Flashback Review

Flashback is a great-looking remake of a classic game, but playing it is an exercise in confusion and frustration.

Lost within gaming's undying need to relive the earliest days of Mario and Zelda are countless games that, while popular in their own time, haven't seen the same kind of modern-day revival afforded to better-known classics. Flashback HD, in attempting to modernize a classic, serves as a reminder of why some things are best left in the past. Clunky platforming, dated level design, and frustrations abound, and the graphical upgrade and solid sound effects simply aren't enough to save this game.

Flashback's biggest strength was its attempt to tell an interesting story back when games had just begun to experiment with having any narrative beyond "go here, rescue princess." It had a complicated plot built around some of the more interesting tropes of 1980s and '90s science fiction, including exploration of the solar system, lost and stored memories, and, of course, aliens. The story was respectable for its time, but in attempting to tell it with more modern means, Flashback HD has spoiled it. The voice work is terrible, and many of the cutscenes are so loaded down with camp and awkwardness that it's impossible to take anything the game says or does seriously.

Narrative presentation aside, the core game is fairly standard for action platformers. You move through rooms methodically collecting power-ups, solving basic puzzles, and shooting various enemies, all the while traversing a wholly unfriendly environment. Most combat scenarios are straightforward, eschewing complex combos in favor of movement, positioning, and well-timed attacks. In that sense, both the original game and the HD remake pull heavily from genre trendsetters like Metroid.

That said, the 1992 release of Flashback was much more focused on steady pacing and the creation of atmosphere. In the HD version, the action has been ramped up, and the puzzles have been cut back a bit. Rarely do you have to do anything more complicated than stand in a certain place at a certain time to open a door. In addition, a new piece of equipment lets you see almost every important object. It's reminiscent of both Metroid Prime's visor mode and the detective mode from the Batman: Arkham series. The difference here is that the goggles work much too well in a 2D space, and eliminate any sense of ambiguity; it's usually plainly obvious what you need to do to proceed.

Don't be fooled by appearances! This is not the great Blade Runner game you've been waiting for.

Flashback strips down the platforming challenges that formed the heart and soul of the original's gameplay, while keeping backtracking-heavy level layouts reminiscent of those from the original game. In their stead are more enemy encounters. With that, the game sacrifices the sense of flow and cohesion that once kept it from feeling too jumbled.

One innovation Flashback shared with its fellow 1990s French platformer, Prince of Persia, was the use of rotoscoping to include cutting-edge animations in a game meant to run on a platform with very limited power. The HD version aims to have a modern look while using retro-looking animations, and that causes more than its share of problems. Characters onscreen are rarely animated cleanly, and whether or not they are recoiling from attack or, in the case of your avatar, are ready to make another jump, is rarely clear. Where the player character is and what he's doing can be very difficult to make out since the differences between coming to a full stop after running and ducking in preparation for a vertical jump are tough to discern. So, depending on how you interpret your character's movements, you could be long-jumping into a trap or vaulting straight into a flying enemy.

If there's one nice thing that can be said about the visuals, it's that the new team has faithfully updated Flashback's look while keeping much of the original design aesthetic. Certain areas will likely remind you of some of the more visually stunning scenes from Tron and Blade Runner, and all of that is beautifully reworked for modern systems. Gunplay is another highlight. The audio design gives weapons a solid, powerful oomph, and the ease with which you can pull out a weapon and take out some baddies reflects the altered focus of the design team.

Mom always said not to trust anyone named CB021.

Flashback is a tremendous disappointment, and a reminder that fond memories are often better left as just that: memories. The original game is included in emulated form with each copy of HD, but it's easier to appreciate for its influence on future games than it is to enjoy the act of playing it. Just skip this particular excursion into the past.

The Good
Great attention to detail in modernizing the original Flashback's visuals
The Bad
Clunky controls
Awkward animations that interfere with gameplay
Irritating design choices
4
Poor
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Dan Starkey's first review for GameSpot was for Starseed Pilgrim, and he's been pleased to remain on hand ever since!

Discussion

112 comments
dawN84
dawN84

Ahh, thank goodness I haven't heard of this remake. I feel like I've dodged a bullet. (:

JackNief
JackNief

Well that's.... disappointing, I was really looking forward to this game...

chibigoten23
chibigoten23

One observation: "One innovation Flashback shared with its fellow 1990s French platformer, Prince of Persia, was the use of rotoscoping to include cutting-edge animations in a game meant to run on a platform with very limited power. " Maybe you meant Another World, and not Prince of Persia, because I am more than pretty sure that Prince of Persia is not a French game. But yeah, it used rotoscoping too, as did Flashback and Another World.

punksterdaddy
punksterdaddy

It is bad! The voice acting I mean.

This review is spot on.

HD_audio_CoYotE
HD_audio_CoYotE

and there goes another great memory of my gaming childhood down the trunk..... :(

thanks ubi ! Any kickstarter project would have done better ! I AM PISSED !!!!! 

Dswiss
Dswiss

I was afraid they'd ruin it.This was one of my favorite games on sega. Whats up with video game developers these days?

sladakrobot
sladakrobot

I watched all the vids from E3,and some later, and I was afraid that would happen.

iloveyourface
iloveyourface

there's actually a great blade runner game already available. it's called 'blade runner' by the lil' company we like to call westwood studios.

