Xbox LIVE Arcade Reviews

Flashback Review: Shadow Simplex

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Saying “Metroidvania” instantly conjures in any player’s mind the basic elements which comprise a pseudo-genre of 2D gaming. We all know these games consist of maps to explore, powerups to find, increasing strength (or character levels), and weaker enemies enroute to larger bosses. Despite how easily that pops into your head, it’s sadly a little more complicated pointing to recognizable examples of these games outside the Castlevania or Metroid franchises – particularly when you throw the “for Xbox360” stipulation in there.

Flashback, in an attempt to fill this gaping hole, is both a throwback and reimagining of an old Amiga title by the same name (whose original version is even included here, for nostalgic fans). Given a bit more competition, this new title might not hold up so well – particularly when directly compared to other entry giants like Shadow Complex. But in today’s market, despite some frustrating controls and startlingly short length, Flashback holds up relatively well.

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Playing as an amnesiac who crash lands in the jungle, platforming is relatively simple and combat is straightforward enough – rather than jumping to reach levels above you, all you have to do is hold up on the thumbstick and your character does the rest. This can become slightly awkward in later stages when trying to move forward and backward while looking up or down to fire, but for the most part the action in the game never grows too intense.

As you explore the map you’ll find powerups and gain experience to increase in level, but rarely do you feel as though you’re gaining strength or picking up abilities that let you go places you never knew you could go. At a particular point in the game you do find a teleporter, which you can throw through crevices or past deadly lasers to warp to inaccessible spots. But this ability comes far too late in the narrative and is only really used in a couple different ways for puzzle solving.

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There’s certainly no denying the charm and beauty of the sci-fi world, but things are depressingly linear and surprisingly over in about three hours of play. There are some VR challenges you can face and, as mentioned, the original version of the game, plus achievements to earn for completing the game on higher difficulties (and you can carry your save game over each time). So there is longevity in a sense, provided you are in love with the experience enough to want to keep returning.

The most amazing thing about Flashback is the fact that although it was originally released in 1992, with a little bit of reimagining there’s still a place for it here today. Though the game isn’t perfect in what it does, it still stokes the desire for fresher titles, with bigger budgets, tightened controls and longer narratives. Flashback is a great framework and decent fun. Given more time and freedom from the source material, a sequel might even come close to rivaling the greats. It’s not quite there yet, but for starved fans of the pseudo-genre it’s certainly worth trying.

SCORE: 7.0 out of 10

A code for Flashback was provided to Pixel Related for review.

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