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 a leading game of its time.
Jump forward 20 years, and innovation has gone leaps and bounds in the video game industry. 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 problems get in the way, making it less successful than previous HD reboots to date.
The game 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 — a tall order for someone who doesn't know who he is.
There are moments when the Flashback 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 movie Blade Runner, in a way or two.
However, the visuals aren't precisely perfect. There are some noticeable glitches, which can 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. The music is good, picking up in tempo each time you're in danger, but 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 game play itself, it mixes among platforming segments, shoot-'em-up battles with aliens, and solving puzzles. It can often get tedious, especially when you're performing an escort mission for someone who can't really do, anything, or fighting against lamebrain 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 sometimes works well — but its pacing comes into question more than it should.
Flashback will take you a while to get through, and 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, but you can tell that VectorCell could've done more with it, including 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?
VIDEO GAME REVIEW
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
ESRB rating: T