Flashback Review


The original Flashback came out in 1992, and to this day it stands as a beloved science-fiction action-platformer. The idea of introducing that game to a wider audience in 2013 sounds great on paper, but the real success of a game lies in its execution. That leaves us with 2013’s Flashback, a downloadable HD re-release that feels dated and fails to harness nostalgia in any meaningful way. The visuals and audio have been improved, but everything else about the game fails to capture the magic of the original release.

Flashback‘s premise involves a man named Conrad who wakes up in a jungle with no memories. He soon accesses those memories with the help of a friend and learns about an intricate and complex plot involving the government and aliens. It uses a lot of the science-fiction underpinnings one might expect, which left me with a feeling of disinterest for much of the game. I imagine the narrative came across as far more bold in 1992, but in 2013 it feels derivative and unoriginal in many ways. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more without the terrible voice-acting, which apparently every remake now requires. I don’t automatically scoff at the idea of introducing voices to older games, but in Flashback it feels like an afterthought.


The core mechanics remain intact, which means players will perform a lot of jumping and shooting. The remake appears to place a bigger emphasis on combat, though, with plenty of enemy encounters, sometimes just a few steps apart. The shooting mechanics are fundamentally sound, but the ease of combat stands out as a noticeable flaw. Traversing the environment also poses few challenges, including the occasional puzzle which isn’t really a puzzle because of incredibly straightforward solutions. The rest of the campaign involves finding power-ups, leveling up and clearing out the map, Metroid-style. None of this sounds particularly bad, but it all remains generic and uninteresting for the entirety of the short campaign. It’s one of those cases in which I felt like I had seen everything Flashback has to offer in the first 10 minutes.

One key aspect of Flashback did stand out during my time with the game, though, and that was the presence of unreliable controls. The actual platforming in the game feels clunky, and I would often miss jumps I thought I had successfully executed. But even worse than that is the fact that the controls would not work at all multiple times while I played the game. I have no clue what the specific solution was to fix the issue, but I just mashed buttons until Conrad started moving again. And of course there were moments in which the controls would fail me while in the middle of an enemy encounter. Don’t you just love when that happens?


At least the updated HD visuals give players something pretty to look at while playing the game. Flashback sports a distinctive art style with a few unique environments, ranging from the opening jungle to the colorful obstacle course that’s featured in a twisted game show called Death Tower. The audio also gets the same treatment, with impressive sound effects and a solid musical score. But the voice-acting that I already mentioned remains — let’s just forget about the voice-acting.

Sadly, presentation can only go so far in a game, and the remastering job in Flashback does not make up for the dull campaign and control issues that plague this 2013 release. Those of you who want to know why people love the 1992 version: go check out the original on an old platform (it’s included here, but only on a very small arcade screen). Fans who might consider purchasing this game for purely nostalgic reasons: it might be better to hold on to and cherish those wonderful memories. I have a feeling the 2013 version of Flashback will just ruin the nostalgia.


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Author: Anthony LaBella View all posts by
My first experience playing a video game blew me away. The fact that Super Metroid was that game certainly helped. So I like to think Samus put me on the path to video games. Well, I guess my parents buying the SNES had a little something to do with it. Ever since then my passion for video games has grown. When I found that I could put words together into a coherent sentence, videogame journalism was a natural interest. Now I spend a large majority of my time either playing video games or writing about them, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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