Platform games in 1993 were a somewhat simpler thing. Focusing on second to second precision, they were more concerned with getting from left to right in as fast a time with as high a score as possible. Flashback, released originally on the Amiga and eventually seeing versions for pretty much everything that played games at the time, was a welcome break.
Introducing more open level design not dissimilar to Metroid, though with a much greater focus on linearity, and a very real weight to movement, Flashback was a more deliberate and mature entry into the the genre.
Twenty years later and those that played the original still look back with fond memories, but to say it has aged well would be a lie. It was with great excitement, then, that a remake was announced, but is this one flashback worth having, or little more than a headache with pictures?
The entire experience is one of deja-vu and vivid recollection.
Let’s cut straight to the elephant in the room – this is a full remake. Everything has been rebuilt, the script has been slightly rewritten, and the game is a different beast. Yet, somehow, it is still the exact same game. The entire experience is one of deja-vu and vivid recollection.
Outside of the obvious graphical update, the gameplay has been revamped to make it more accessible. Movement and platforming still has a heavy and deliberate feel to it, but the modern invention of analogue control allows a range of movement speeds outside of the originals ‘walk’ and ‘run’. Shooting has similarly been upgraded, with the right stick allowing full 360 degree aiming, rather than the originals left or right only. Other tweaks have been included such as easier clambering up to ledges, complete with visual cues to show exactly which ledge the player will jump up to. Overall the gameplay has been updated to modern standards, while maintaining a distinct feel that those old enough will recognise.
The sense of progression in the game has also been expanded, with an XP system and basic RPG elements being introduced. Now the player can upgrade elements such as critical hit chance, critical hit damage, and health, along with being able to find upgrades for weapons and technology in the environment, again similar to Metroid and Shadow Complex. Speaking of Shadow Complex, Flashback often has a feeling reminiscent of Chair’s title. While Flashback is significantly less open, the 2.5D look and full 360 aiming feel very similar, which is no bad thing.
Unfortunately, however, there are some bad things. A couple of times I found myself losing abilities and having controls become unresponsive, leaving me unable to aim, shoot, jump or use stealth, leaving restarting a checkpoint as the only option. While infuriating, these do little to detract from the full experience of the game which is wholly a positive. The script, despite being rewritten, is often cringe worthy – a fact not helped by the sub-par voice acting. Run time may be an issue for some as well, with my own slow, exploratory playthrough still only clocking three and a half hours. While a new game plus does offer the incentive to replay, along with the promise of further upgrades to discover a second time and an unlockable version of the original 1993 version may tempt veterans to spend a few more hours with this release, some people may still find this title somewhat short and lacking.