Title: Turrican Flashback
Developer: Ratalaika Games, Factor 5
Release Date: January 29, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: ININ Games
Developed largely by German developer Manfred Trenz, of Rainbow Arts, back in 1990, Turrican is a game that spawned a series with an interesting history and a cult following. Originally released on the Commodore 64, the first Turrican was ported to a multitude of consoles. Developer Factor 5 ported it to the Commodore 64’s successor, the Amiga, and the Atari ST and CDTV. Factor 5 would continue to be involved with porting the game’s sequels to other consoles and even developing Super Turrican in 1993 for the SNES until Rainbow Arts were eventually consolidated into THQ Deutschland.
Factor 5 themselves didn’t last too much longer either, as they rebranded in America to focus on titles by other western partners such as LucasArts and working on many projects that would ultimately be canceled as the company encountered both financial and legal issues. They shut their doors for good in 2009.
In 2017, a co-founder of the company announced they had returned and also acquired the rights to Turrican.
Obviously, there’s a bit more to it, and it’s an interesting read, but I’ll save you an even more in-depth history lesson. Enter Turrican Flashback, a collection of four Turrican games, Turrican, Turrican 2: The Final Fight, Mega Turrican and Super Turrican, released for modern consoles. I had never touched any of these games myself, and what reason would I have to? Aside from many of their age not holding up, I’m also dreadful at many 2D action games. Well, this collection has a few extra features to make it easier for newbies who want to try holding a collection of classic titles with some interesting history to read about.
In the Turrican games, you play as a cybernetic soldier equipped with the titular “turrican” armor, later named “Bren McGuire” from Turrican 2 onwards. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where these titles stand, but they’re certainly 2D action games. Starting with the original Turrican, your goal is to simply make it to the end of the level. There are stories in these games, but they are more the “in the instruction manual” (or, in this case, in the game select menu) kinds of stories.
The story is all about defeating some sort of evil machine that keeps coming back, even though the third one involves more aliens than machines. Anyway, in the first game, you have two weapons at your disposal: a standard laser blaster and a wave motion cannon of sorts. You can run and jump with the regular blaster, but you need to stay in place to use the cannon. Still, you can angle it, unlike the blaster. You’ve also got the series’ staple morph ball. Yeah, they totally stole this from Metroid, but this isn’t a metroidvania. It’s a mechanic you have from the get go, and you can still fire bullets whilst in the ball. It just deals damage and makes you invincible for as long as you have the energy for it.
The levels may have one correct exit, but another series staple is the level of exploration available in the first two games. It may seem like a classic left to right 2D level, but one misstep will have you plunging into an underground maze of caverns to hunt your way out of.
You’ll find power boosters, health recovery items, shields, and score boosters all over the place to use and structures to climb, so left to right isn’t the clearest cut way to actually clear stages. Bosses can show up anywhere, at any time, so you’ll want to be careful. However, you could also just not be careful, as this release implements save state functionality and flat-out rewinds, allowing you to be your own time god and trick the game into perfect boss fights.
Mega Turrican is more linear and removes the wave cannon, instead opting for a grappling beam allowing you to ascend to greater heights and changing the style of weapon powerups. Super Turrican actually has an opening cutscene to set its game up (not that it ever adds any depth) and returns to the original titles less linear levels but adds little exit arrows to make them easier to traverse.
You may think that with all these additions, the titles will be a walk in the park but absolutely not. These games are brutal, and enjoy kicking your teeth in, so if anything, the easy additions just let you even the playing field. There are cheats in the game select menu, too, which can be anything from flat invincibility and infinite energy to just letting you skip the level entirely.
One cannot review Turrican games without mentioning the absolutely fire soundtracks they actually have. Ok, the first game’s soundtrack is rather boring, but the latter titles hold up real well. It’s no Tim Follin, but Christopher Hülsbeck brings out some absolute jams. It’s especially notable, as he actually developed a whole new music format for the Amiga system to be used for Turrican 2’s soundtrack. The absolute jump in sound quality from 1 onwards is amazing.
Turrican Flashback is a retro gamer or wannabe retro gamer’s dream. A re-release of classic titles with some ways to even the challenging playing field makes this a go-to title for anyone who’s actually played games on the Commodore 64 or someone who would like to get a taste of some stylish games from the very early ’90s without being bombarded in strange mechanics or dodgy translations.
Hang on, if Factor 5 is back, does that mean they’re going to try and make a new Turrican game? An interesting idea…..
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