It’s funny what we remember. Some people remember the good times. Others remember the bad. And some remember a game called Flashback. Released in 1992, it sits on lists next to the original Prince of Persia and Another World as a cinematic platformer that epitomises everything the genre was about. It was such a success, with critics and with consumers, that it was once listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling French video game of all-time. You may or may not remember it yourself, but, records don’t lie; it’s kind of a big deal. So a full HD remake, released as part of the 2013 Xbox Live Summer of Arcade, definitely deserves your attention, right? Right?
By now you should be forewarned that Flashback HD, the Flashback of 2013, Flashback 2: Flashbackener – is not a very good game. It’s glitchy, clunky, frustrating, boring and even obnoxious in its worst moments. That said, on the spectrum between the original Flashback and games like Shaq Fu, it’s actually okay. As in the original, you play as Conrad B. Hart, a charming young man who, gosh darn it - has lost his memory. Waking up alone in an alien jungle, he’s directed by a hologram of himself to seek out a friend who can help him retrieve his identity and later, save the world. This time however, Conrad’s not silent – he has a voice – and the mysterious narrative has more cut-scenes and exposition than you’ll care to sit through. None of this would be so bad, if it wasn’t you know; so bad. Flashback features some of the year’s worst dialogue, which always seems to pipe in at just the right moment to break any suspense or tension.
Thankfully, where the story of the game has been made worse, the gameplay has, we’d argue, been greatly improved. While obscure and tricky interactions were a large part of what made Flashback good in the first place; going back to it now is not an experience you’d define as fun. Switching this all out for more fluid, analogue aiming, forgiving jumps and clear interaction prompts and waypoints; how you feel about it all will probably be closely tied to your feelings and experience with other similar titles, old and new.
We think it’s an improvement, but if you don’t like it – fear not! The old version of Flashback is included too! Unfortunately you have to play it inside this stupid arcade cabinet frame – so no, it doesn’t even get the straight port right. But going back to it briefly as a bonus – you might be impressed with its style and subtlety, but you longer you play, the more the feeling dawns on you that this game and everything good about it is an anomaly, and that it’s what was bad that might need more of your attention.
The 2013 edition of Flashback isn’t just not worth your time in itself, it will lead to you question just how good the original game was in the first place. By that standard – it has to be one of the worst remakes ever, which is funny because for fleeting moments, it’s not actually that bad. It does improve on its predecessor in some important ways, it does have some nice, if generic style here and there, and we’ll be quoting it for months to come. But on the whole, we have to say…Flashback? Forget it.