Flashback Review

A long, long time ago, there was a title by Delphine Software called Another World. In it, you, play a ginger chap who conveniently gets teleported to another world, hence the title. It was a cinematic masterpiece at the time, with its rotoscope-like animation and fantastic set pieces, it was hard to imagine any sequel could match it – if at all follow. Then in 1992, they released Flashback, and at the time, it was like playing a movie.

Oh, how it’s aged. In this 25th anniversary edition, the game has been significantly tinkered with, featuring anti-aliasing, filters and bloom effects. Having played the original, I was not impressed. It looked like one of those 16-bit emulators that attempt to make a pixelated sprite modern with smooth edges. To me, it doesn’t work, so I was pleased to see that there’s a wealth of graphic options from the menu to turn off the roundness, add a simulated CRT and a noise and static effect that is actually pretty good. But more on the extras later – how about the game?

You play Conrad B. Hart sometime in the future. He crash lands on Titan while pursued by mutants, but he has no idea why as he has no memory. He finds a holocube recorded by himself, that tells him he needs to locate his friend. Upon seeing his friend Ian, he restores Conrad’s memories, and it transpires that Conrad has developed a way to detect these aliens called Morphs that have infiltrated Earth without anyone knowing. His subsequent mission is to get off of Titan and return to Earth to save the day (and civilisation).

Much like Another World, Flashback is a 2D action platform game, featuring a variety of puzzles. Conrad acts out like an ancestor of Prince of Persia as he jumps, rolls and shoots enemies all to the tune of digitised animation so that the movement seems natural. From memory, this was the first game that I played that put so much emphasis in motion, like the subtlety of Conrad whipping out his gun, holding it above his head then shimmying across the ground in preparation for a shoot out with one of his pursuers.

Flashback was revolutionary back in the early 90s, and while there’s a good degree of reminiscing about the good old days, the movement can be quite frustrating. As there’s such a focus on the animation, you need to be frame-accurate when positioning yourself with a move. Like standing directly under a platform to pull yourself up, or sprinting to do a long jump, but pressing up to jump too late, only to fall a few platforms into the eye line of an enemy.

The majority of the game plays out like that, and a bit like the level design in Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee in that you have various levels on-screen at a time. You have to either work your way up, down or to the left or right by taking out enemies or solving puzzles to get to the next area. With this new edition, you can play the classic title where there’s no tutorial, and you’re thrown straight into the game. Alternatively, you can opt for the modern experience where you can rewind sections, play enhanced music and sound effects, plus the additional filters mentioned earlier, i.e. the CRT option.

Conrad can bring up his gun on command as he can’t perform specific actions with his pistol in his hand, so you press the square button to tuck it away. Then X, which is used to shoot, is then substituted for run when holding the direction you wish to move, or for interacting with objects or picking up items. Movement is vital in Flashback, and if you time your actions well, it handles like the other 16-bit classic, Blackthorne. Look it up if you’re unfamiliar with it as it’s a great game if you’re into retro titles. In some ways, despite the cool animation, a lot of the platforming requires a bit of precision and may frustrate many players. I recall playing it as a kid and getting irritated with the frequency of mistiming a jump or not being in the right place at the right time. With age, I have a bit more patience, so was able to stick with it as, despite the somewhat dated cutscenes, it’s still a great title and plenty of challenge; there are numerous difficulty levels should you find it too easy or difficult. If the latter, the rewind feature is a nice trick to redo a section without encountering another game over the title card.

Once you complete a level, you can go back to it from the level select from the menu, but only if you’re already completed it. Additionally, you can view the cutscenes you’ve unlocked as well as a jukebox to play new and old tracks, and there’s also a street art gallery but street art artist Megamatt. This is an unusual feature to add as this is a bonus where you can unlock images by the said artist who chooses to add pictures of Conrad in various poses in numerous city locations. The artwork you uncover is like a pixelated Banksy catalogue. However, you can’t view everything from the gallery immediately and have to locate glowing orbs scattered around the levels you give you points. Each image costs a point and a lot of the orbs are tough to reach so you may bail on it altogether, but it’s worth seeing, nevertheless and just another thing if you’re seeking 100% completion.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Flashback Review
  • Gameplay - 7/10
    7/10
  • Graphics - 7/10
    7/10
  • Sound - 7/10
    7/10
  • Replay Value - 7/10
    7/10
Overall
7/10

Summary

Flashback was a great title and still is for a little bit of videogaming history. The game is relatively short, but due to the difficulty and backtracking, it should keep you busy and have you dropping in and out for a casual playthrough. Unless you’re going to attempt a speedrun.

Pros

  • The animation is really good.
  • Variable difficulties and trainers to help.
  • Lots of cool filters that are actually good.

Cons

  • Requires a lot of accuracy for jumps.
  • Still a pretty tough game!
  • Some of the filters make the game look worse.