Sunday, 15 September 2013

Returning from the Gwave: Flashback (XBLA, Ubisoft)

Format: XBLA, PSN (?)
Price: 1200pts (or £9.99)
Publisher: Ubisoft

They erased his memory. They took him prisoner. Now, he's on a mission to regain his identity, and stop an invasion before it's begun.

The original version of Flashback arrived in 1993 to much fanfare. It boasted gorgeous graphics, rotoscoped animation, clever level design and intuitive puzzles, and was released on most of the formats of the time, with a remastered version on the 3DO. It's storyline is thus:

Conrad Hart, special agent is captured by aliens, and, after recording a message to himself in his holocube, has his memory erased, so that he cannot tell the rest of the human race of an impending alien invasion. After escaping from his cell, he manages to steal a SkyBike and escape the alien installation in the jungle. However, the aliens give chase in their patrol cruiser, and shoot him down. Crashing into the jungle, Conrad must now find a way back to civilisation, regain his memory, and thwart the aliens plans for world domination.

Cool, huh? Well, the original was an absolute classic. It played well, sounded good, and looked beautiful. So, Ubisoft thought that the time was right to release an updated version for the modern market, with improved visuals, level designs, added features and gameplay elements, voice acting and lots of other whistles and bells. And, it also includes the original game! So, what under the bonnet?

Firstly, the graphics have been completely overhauled. They look pretty neat, and Conrad now looks like a Nathan Drake rip off. Which I suppose isn't really bad. The whole game is now 2.5D, like many side scrolling games nowadays, but as I said earlier, it does look good. The locales are as lush as you could ever see them, especially in glorious HD.
It also sounds as good as it looks, with an update of the original Flashback theme playing on the title menu. However, some of the voice acting & script is just awful. Who the hell says 'awesome sauce'? Really. It makes me cringe every time I hear it. Even some of the voice acting is terrible. I'd have just rather the characters remain mute than this.

Control-wise, it's easy to pick up and play. The controls are nice and fluid. After aquiring your gun, you aim with the right stick for more precision, which is a nice touch, as you have enemies above and below, and the button layout is quite easy to use also. The level layouts are roughly the same, but with some added areas that keep it fresh. But, the problem is, the game is now a bit more ho-hum. The first level, as I remember it, was actually quite tough, and quite long. This one, however, is quite short, and even though I'm playing it on normal, I'm finding it quite easy, and here in lies the problem. Even after playing the first level, I never found it a challenge. Sure, the first game gave you a challenge, but it wasnt to the point of infuriating. This is just stupidly easy, and, if I'm honest, a little boring.

But, wait! There's more! Also included from the off is the 1993 original! Surely, this should redeem it. Ummm, no. Not really. It's a very nice and cool idea, however (and it's a big one), the game is played as though it's in an arcade cabinet. Not a problem, I hear you cry. But, there is. The screen mode is forever played with an arcade screen surround, and the main game area is just a small square in the middle, making the game hard to see. And no, you can't change it. Not now. Not ever. So, you're forever squinting. And, where's the goddamn music??? There's no music on the menu screen, no music on the cut screens, no music at all! And the game is made harder with the fact that you cannot remap the controls to suit you, so most of the time, instead of whipping out your gun for a firefight, you're looking at your holocube for the umpteenth time, and promptly get shot. It totally ruins this classic in every way shape and form. If they're going to ruin a classic, they shouldn't have added it as a feature.

I can see what they were attempting, and I applaud them for trying it. It does have some nice ideas, some good controls (on the remake, anyway) and it looks great. But, I can't help but feel as though it should have been a little tougher. It's a case of style over substance, and it's a shame, as it's a classic that was crying out for a rerelease in today's market, as it had all the ingredients of a corker. And being worked on by the original team, they should really have known better.


1 comment:

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