Retro Friday Review: Flashback

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When it comes to films, I'm generally against the idea of remakes and reboots. Oftentimes it feels like the newer versions make changes for the sake of making changes, rather than for the betterment of the movie. With video games, I do feel differently. When a video game gets a remake or reboot, usually you end up with a better experience. The recent Tomb Raider reboot is a solid example of what I mean. So does the XBLA remake of the 16-bit classic Flashback follow in the footsteps of Tomb Raider? Lets find out.

Story: A bit on the cheesy side

You plays as Conrad B. Hart a government agent that gets caught up in the conspiratorial machinations of a shape-shifting alien race plotting an invasion of earth. The game starts with that classic sci-fi trope of the protagonist character waking up amnesiac and then having to hunt down his memories. It's during that hunt that Hart learns who really he is.

It's a staple story of the sci-fi genre, but Flashback just doesn't tell it very well. The entire execution of the narrative is cheesy. It comes down to the voice acting really. Conrad has this Mathew Broderick sounding voice, which just makes it tough to take him seriously, and consequently it's hard to take the plot seriously. The entire thing has this 80s cartoon current to it, that contrasts against the seriousness of a world in peril-style plot. It's not gamebreaking, its just doesn't feel right, is all.

Gameplay: Hit and miss

On the gameplay side, it's hit and miss. Flashback's gameplay style echoes that of the original, so it's similar to that of the original Prince of Persia game. It's a sidecrolling environmental puzzler, where the challenge comes in learning how to navigate the levels. It would be awesome if the controls weren't so sluggish, though. Conrad always feels like his trekking through mud, and for a game like this, nimbleness is paramount. You can get used to it in time, but it just feels wrong. I found myself constantly miss-timing jumps, which either lead to dead falls, or having to retrace routes to get back to the jump point. Having these persistent do-overs quickly grew tiresome.

Like Prince of Persia, combat is infrequent, which is just as well, because when it does happen it can be really frustrating. Where the movement feels sluggish, the controls for aiming your weapon feels over sensitive. A technically different problem, but leading to inevitability, you missing your shots, because you're either over or under compensating. Just like the movement controls, with practice you can get used to it, but I feel like it needed more fine tuning.

Level design: A nostalgia twinge

On the hit side, the game's level design is pretty tight. Each level looks really good and those that remember the original will get a nice nostalgia twinge. Figuring out how to get yourself from point A to point B can be very satisfying. It's just a pity you have to master the unruly controls.


I was a fan of the original Flashback - incidentally, the original is included as part of package - on the Sega Megadrive, but I'm definitely not a fan of this remake. It's by no means a bad game, but it's certainly not a memorable one. The sluggish controls and quirky narrative execution just didn't sit well with me. The game felt like one of those rushed movie licensed games, just without the movie. I'm sure there's someone out there that will enjoy this adequate remake, but it's not me. My advice? Give it a miss. 

Flashback is available on the Xbox Live Arcade, it will also be available on PC and the PlayStation 3 later this year.

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