Recently we have had some old games revived, Mickey Mouse and the Castle of Illusion and Duck tales which may bring a nostalgic smile to the face. Add to that list something that was not a Disney title but none the less rates as a cult classic, Flashback.
Flashback is the tale of an agent, knocked unconscious, and now has a Total Recall type case of amnesia. Pursued by enemies for reasons he does not know, he has no choice but to fight or flee. Guess which of those two is NOT an option?
Our agents journey starts in a jungle environment and soon takes him to a neon lit city.
But first he has to survive long enough to get from jungle to city, piece together his memories, find weapons and tools to survive and furthermore improve his skills and toughen himself up.
As he goes on his journey he realizes why he is the unwelcome center of attention. Like Rowdy Roddy Piper in the cult SF movie They Live!, he is the only man who can see the aliens that are threatening the colony world he is on.
The race is on, it's Total Recall, meets the above mentioned movie, with a touch of Tron thrown in for good measure as our friend can enter a VR world to take on side quests and improve his skills by meeting challenges.
This VR world was missing from the original game, so this is NOT just a rehash of what's gone before, it's a revamp and maybe, perhaps a reboot. If memory serves me well there was supposed to be sequels to this game in the past that never appeared. (Closest we got was Another World, another cult classic that has also been re released)
So maybe this will be the launch pad for more to come?
How does this cult 80's game shape up in the here and now? Let's break it down shall we...
Run, agent run!
What we have here then is a sideways scrolling platform game that I have seen on the web as being classed as a shooter. Well yes, we get a gun, but it really is a platform game with RPG elements.
Movement is, as you can probably guess, is guided by the left stick, and the X button can make him jump, but some ledges can be climbed up too by a slick of the left stick in an upwards direction. Be careful though not to press the X button too hard, as he will jump, land and then jump again which is not always welcome.
It's not as if our hero can fall to his death, it just means you may have to do some extra backtracking to get back to where you were. Annoying but not insurmountable.
There are various side objectives to accomplish so if you have missed something it may actually help you fulfill the aims of a side quest. These usually are in the class of collect so many of this or that item, retrieve something and return it to a A.I controlled NPC.
Main quests can range from delivering a package whilst avoiding or eliminating enemies, or as in one case, escorting an endangered character to a laboratory.
These will reward you with cash, or a power up or some new gadget to aid you in your mission. The first big mission will give you an anti gravity belt, without which means that after jumping down a shaft to get to tunnels that lead to the city, you won't end up resembling a lump of strawberry jam after your descent.
Back to movement and controls, aiming your gun is achieved with the left stick and the right trigger fires the gun. You can hold the right trigger to charge up the weapon and fire a super shot which deals extra damage.
You will also obtain a force shield, which can protect you from harm. Just pull the left trigger to activate it, although it does not stay active for long. The X button enables you to interact with the environment around you, i.e pushing buttons, throwing levers etc etc.
The B button means you can deliver a melee attack, but this seems strangely ineffective against most enemies, so I suggest you use it at your discretion.
Most movement and interaction however is fairly intuitive, though there is a in game tutorial. It's also smooth and fluid and is quite satisfactory.
Sound and vision
Now the title screen may make you think that you are entering a Bladerunner style, rain swept city in a dystopian future. Well dystopian it may be, but it lacks that Bladerunner feel. Most of the time you are in a bright, neon lit environment which may actually be a disappointment to some. All I can say is if you want that Bladerunner style, then go for Deus Ex instead.
There are times where it's dark and gloomy but to be honest, it lacks atmosphere. It's shame as the ambient sound and music is fairly appropriate to the setting and the tale that unfolds.
Explosions and combat sound effects are ok, but lack some impact.
Things move nice and smoothly, there is no stutter or lag as you guide our hero through his mission. No rag doll effects here, and they are not needed.
The main character moves nice and smoothly as stated but again I also repeat, watch out for that occasional double jump!
Smoke and flame are quite nicely rendered and the moments where you need to use a vehicle, are well done and vehicle controls are simple and smooth. Shame there are not a few more stages like that however, as they are quite exciting and nicely paced and may well get the adrenaline flowing.
It's there if you want it. If you are the sort of gamer that MUST collect all items that can be collected, and want to level up to the maximum level possible then those VR based side missions will call you back time and time again.
Most of these have a score that must be beaten and in a set time, but be warned they are not simple, far from it. They are actually quite annoying and although gaining some of those awards may be useful, it's not a 100% essential that you get them all.
Oh and I estimate 10-14 hours will see you through this game from start to finish, though with a harder difficulty setting this game will be quite a challenge.
And you can even play the original title, with it's original graphic presentation on a small arcade machine! Elements of the new version are missing and although a nice reminder of what came before, it does not unlock anything that affects the main game, although it does have achievements attached too it. Again the most dedicated players will want to complete both versions although the main plot remains unchanged. It's there if you want, the choice is yours.
Pros: It's an entertaining romp and a good sci-fi tale. I've seen some really negative reviews of this game elsewhere which I personally feel, are unwarranted. No, it's not perfect, but it is a tale that's worth progressing through and is fun in it's own way.
Graphics as stated are sharp and clear and all works more or less as it should. Intuitive and challenging (some nice puzzle elements) it's a reasonable adventure.
Cons: The double jump can be annoying and hinders from time to time. There is no online play, or co-op action, and no online leader boards. This is not a major gripe for me, but for some it may be an issue.
Escort missions can be annoying as sometimes you have to double back to make sure
he/she is actually following you!
Melee attacks are a little too weak for my taste. The gun seems the best way to go here so some more variety in combat may have been welcome.
A 10-14 hour nostalgic romp, and an engaging game in it's own way. For me it is leading to a temptation to down load Another World which was made (I think) by the same developers, maybe also Castle of Illusion and Duck Tales. Maybe we should remember, the more things change, the more things stay the same.