Ubisoft’s Flashback is a remake of the 1993 classic of the same name, a videogame that by many is considered a landmark title for the adventure genre. There are many conventions established by the original title that are still leant upon by even the most modern designs, and for good reason. Interactive adventures have to walk a delicate line between story progression and player involvement, and Flashback managed to handle this in a way no other videogame of its era could claim to.
Things have changed considerably in the twenty years since Flashback’s debut, and videogame design is no longer limited by technology in the same way. Of course there will always be constraints due to hardware, but the likes of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series have proved that the line between story and interaction is much easier to draw than ever before. For this reason Flashback will never have the impact it once did, but that doesn’t prevent it from being a perfectly enjoyable experience even to this day.
The core Flashback experience is, as it always was, dependant on the player’s willingness to explore. Playing in 2D a large map awaits the player with objectives littered throughout; the task being to navigate between each through a combination of platforming, logic puzzles and interaction with characters in the environment. There’s the odd bit of combat thrown in for good measure – with the player afforded both melee attacks and firearms – but by-and-large Flashback is a thinking mans game; or at least an experimenting one’s.
The challenges involved are entirely logical puzzles; the kind that once you know the answer you can’t help but wonder why you didn’t think of that in the first place. There are a number of gather missions and dexterity challenges also, but Flashback was clearly designed for its mental challenges back in 1993 and, thanks to some minor alterations of certain puzzles, this still holds true today.
The quality of Flashback’s graphics clearly affect a lot more than just it’s presentation, as some of the tasks the player faces are much easier with the added dimension of visual clarity. And it does look good: Flashback treads the line walked by the majority of Ubisoft’s digital titles at present, given a spit polish and made to look far better than even the biggest budget retail productions at the beginning of this hardware generation. Flashback today is what every gamer wished Flashback could have been back in 1993; a realisation that is both shocking and heartwarming for any gamer who earned their stripes in the late ‘80s.
Despite the quality presented in most of Flashback’s campaign there is the occasional flaw. The clever environment design can often lead to players missing an objective simply because it blends so well with it’s surroundings, and the demands for backtracking occasionally border on tedious when enemies often seem to respawn within seconds. However, one of the biggest issues Electronic Theatre had with the preview build of Flashback was with the jump commands, which – although still split between analog stick and A button – have been tightened up considerably.
Both elegant and inspiring, Flashback may no longer be the revolutionary design it once was, but it’s still worthy of your attention. This is a videogame that was set aside in the 16-bit era and considered a title that would break the mould; which it did of course, and here in the youth of high-definition systems and console digital distribution Flashback still stands out as a well designed slice of interactive entertainment. It’s worth reliving Flashback for the nostalgia alone, but even if it was before your time there’s enough quality gameplay here to repay your investment.