‘Flashback’ Review

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PC

Genre: Platformer, Action-Adventure

Developer: Vector Cell

Publisher: Ubisoft

Platform Reviewed On: Xbox 360

It’s been a while since I’ve played something borrowing from several different elements from both cinema and video games.

Seriously, imagine if the films Total Recall and John Carpenter’s They Live had a baby. Then, Prince of Persia and Shadow Complex got married, found out they couldn’t have a baby, and asked Mass Effect’s environment designs to be the surrogate mother. Then those two babies grew up, and had their own baby. Their child is the result of the high definition remake of 1993 title Flashback.

Flashback follows Galaxia Bureau of Investigation (or GBI) agent Conrad Hart as he is fleeing Morphs – aliens who can take on human appearances – at the genesis of the game. As Conrad is escaping, his hover bike is blasted by a Morph ship where he then crashes in the jungle below and is presumed dead. When Conrad awakens, he discovers a holocube containing a message where he himself is saying he lost his memory and must recover it to save the world from the Morphs.

Like Conrad’s memory, the plot of Flashback is forgettable while not making sense at a few parts. It’s the typical aliens have taken over the world, so now the cheesy one-line spewing, but somewhat likable protagonist must stop them by any means necessary story.

As you journey back to Earth and beyond, you will primarily platform in a Prince of Persia manner and shoot your way through jungles and futuristic sci-fi settings in 2D fashion with the 3D surroundings. Using the Unreal Engine, environments look great for a download title. The city environments in particular will easily remind Mass Effect fans of the Citadel. The game even includes a few cinematic cutscenes to sweeten the deal. There are times, however, when the games decides it wants to drop its framerate significantly, particularly during checkpoints and a few occasions of heavy combat.

Those who think Flashback mirrors Xbox Live Arcade title Shadow Complex in terms of its gameplay are not wrong. Aside from being able to shoot things in the background, it replicates the game in noticeable ways. The right stick has you aiming your weapon in a 360 degree view, the map displays the area you’re in with square blocks – including questions marks showing areas containing upgrades – and you can use experience points (XP) to increase your abilities. Once you complete the story, you may tread through another playthrough with all previous XP as well. It may nearly replicate Shadow Complex, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing because the gameplay can be quite entertaining; though there are occasions where the game will prevent you from firing off rounds once you recover from being knocked down.

In addition to the four-hour story, there are VR Stations scattered in several spots throughout the game where you can access extra challenges from stealth to combat to earn extra XP. Vector Cell was also kind enough to include the original Flashback, but as someone who hadn’t heard of the game before its HD remake was announced, I’m wondering why it was revamped to begin with. I don’t mean to conjure a storm of negativity down on someone’s childhood memory of the original game. If you enjoy it, that’s great. It has impressive animations for its day, but frankly, I can’t see how it’s famous enough to receive a makeover treatment.

The original Flashback is set up in a neat manner where you play it in a virtual arcade cabinet in the game’s main menu, but there isn’t an option to play the game full-screen, and for some odd reason, the game’s audio is barely projected.

Flashback HD is not a terrible game, but it’s not even close to a great one either. As a download title, it visually looks impressive and the Shadow Complex­-like gameplay makes for some entertaining sequences. Were it not for the game’s price, it’d be harder to recommend picking up Flashback from digital shelves, especially when there are a plethora of better titles readily available on Xbox Live Arcade. The game’s short story, corny voice acting, forgettable story and random glitches in the combat subtract from the experience. It’s also difficult for me to tell fans of the original game to play this HD transition because of how much it differentiates itself, though it’s a nice bonus they included the original Flashback for those who wish to breath in its nostalgic aroma.


  • Graphics are great for download title
  • Fun gameplay akin to Shadow Complex
  • Extra VR missions


  • Cheesy voice acting
  • Forgettable story with discombobulated plot elements
  • Frame rate drops at checkpoints and a few heavy gameplay segments
  • Weird sound problems with original game inclusion

Score: 6.2/10