So this one felt like a blast from the past, activating my nostalgia centres the second I heard it's name. My earliest gaming memories are of my old Commodore home computer and Turrican was one of my favourite franchises. Which made this collection one I had to take a look at, does it still stand up or has nostalgia affected my memories of this series?
Now what you actually get from this collection is 4 games, all straight ports, taken from 3 different systems. The earliest 2 games, Turrican I and Turrican II were released on a few different systems but it's the Commodore Amiga version we get here. Alongside them are Mega Turrican and Super Turrican, taken from the Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo respectively, rounding out a series of ports that represents the series quite well.
There are some slight differences across the 4 games of course, things like the graphics getting better as you go, or knockback and invincibility getting added but for the most part gameplay and features stay consistent regardless of which game in the series you play. Imagine Metroid, take away the backtracking, puzzle solving and collecting of new abilities leaving behind a pure run, gun and jump platforming SHMUP and Turrican is what you get. Your power-armour wearing character can even turn into a blade covered "Morphball" although it does function slightly differently to Samus Aran's version.
Starting the game you'll realise all your power armour wearing protagonists weapons are already available to you, alongside the aforementioned morphball you'll find screen-wiping smartbombs, mines, missile launchers and an aimable omni-directional Lazer beam. Each is assigned to a different button (and can be customised) making their use quick, as long as you remember which does what. Having 6 different weapon buttons can be a little hard to remember at the onset. Each type also has seperate, and limited, ammo too so firing the wrong weapon can cost ammo you can't afford to waste. Searching the levels however will lead to ammo pickups being discovered, adding a few precious shots to your arsenal.
Which brings me to the level design. One thing that made Turrican stand out from the competition was the layout of its levels. Many other platforming SHMUPs opted for a linear design where you continually head right to advance but not so with this franchise. Each stage is quite open, covered in platforms leading upward, and drops heading downwards. Alternative paths, dead ends, extra lives, ammo, bosses and powerful enemies can all be found (or avoided) so finding the optimum path through to the exit is an integral part of the struggle.
As is dealing with the enemies. You'll fight a myriad of opponents, both little and huge, liberally spread across the skies, platforms and caves of each level and they take many different forms. Insects, robots, aliens, cyborgs and vehicles are all represented with the lovely sprite work. Each type has its own movement and attack patterns, as you'd expect, and in true retro game style can be exceptionally damaging and difficult to avoid. Expect to die over and over, experiencing deaths you might feel are unfair, throughout the whole collection but especially in the earlier games like 1 & 2. When contact is made with an enemy, you receive no knockback or few seconds of invulnerability like you get in many modern games (and the later games like Mega and Super). Instead touching any baddie, their bullets or environmental traps will simply cause your health to plummet without any indication apart from a shrinking health bar. Modern gamers, used to more feedback telling them when they're taking damage, might find this takes some getting used too, especially when trying to work out the perfect patterns for taking down bosses.
Another feature, common to shooters of this age, that could also irk those not used to it is the fact that your main weapon can only shoot forward. I know that sounds minor when you read it but when actually playing I kept trying to shoot upwards or diagonally at enemies above me, only to keep reminding myself that wasn't possible. Basically what you get here is a true retro experience with all the pros and cons that entails.
With that being said however, there are a few optional features added to make this old school shooter experience a bit more accessible for the younglings. First up is a "save anywhere" function, letting you create a save file that allows you to stop and start wherever you want. Perfect for short sessions of "on the go" gaming. Which is great. It's the second addition that's way more useful though, a "rewind" function. Walked right into an enemy and crippled your health bar? Rewind. Accidentally fired off the wrong superweapon, wasting precious ammo? Rewind. Missed that pixel perfect leap between platforms? Yip, you guessed it, Rewind. Anytime you feel you've made mistake you just hold down the left bumper and time will reverse in half second increments, and this can be used as much (or as little) as you like. It really helps with the more difficult parts and can take much of the more frustrating elements like constant deaths and restarts out of the equation.
Even with these additions factored in though, Turrican Flashback still contains 4 quintessentially retro titles and if you aren't ready for that then this collection might not be for you. It's a look back to how gaming used to be, back to a time when games hadn't shaken off their coin-op designed-to-drain-all-your-10ps heritage yet, and when even home computer versions were very difficult, with dying and restarting from the very beginning not just common, but an expected part of gameplay. As such it can feel a little punishing and unfair to modern eyes. Those who remember Turrican fondly will find this a very faithful port though, with both it's look and feel very much intact. Retro gamers and oldies will probably find something to enjoy, those expecting modern mechanics might be disappointed. However you get 4 games, spread across 3 consoles and will probably find at least one to entertain you!
Note: A copy of the title was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 7/10
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