Review: Flashback Is Frighteningly Forgettable
Back in 1992, a game came out called Flashback. It was a side-scrolling platformer that was tough-as-steel-nails difficult, placing great emphasis on patience and strategy while feeding you a sci-fi story that, at the time, wasn't all that bad. It was something of a classic. Twenty-one years later, Ubisoft has decided to put out a remake of the game and... well... yeah.
- Worth The Time?No.
- Things LovedThere is some nostalgia here, if you played and enjoyed the original game; It's not the worst side-scroller ever; There are some improvements to the original that better accommodate today's controllers; It will keep you occupied enough, for a while.
- Things HatedThere's just not enough here to keep you interested; It's cheesy, but not in that cool eighties Robocop movie kinda way, just really, really bad; The levels are still quite bland and uninspired and don't properly translate into 2013; There are better ways to spend 800 MSP.
- RecommendationWait for a sale, because unless you were a crazy fan of the original game and simply must have this game, it's really not worth the asking price.
- Name: Flashback
- Genre: Side-scroller
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
- Developer: VectorCell
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Price: 800 MSP
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Depending on how old you are, the chances are good that you played a game from many, many years ago that you absolutely enjoyed, that you absolutely would not want to see remade for today’s gaming world. Most likely, it just wouldn’t translate into today’s accepted standards for game mechanics and graphical fidelity, but also, the nostalgia trip could be dangerous and you would risk your happy memories of that game.
For me, that game is Beneath A Steel Sky. For you, it might be something different. For VectorCell, that game was Flashback, the 1992 classic. Now, unlike you or I, VectorCell actually has some sway, and so it was that they managed to convince Ubisoft that the fan interest was rife enough to warrant a remake of the old game. It probably helped that VectorCell is headed up by the guy who designed the original game, so many years ago. I think Ubisoft should have paid better attention. In any case, the publisher had enough fans of the game in-house that the game was approved, and development got underway.
Flashback has released as a Winter of Arcade title, but it’s actually cross-platform. It is a timed exclusive for Xbox LIVE Arcade, where I played it, but it is expected out on PlayStation Network and PC eventually, too. The game features an array of improvements but also has, as an added bonus, the original game from 1992, playable from the in-game menu, which was designed by Delphine Software. Coincidentally, six of the original developers worked on the remake.
New improvements to the formula include full use of the analogue sticks for 360-degree control of weaponry, some improved navigational controls, a skill tree and upgrades system and voiced characters. The rest is Flashback as you may or may not remember it, only obviously slightly easier for today’s gaming community. I’m not kidding, they actually dropped the difficulty. Fuck us, right?
It’s that level of pretentiousness that actually annoys me about Flashback, and I can’t tell if it’s VectorCell or Ubisoft who are to blame. Not only is the game easier, as if we’re idiots or something, but on the pre-release press notes for this game it has the following: “Assume Metacritic: 75/80”. I’m sorry, what? Did you just ask me to assume a Metacritic rating before the game is even out? If this gets me in trouble then so be it, but apparently even Metacritic disagrees.
Let’s get the actual game talk out of the way. Flashback is a side-scrolling platformer with a sci-fi story that has you playing a protagonist whose name I’ve already forgotten. He’s an agent for the CBI, but all you really need to know is that his memory was erased but he had the presence of mind to leave backups in order to retrace his steps.
The plot is quite dreary and, maybe in 1992 it might have been intriguing and revolutionary but today, it just falls a little too flat. There are a few new plot twists added in, but they’re nothing special, never explained and never important enough that you care to think about them afterwards. Speaking of flat, the voice acting isn’t anything special either. There seems to have been two, maybe three people doing all the voice acting in the game and at times it is blatantly off-key. Oh and the subtitles have more typos than a Belieber’s Twitter bio. It’s horribly unprofessional.
You might excuse the game if it piled on the cheese in some humorous, satirical way, but no. There is one part of the game where the lead character has a quick monologue and for no apparent reason, just spouts, “Awesome-sauce!” Why? Because fuck all the logic in the world. That’s why.
You will navigate levels that are basically 2D in nature, though crafted in the Unreal Engine for that extra visual fidelity. Only it’s not, because not only are levels a little too unimaginative and bland, but the visuals as a whole are nothing to write home about. You almost get the feeling that this game was developed five years ago, put on hold until the right time, and then released unchanged, but for updated copyright.
You have a weapon that you can either mash RT to shoot, or hold down RT to charge for a heavier blast. At some point you will unlock a forcefield generator which you can use with LT. You can roll with LB and throw either grenades, rocks, explosive fruit or a teleporter with RB. There are health stations and grenade recharge stations that can be interacted with. Oh, and you can crouch by pressing in the left stick. Throw in the actual side-scrolling and the result is an often-clumsy experience as you try to fight enemies at various angles to you while accidentally crouching, and good luck even trying to get a grenade off, mid-combat. I can appreciate an intense game, but not like this. This is just silliness.
The game has a VR training simulator which allows you to play various unlocked challenges involving one of the three enemy types — a fourth appears later in the game with no associated challenges — as well as play through advanced tutorials. One of these is sneaking, where the game teaches you how to stealthily take out enemies. I did this twice in the entire game. There simply are no other points in the game where you get a chance to be stealthy.
Probably my biggest complaint for the game is that everything is incredibly same-y. Granted it’s an arcade title and a platformer at that, but this isn’t 1992. Why can’t we have some more varied enemy types? Why can’t I do more with my weapon than just mash or hold RT? And for fuck’s sakes, why is crouch mapped to the damn left stick?
Flashback isn’t the worst game in the world. There were at least two points in the game where I started to feel as if I was experiencing something that felt kinda like fun. Unfortunately, those moments were short-lived and about as brief as your first time having sex. Worse actually, because at least in the case of the latter, you got to have sex. By paying actual money for this game, you’re just fucking yourself. Meanwhile, your hand is absolutely free.
To make the obvious pun, just forget about this game. Maybe when it’s on sale for cheap, and you have absolutely nothing else to buy. Or maybe if you were a frenetic fan of the original, which actually is available to play from the game’s menu. Maybe then. But in every other situation, for every other timeline, I simply cannot recommend this game to anyone. Assume Metacritic: 25/30.