When the original Flashback launched some twenty years ago, it was a true landmark title for its time. The rotoscoped animation gave character movements an enhanced level of fluidity, which in conjunction with the sci-fi storyline led to it being dubbed one of the first "cinematic platformers".
Original lead designer Paul Cuisset has been brought in to direct this remake, along with several members of his previous Flashback team, with the vision of both updating and expanding the original game for a new audience.
After discovering a sinister plot set in motion by morphing aliens who disguise themselves as high-ranking officials and are intent on destroying Earth, Galaxia Bureau of Investigation agent Conrad B. Hart is captured by them and his mind is erased. Predicting this would happen, Conrad has already made a backup of his memories - this is the future after all - and it's up to you to recover them through a series of titular flashbacks before setting out to thwart the aliens' plans.
Starting in the Titan jungle, you first need to track down an antigrav belt so you can make the journey down the jump hole to New Washington without making a "big impression" on your arrival. After meeting your friend Ian there and recovering your memories you then have to find employment and complete a series of jobs, earning enough cash to become a contestant on deadly game show Death Tower and compete for the ultimate prize - a travel ticket to Earth.
The main gameplay involves exploring the platform areas to find items and solve puzzles, while fighting off a number of different enemies. The 2.5D environments retain a similar general layout to the original, but have been updated to feature areas of lush jungle vegetation and striking futuristic neon architecture. Thankfully the various jumps, rolls and interactions at your disposal have been mapped to different buttons on the pad, which makes navigating the levels more intuitive.
Conrad now has full 360-degree aiming for his pistol, making combat more dynamic by allowing encounters to take place over multiple height tiers. You start off facing basic flying drones that zap you with electricity if you let them get too close, but enemies become increasingly tough and as you progress you'll also need to deal with sentry turrets, mines and laser beams. To bolster your arsenal you can collect explosive fruit and grenades, as well as unlocking a force-field to protect yourself from enemy fire.
In addition to overhauling the visuals, several modern elements have also been added to Flashback experience. An upgrade system has been introduced, where earned XP can be used to unlock skill improvements for your character, and VR training rooms are included to hone your abilities and take on challenges for extra XP. Following requests from fans, a brand new Jetbike race section has also been incorporated, which although brief helps to break up the platforming action.
Despite all of the improvements, there are still a few frustrations to deal with. The voice acting is decidedly wooden, and Conrad's exclamations of "Awesomesauce!" and "Let's play!" don't exactly make him the most endearing of characters.
Some of the combat sections can prove frustrating and a couple of times nearby health rechargers and grenade dispensers simply didn't work for us - not what you need in the heat of a battle. We also suffered a number of cheap deaths while exploring new areas, but at least the generally forgiving checkpoint system meant we didn't lose too much progress.
These irritations shouldn't spoil your overall enjoyment of the adventure, but once you've finished the story there isn't much else to do. Each level has Morph Eye collectibles to find, and earning enough XP to completely max-out your character will take multiple playthroughs, but this will only really appeal to completionists.
The classic Flashback 1993 Edition is also included in the package, although the presentation in a virtual arcade cabinet with faux CRT display feels a little jarring. It's still fun to play through, making it a welcome bonus for any retro fans that fondly remember the original.
An enjoyable if unambitious adventure with a few problems, lacking in genuine replay value.
- Environments look rich
- Controls make platform navigation simple
- Classic 1993 edition also playable in full
- Some combat and exploration proves frustrating
- XP upgrades and VR training have limited appeal