Review: 'Flashback' doesn't make too much forward progress
Flashback screenshot (Ubisoft / September 4, 2013)
Back in the early 90s, U.S. Gold produced a game for SNES, Genesis and PC called "Flashback." Upon release, we immediately saw comparisons to "Out of This World," with its interactive elements and beautiful -- for 1992 standards, anyway -- visual style. It also offered some compelling features, making it an instant classic for its time.
Jump forward 20 years, where innovation has gone leaps and bounds in the video game industry. It's here that Ubisoft thought it would be novel to bring "Flashback" roaring back into the HD era, with the original development team at VectorCell handling the conversion. It's a novel idea, and in some places, it really works. However, several problematic issues get in the way, making it less successful than previous HD reboots to date.
The game once again follows Conrad Hart, a man who's trying to put together bits and pieces of his memory while tackling a huge alien conspiracy. With a gun and survival skills to his credit, he tries to find the truth and save civilization at the same time -- a tall order for someone who doesn't know who he is.
There are moments where "Flashback's" visual presentation truly shines. The game echoes Chair Entertainment's "Shadow Complex" at times, with beautiful side-scrolling visuals and a city design that recalls the 1980 classic "Blade Runner," in a way or two. However, the visuals aren't precisely perfect, as there are some noticeable glitches, which can also get in the way of solving a puzzle or two. And even with a map pointing out your next objective, you don't always have a clear cut way of figuring out how to get there. Sometimes you need something as simple as an ID card -- which you can miss the first time around.
The audio is up and down as well. While the music is good, picking up in tempo each time you're in danger, Conrad comes across as an arrogant ass. His "time to party!" seems completely unnecessary when you refill on health, and the conversations he has with greedy, uninspired folks doesn't fare much better.
As for the gameplay itself, it mixes between platforming segments, shoot-em-up battles with aliens and solving puzzles. It can get tedious quite a bit, especially when you're performing an escort mission for someone that can't really do, well, anything, or fighting against lame-brained AI soldiers who wait a few seconds to draw their weapon, making them easy pickings for a few bullets. That's not to say the game is broken -- it does work well at times -- but its pacing comes into question more than it should.
"Flashback" will take you a while to get through, and for good measure, you also have the original Genesis/Amiga version here, which remains pixel-perfect. It's a good reason to check out this HD reboot, especially if you don't feel like hooking up your classic system to an HDTV. In some cases, you may not even be able to do that.
For 10 bucks, "Flashback" isn't the worst game you're going to play out there, but you can tell that VectorCell could've done more with it, like clean up the visuals, work heavily on Conrad's voice and make the game a little more exciting. It's the sort of HD reboot that you want to find yourself liking, only to find yourself just out of reach -- like Conrad trying to find that one crucial memory.
That always seems to be the way with total recall, doesn't it ...?
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