screen to screen, shooting a few drones, collecting items and then heading elsewhere. The story is decent enough to keep you playing and the campaign is reasonably lengthy. When you’ve completed the campaign, you can continue playing to upgrade your skills and get your mitts on new equipment if you fancy too, while mopping up any missed achievements.
"Flashback HD is certainly not a Shadow Complex beater, nor does it improve upon its 1992 namesake. But it’s fun nonetheless."
Flashback HD is certainly not a Shadow Complex beater, nor does it improve upon its 1992 namesake. But it’s fun nonetheless. There’s a nice Blade Runner/Total Recall feel to it all and the graphical tweaks look decent enough.
Sure, there’s plenty of backtracking, the cheesy voice acting isn’t going to win a gong and the gameplay has been dumbed down but it’s still a reasonably enjoyable game. In my mind, it’s reasonably priced at 800 Microsoft Points – and a good opportunity to delve back into the included 1992 original.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Older gamers have wanted Flashback to make a reappearance for ages… the HD sheen looks great and it brings back fond memories. Original game is included
It’s a shadow of its former self that poses little real challenge and lacks many of the elements that made the original great
It is no Shadow Complex, but for 800 Microsoft points Flashback is a reasonable investment.
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