Flashback Review

FlashbackFlashback (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Platformer
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: VectorCell
Release Date: August 21st, 2013 (Xbox 360 version)

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Flashback T for teen because of violence, blood, suggestive themes, and mild language. Unlike the original Flashback, this HD remake uses realistic graphics to depict the futuristic world. As such the violence would be too much for young players.

Plays Like: If you’ve ever played the original Prince of Persia (1989), or Flashback (1992) then you know more or less how this one works. Instead of playing like a modern 2D platformer, the game retains similar controls to that of the original. In other words as you approach a platform above your head, you need to walk up to it and press up on the analog stick in order for Conrad (the protagonist) to pull himself up. You can’t just jump and have him automatically grab ahold of it. In terms of gameplay, it plays much like you’d expect for an action platformer. You move through somewhat non-linear levels taking on enemies and solving puzzles. There are hints of Metroid thrown in for good measure, such as being able to located hidden areas via the useful map system.

Review Basis: Ubisoft sent a review code for the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game. I played through the entire game on Medium difficulty.

Flashback is actually a remake of the 1992 classic of the same name. The original development staff, or at least a good portion of them, actually developed this HD remastered version, and it shows. The game is extremely faithful to the original, although it now features all the modern gameplay enhancements you’d expect, on top of lush HD visuals and a more fleshed out audio score. For anyone that missed out on the original, now’s your chance to experience this landmark title.

The Great:

The setting is one of my favorite elements in the game. While you start off in a jungle, the setting quickly changes to a much more sci-fi setting as you make your way to a futuristic city. From there the environments and locations only get more and more interesting until the credits roll. The game oozes with Terminator, Blade Runner, and other classic science fiction film influences. If you’re into the genre, odds are you’re going to really dig this unique.

Flashback1The Good:

+ Metroid-like exploration is awesome. There’s a map system that hand-holds you to your next objective, but you’re completely free to go where you please so long as you have the right equipment to get you there. Not only can you find extra goodies, but you can also find weird creatures you need to destroy in order to unlock bonus achievements/trophies.

+ Light RPG elements go a long way. As you progress you gain experience which rewards special points that can be used to increase Conrad’s accuracy, technology, and stamina. Depending on where you allocate the points, Conrad’s core abilities change quite significantly. He might have more health, or his weapons will be more powerful. In the end I decided to go with a well-balanced character on my first play-through, but the choice is entirely up to you.

+ Teleportation device is a blast to use, and allows for some tricky puzzles. You can literally throw the device anywhere and then materialize a second later in the spot where it lands. When the game mixes different puzzles types together, it really shines. Take an exit for example. In order to get to said exit you need to shoot the teleportation device in such a way that it lands on a switch, but also misses the incoming lasers which one-shot you. Timing and precision are key here, and it can take more than a few attempts to figure out how to get by.

+ Solid combat. The right analog stick is used to aim 360 degrees around Conrad, which allows for much easier combat than the original. You can either shoot your standard hand gun, or charge it up for a mega blast a la Mega Man. There are also explosives and the trusty teleportation device which can make combat feel much deeper than it truly is.

+ Given how the 3D visuals add different layers of depth, a new ‘highlight mode’ has been added which allows players to make interactive objects in the environment glow.  This was extremely useful in certain areas where it appeared there was no exit.

+ New game plus. I always love when developers give you a reason to come back for more. The new game plus allows you to play through the adventure again while keeping all of your power-ups, and even adds new ones to make you all the more powerful.

+ Including the original 1992 version of Flashback was an excellent idea. Not only does it show how far gaming technology has come in the past two decades, but also highlights just how original the game was. It remarkably holds up better than I expected it to.

+ Comic-style cutscenes do a great job in fleshing out the storyline. The plot remains the same as the original game, you’re trying to piece together your mind by finding flash drives. The more you find, the more everything starts to make sense. At first you’re running for your life, but eventually you’re mankind’s savior. It might sound cliché, but it actually comes together in the end.

Flashback2The So-So:

+/- The gameplay works as well as it did years ago, although I found it a little clunky at times. Sometimes I would want to run and jump to a platform only to have Conrad fall off the edge, or try to grab onto the wrong ledge.

+/- While I appreciate the nice new HD visuals, it’s kind of sad to see the cel-shaded cartoon look of the original replaced by the generic 3D visuals of today. At least the level design is top notch. Players will feel encouraged to keep exploring, and sci-fi fans will love all the nods to classic sci-fi films.

The Bad:

– Voice acting lacks any sort of emotion, and falls flat. This is especially true when Conrad talks of his girlfriend.

The Ugly:

Odd bugs here and there. During a couple of sections you’re tasked with escorting someone to a certain location. I had to reload a previous checkpoint several times because either the A.I. would get stuck under an elevator, or other bizarre bugs would prevent them from doing what they’re supposed to.

Flashback4The Lowdown:

Flashback is one of those games that is fondly remembered because of how original it was when it was first released. While this new version has been given a fresh coat of paint it isn’t as memorable as the original. It falls directly in the good, but not great category.  That said, if you’re in the mood for an action platformer that features solid combat, fun exploration, and an intriguing storyline Flashback might be just what the doctor ordered.

Final Score: 6/10

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