I come up against my first boss who looks awesome, but is sadly out to kill me.
While a large amount of the words below this sentence will admittedly be hasty judgements, I ask every reader to take them with a pinch of salt. I was only sent the review build at the last minute and certainly didn’t have a chance to take my time with the finished product to have this review land at a reasonable and relevant time. I ask for forgiveness in advance and hope that you’ll direct all relevant hate-mail to the forum!
When you’re dealing with a remake of a classic platforming title of the 90’s you’d usually find yourself in a tricky situation. Being a remake of a game from before you were even born makes it even more of a bad spot – and I’m living it right now.
Whether you’re reviewing, previewing or even just talking about it in a message board, you’re likely to upset someone who played the original way back when and you risk having thier full-blown fury explode through your monitor as you attempt to convey what it does wrong while they interject and throw their counter-argument into the fray detailing why you couldn’t possibly understand what made it so great all that time ago. But that’s not really the point right now. Whether or not a game is a remake or not, that judgement shouldn’t come into the equation – and it certainly won’t be the case with this week’s Summer of Arcade release – Flashback.
£5 of your cash money gets you this 1.9GB Xbox Live Arcade game that has, somehow, been chosen over the rest to represent the top-tier of mini-releases you’re encouraged to blow your summer money – and time – on before you traipse your heels back to school, work, or to the kitchen.
Flashback pulls out all the big-guns from the get-go to have you on the edge of your seat with excitement. Admittedly, I had absolutely zero idea of what this game was before I booted it up through my tiny 4GB USB stick on chunky, ageing, Xbox 360, and that only invigorated the feeling of gleeful surprise when I saw the Unreal Engine logo appear on screen and a cinematic menu depicting Conrad peering around a corner, gun in hand, carefully watching a mysterious Jetpack-clad alien humanoid creature patrolling the area ahead. The staple sharp textures of the popular engine coincided with the liquid effects of the water cascading down to give off an instantly engrossing depiction of stealth and grit — it’s too bad the actual game contains very little of either.
Instead of what looks like a post-apocalyptic dirty stealth shooter, we get a mediocre platformer with a whole host of problems. The opening cinematic, again, plays out like the sneaky sleuth shooter you immediately imagine from the get go, yet once the man in question gets shot down during his great escape, you find yourself in a bright green environment cultivated with sloppy animations, zero design flair and a difficulty curve that can only be described as lazy.
Upon your great descent from whichever preferred scenario you found himself watching moments before, you’re immediately placed on the platforms you’ll likely spend the next hour or so traipsing around before you flip back — and you will — to the dashboard without a moments notice.
The only thing pushing you ahead at this moment in time in the message you inadvertently find yourself landing on as your spine makes contact with the branch; a cube with a message from your future self — who has “No time to explain” what’s going on — instructs you to make haste to Washington D.C.
With the single instruction you go on your way awkwardly hopping and jumping from branch to branch without the sound of footsteps, the foliage under your feet, or even the impact of your toes meeting the ground when you fall from 6ft drop keeping you company. Before long you’re finding your scattered belongings strewn across the neighbouring platforms and you become readily armed to fight off the drone robots that like to dart at so quickly that you’ll barely have a moments notice to aim and shoot them down before they zap your skull multiple times and have you hurtling to the ground with only a single “Ow” coming from Conrad’s mouth as he rag-dolls to his demise.
And don’t expect this to become anymore forgiving when there’s 3 of the things closing in on you within a split second. It feels very much as if the developer’s either assumed you’d have a sixth sense in detecting code off-screen or they just like to think you’ll pour countless deaths into this thing from the get-go without any real reason to carry on.
The game could be holding the cleanest piece of story ever penned, but its multiple design flaws speak out immediately before you even have the time to contemplate whether the end result would be worth the time-sink. Jerky model animations, unforgiving AI, crude combat and uninspired level design all make themselves known long before the 10 minute mark – and that’s certainly enough to warrant you question where both your £5 went and where the quality assurance team was when this shipped.
Finding out that the original creator of the Flashback 1992 hit rallied together the men to make his classic platformer immediately makes me think the game was rushed to meet the Summer of Arcade deadline – and it’d be a damn shame if that’s in fact the case. Fans of the original would surely see this as betrayal, and maybe so to the team who crafted the end product.
The fact that you’re forced to shoot down a trapped worker with an exploding bullet before conversing with the man and saying “Awesome-sauce” so awkwardly after the chat is, again, enough to raise questions of the game’s quality assurance work.
If you haven’t grasped the message of this review by now – Flashforward is a rushed, uninspired, and downright lazy remake of cult favourite that was embarrassingly controlled by the game’s original designer. A lack of attention to detail screams for all angles to the point where even the main voice actor sounds as if he either understood himself how cheesy the dialogue was, or just wasn’t very good at the job himself. It’s a shame to see a promising remake designed for by and for former fans of the game turn into such a mediocre release. What’s worse is how this managed to score a spot in the heavily promoted Summer of Arcade feature window ahead of the more inspired creations of indie developers that are, most likely still stuck in the pipes of the Xbox Live Arcade publishing program. It’s a damn shame, and a damn waste.
Audio/Visual – 2/5: A lack of key sound effects and shallow script/voice-acting deters away from the robust environments and decent soundtrack.
Gameplay – 2/5: Jerky animations, repetitive motions, tacked-on combat, and unforgiving AI stops this one dead in its tracks.
Innovation – 3/5: A few cleverly constructed puzzles and environmental-based collectibles earns Flashback the benefit of the doubt in this category
Value – 3/5: Just by including the original 1992 edition you’ve already justified a small portion of the £5 remake fee.
– Josh reviewed Flashback on Xbox 360 –