Flashback – Xbox 360
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: VectorCell
Release Date: Aug 21, 2013
Genre: Action, Platformer
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 2.5 of 5

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the HD remake of Flashback; partly because I love a good platformer, but also because I remember spending hours and hours with the original game back in 1993. Sadly, my memories of that experience are much more favorable than the reality of playing this classic, now updated with a fresh coat of paint, but that’s about it.

Sure, Flashback looks amazing – at least for an XBLA game at a budget price running on last-gen hardware (is it too early to say last-gen?), but what hasn’t been upgraded is the gameplay. That is still rooted in the 90’s, and even though platform games have endured for two decades, the rules and mechanics of the genre have certainly advanced making Flashback more of a throwback than a stylish trip down memory lane.

Set in a cyberpunk future world you play Conrad, an athletic fellow who has conveniently lost his memory so he wanders around these flashy levels (both indoors and out) pretty much doing whatever he is told. This basically includes a lot of fetch quests involving running, climbing, jumping, and more alien gun battles than you can shake a fully charged blaster at. The designers manage to work in a bit of stealth and even some interesting puzzles that take great advantage of environments and level design, which is where this game truly shines – the artwork.

If the comparison screenshots don’t convey just how cool this remake actually is when it comes to graphics then make your way over to the right side of the in-game main menu screen where there is an arcade box with the actual 1993 version of the game all ready to play in its entirety. Sadly, this plays in a tiny window on your screen – obviously to mask the low 1993 resolution – and the sound it missing in parts. Flashback might not improve on the dated game mechanics of the original, but the graphics are as different as going from black and white to color.

Flashback has its issues, many of which lead to untimely deaths. Conrad can get hung up on his environments, and for a platform game this has some laggy controls. He moves much like his 1993 character with stilted sprite-like animations that have me thinking the designers merely retextured the game rather than rebuild or update the actual code. Conrad controls like a puppet with half his strings broken. One new feature is the upgrade system, but even after you start padding Conrad’s abilities with XP nothing really changes in how you play the game; merely how fast you kill the enemy.

The initial level in the jungle is pretty fun but once you reach the maze-like map of the city you’ll be doing a lot of backtracking working odd jobs, and even joining a game show called Death Tower. A cutaway map screen shows the layout of the land and the location of key items and objectives so it’s impossible to get lost, but I can’t remember a game in the past ten years with this much backtracking. It only pads out an already short game.

The audio experience has definitely been upgraded with great sounds, and music, and even some speech, although I think the voice acting might actually hurt this remake, as Conrad’s quips repeat way too often and a lot of his comments make him sound like a jerk most of the time.

The original Flashback was a great game…in that moment in time, but you can’t just slap a coat of paint on a 20-year old car and call it new. Sure, it looks pretty, but it still has a 20-year old engine and will run like a 20-year old car. This HD remake is all looks and no substance, which is a shame because I was really looking forward to reliving this classic from my past. There are plenty of other modern side-scrollers out there that do exactly what Flashback does and they all do it much better. Flashback is best remembered; not played; at least until somebody does a proper REBOOT.