Usually when a retro game gets remade, publishers and developers would push it to fit a more modern genre to introduce it to newer audiences. However, what happens is that longtime fans would get alienated and it’s never a sure thing if newer audiences would actually take to it in a big way. What was a quest to bring an old game to new audiences then becomes a disappointment. With Flashback though, it’s not just an HD remix or a reinterpretation, but a platformer with an updated look and improved controls, which is something that players should be able to appreciate.
Flashback is a remake of the cinematic platformer that was released back in 1992 for various platforms, but most well known in the Sega Genesis and SNES. It was like a platformer version of Blade Runner that featured realism. This remake is also a platformer to stay faithful to the original, and it has the same story. You play as Conrad B, an agent of the Galaxia Bureau of Investigation who had his memory erased. He then finds a holocube that reminds him that he must look into a plot by shape shifting aliens to take over the world. With that, it has that whiff of Total Recall about it as well.
Indeed it was one of those platformers with falling damage, which didn’t exactly hit it off with most gamers at the time, but it was an integral part of the narrative as the protagonist was portrayed as a real human being with his own weaknesses, and he ran and jumped like any other man. It had similarities with the first Prince of Persia in that it was kind of an acrobatic platformer, where you had to negotiate obstacles with your character. When enemies get in the way, Conrad can then address the issue with weapons like his pistol, which has unlimited ammunition.
As with remakes, developers aimed for this title to be an improvement over the original. For one thing, the controls are much better in this game that made shooting and moving much easier. Aiming the pistol can now be done at all directions, making it very convenient for taking out enemies from all sides. With this new version of the game, the difficulty feels a bit less cheap and it’s more about skill that you accumulate as you play. There are also upgrades and training that you can undertake to become more effective, although most of them do tend to seem convoluted at best.
For all of these comparisons to the original, those who have never played it back in the day wouldn’t have a clue at all what this review is talking about. The best thing this game though is that it also includes the original itself so that old fans can have their nostalgia, and new players can see what all the fuss is about. That’s actually quite thoughtful of the developers to include it in this title. However, it does have a pseudo-retro look with the whole fake CRT interlacing going on in an attempt to make it more authentic, but it only serves to make the game a bit hard to look at.
But perhaps the biggest selling point of this game is being able to play Flashpoint in a greatly improved visual style with great environmental design, thanks to Unreal Engine 3 that was used to develop this. You can really see the difference compared to the original, which makes the game much fresher and more enticing to play. The attention to detail given to the remake, especially when contrasted with playing the original, makes the new Flashback look very different. Perhaps there are some people who may not like the new look, as well as the below-average voice acting, but at least it’s something new to sink your teeth into.
While it does look a whole new world with the new look, it doesn’t do much for the level design though, which seems to have remained ill-designed. Coupled with falling damage, that makes for a lot of deadly liaisons with the cruel mistress that is gravity. Also, even when the controls have been improved, it does have a few holes left behind, so players who are not that good at playing platformers may experience some difficulties along the line. It also doesn’t help that enemies tend to be positioned in newly explored areas that gives them a decisive advantage over Conrad, perhaps too good for them that does give way for cheap deaths.
It’s not that bad, although results may still vary. At the very least, it does feel a lot like the original, which is perhaps what Flashback fans would have wanted. This game is for the loyal and the curious, which merits purchase when on sale; pay full price with caution and only if you really want it.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 6.5/10