I really love the iPhone as a gaming device. Part because it is handy to play games on a phone I always carry around but also because classics from my youth are ported to it. Flashback is one of those classic titles that frustrated me beyond comprehension when it was released back in 1992 for the Amiga. If you have played the original Prince of Persia you know what to expect in terms of gameplay. Jumping, dangling, running and killing the odd enemy. Nothing can really prepare you for the strange, deep and intriguing story of Flashback though.
The hero of the game, Conrad, is thrown in the middle of an alien infested jungle. Conrad has no recollection of what happened, and has to recover his lost memory. The game takes you on a journey far beyond what you expect when you jump around in the opening jungle level. I don’t want to spoil anything but I can mention that fans of movies such as Total Recall, Running Man and even Blade Runner will feel somewhat at home in the world of Flashback.
The platform elements of Flashback are really hardcore, when Conrad dies it is game over. And Conrad dies a lot in this game. Falls from high heights, electrocution, shot by aliens with shotguns and that is just on the first level.
The game originally features save points throughout, and those have been included in this version. The iPhone version also has it’s own save game system where you can save whenever you want to. This makes for a less frustrating game as it is often a matter of trial and error. In the original there is also a password system giving you the chance to change level. In this port the password system is disabled, it is found in the main menu but I can’t put any password in. Maybe it is just me missing something because I think they should have removed the password showing once you start a level otherwise. It is a minor flaw to an otherwise good port. The in game menu system is also new to the iPhone, and I really like it. Being able to save after a horrendously hard jump is really neat.
Conrad moves like a real human, running starts slowly building speed. The animation and flow of his movement was really impressive back in 1992, and still is. Conrad can move pretty much like you expect from a human with agent training. Ok, he doesn’t get fatigued and his upper body strength, and jumping capability is a bit better than that of your average iPhone gamer. It takes some getting used to the virtual eight way control stick. The controls appear wherever you touch on the right side of the screen. That is really nifty as you can avoid covering important parts of the game when needed to. For example some jumps need careful timing, and it is imperative that you can see Conrad at those occasions. I have had trouble in other platformers with fixed controls, and I like this free control solution. There are a bunch of buttons, and still after hours of playing I tend to press them all when encountering something new in the game. There is a use button, an A button, a gun button and an item button. Gun button simply holsters/draws the gun. You shoot, run, jump by using the A button. The use button is mainly used for using equipped items. When in doubt, use the A button as it has a lot of functions mapped to it. Multitouch works really well in Flashback.
Getting better at an old school platformer is really rewarding, I love it when I reach that elusive platform or find that card key I am missing. Patience is a virtue and a must in a game such as Flashback. I remember not managing to finish the first level back in my Amiga days due to frustration.
Flashback makes for a perfect mix of different game elements. It is platformer where timing jumps is important, it is a puzzler where you have to plan and backtrack to progress, and it is a shooter where you have to eliminate aliens. The blend is perfect, and probably the main reason why Flashback still feels fresh.
17 years and a couple of William Gibson books later I really enjoy the story, and the game as it deserves. The graphics and music are still good, and don’t feel dated. According to my intel Flashback is what you call abandonware, meaning that the license is free. There might be more ports of Flashback later but I think that this version by Manomio is good enough to satisfy the need for Flashback on the iPhone. Should also be mentioned that developer Manomio cares a lot for the title as they did a huge update fixing a lot of problems the port suffered from initially. I reviewed the game playing version 1.1. If you read reviews elsewhere take note of the version reviewed.
From my youth I remember three classic puzzle platformers, and those were Flashback, Prince of Persia and Another World. In your lifetime I think you should have experienced at least one of them, and as Flashback is the only one found on the iPhone today that is a good place to start.
Presentation & Graphics
The handdrawn backgrounds still looks great after all these years. The animations of Conrad is better than those found in most other iPhone games today. The close-up cut scenes feel a bit dated, but still plays a big part in getting the setting right.
Lovely menu music from the good old days of the Amiga. Sound effects are really good with slamming doors, ambient sounds depending on environment and solid gun fire sounds. The game fades out your own music, but you need the game sounds to get the full Flashback experience.
Good controls paired with great level design. Patience is needed as this game doesn’t reward you right away, you have to invest some time and thought into it first.
The game has three difficulty settings, and getting through the game even on easy takes hours. It is worth replaying to relive the storyline.
Flashback is a classic worth investing time into.