AQWBlaZer91
AQWBlaZer91

I've seen this game on Projared and it's true people, it's really, really bad.

Robin Maximilian Furthersbe
Robin Maximilian Furthersbe

After you know what you'll get into by reading a review, and even if it says it's bad, you're prepared and if you still have the urge to play, you can never go wrong with your own urge

3v1LR0n1N
3v1LR0n1N

geez first Ducktales now this, stop hatin on remakes GS, i LOVED the original game and I personally like this version alot, especially how they re done the story and mechanics... well sort of... there was some weirdness to the controls from the original that carried over, but its all good in my opinion. I also personally believe it is a pretty good quality game for the price range ($10) and you definitly could do worse within said price range (R.I.P.D.)

youngzen69
youngzen69

Well guys you screwed it up. You took a deep hardcore mature driven game like Flashback and dumb it down to child play. The voice acting along sounds like some cheesy Saturday morning cartoon. You never really understood the deep complexity of Flashback. Deus Ex being the closes modern day example I can think of.

Jake Bond
Jake Bond

Why can't they just leave things alone, flashback is a reminiscent time when mum and dad use to play video games; because I was too scared. However between flashback, crash b and resident evil (IN DA Mansion BRO) I have had an experience where I was able to clutch onto the dry cow for more abuse. YouTube. Com/therealjakebond

NaturallyEvil
NaturallyEvil

Since the reviewer doesn't seem aware, I would like to point out that we already have fully modernized games that are the end result of this game's innovations.  They are called Uncharted 1, 2, and 3.

Anyway, I still like the original Flashback to this day, but it doesn't sound like this remake would have the same kind of appeal/

dabassplayer15
dabassplayer15

Nothing negative attached to this, but I am always curious:


Gamespot: why did you choose to outsource this review?

Johnny Webb
Johnny Webb

from the pic i thought it was the star citizen hanger module

Thomas Wayne
Thomas Wayne

Fantastic game. Too much for the remake to live up to, I suppose.

Andreas Nicolai Røtnes
Andreas Nicolai Røtnes

Finished the original game several times on the Amiga 500. A favourite. Another fav Shadow of The Beast is getting remade as well.Whats next ? Giana Sisters re-make would be fun.

Kevin Mann
Kevin Mann

I'm still tempted to buy this simply out of nostalgia. I played and loved the original Flashback on the Sega Genesis.

Legolas_Katarn
Legolas_Katarn

"The original game is included in emulated form with each copy of HD"

And it seems to be missing music

Alex Rivera
Alex Rivera

it seems gamespot always hates remakes...

Dan Ex
Dan Ex

gamespot love it or hate it...

Robin Saxby
Robin Saxby

Do any remakes deliver the goods? :/

Kevin Taylor
Kevin Taylor

Loved the original. Didn't even know they'd remade it?

Robbin van Ooij
Robbin van Ooij

ofcourse we remember the original Flashback and the awesome platform it was created on. AMIGAAAAAAA!!!!

Sabin99992000
Sabin99992000

I want a Heart of Darkness HD remake but better than this

snxx
snxx

Flashback was one of my favorite 4th generation games.
Now, this remake, judging based on the videos alone, don't look outstanding, sure, but doesn't look bad either.

RicanV
RicanV moderator

Unbelievable. This game is almost as good as Ducktales remastered.

toyo75
toyo75

I just noticed from watching the video that after  the character shot the robot @ 02:27  the characters in the background acted as if nothing even happened . They didn't even panic ^_^

jhpeter
jhpeter

Game is 100% better than the original. The original is a boring point and click adventure disguised as a plataform. The Remake is all without been boring.

Ps: If you liked Shadow Complex, you will love it, has the same controlls and map scheme. Its a MetroidVania Game !!!


Tommysea77
Tommysea77

This game was never good to play. It was just advanced graphically. I couldn't be bothered with it on my Amiga and I'm not now.

Kickable
Kickable

@Dswiss I was actually optimistic for some weird reason.  Those fucking fucks.

terrellbeasley
terrellbeasley

@Dswiss Everyone just seems to want money these days. It stops developers from actually looking at what they are making and only worry about homages to older and more popular games. I'm fine with developers wanting to bring back something that is old, but if they're going to do it, they have to do it right. That's what I believe.

jhpeter
jhpeter

@toyo75 Its the future, robots explodes all around time, people is bored to care.

Legolas_Katarn
Legolas_Katarn

@jhpeter If Shadow Complex was a poor mans Metroid/Handheld Castletvania, I don't want to try a poor mans Shadow Complex. 

miser_cz
miser_cz

@jhpeter Lol - point and click - have you ever seen original Flashback? There is no mouse support :)

Dentonj1285
Dentonj1285

@jhpeter Nothing like Shadow Complex other than the map. The controls really are awkward and unresponsive

Tommysea77
Tommysea77

Another world was way way better. That was the real classic.

Flashback More Info

Follow
  • First Released
    • PC
    • PS3
    • Xbox 360
    Flashback has players take on the role of Conrad B. Hart of the G.B.I. and uncover a vast and deadly alien conspiracy that threatens everything it means to be human.
    5.3
    Average User RatingOut of 41 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Flashback
    Developed by:
    Ubisoft
    Published by:
    Ubisoft
    Genres:
    Action, Platformer, 2D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence