Our first family computer, when I was much younger, was the Amstrad CPC 464, a self-contained compact computer featuring a multi-coloured keyboard and a cassette deck – yeah, games used to run off audio cassettes! I have a fond memory of many games on the platform but there was one which I used to play all the time, despite being terrible at it – Turrican. Now, thanks to ININ Games and Ratalaika Games, I finally get the chance to see if I can now complete it via the Turrican Flashback Collection on the PS4.
Originally developed by Factor 5 back in the 90s, the Turrican Flashback Collection was modernised and ported by Ratalaika Games, a studio well-known for their porting and publishing of cross-buy indie titles on the PlayStation and pretty much every other console out there (with the exception of the Atari VCS – despite being perfect for their games). The publisher is ININ Games, a team that seems focused on reviving old classics having recently released Bubble Bobble 4 Friends and the Space Invaders Forever collection.
Turrican has haunted my dreams for years, the ‘ahead of its time’ design combined with brutal and unforgiving gameplay made it one of the best games of my childhood, yet I couldn’t beat it. Did this new collection give me motivation and the ability to emerge the victor? Let’s find out…
Turrican (Amiga – 1990) is a brutal side-scrolling action platformer from the 90s, if you grew up with an Amiga, SNES or Mega Drive, you’ve most likely heard of this classic series. You control the titular protagonist, a bionic metallic warrior, as you try and rid the world from the evil sentient A.I. known as MORGUL.
In the sequel, Turrican II (Amiga – 1991), you find yourself under attack by “The Machine”, an evil cybernetic tyrant who destroys your ship and all but one man, Bren McGuire. As the lone survivor of the Avalon-1, you don the shining armour of Turrican as you set out on a murderous rampage, seeking revenge against those who killed your allies.
Mega Turrican (Mega Drive – 1994) sees Bren McGuire suit-up once more as he heads out to face The Machine again, for the final time. The Machine has destroyed dozens of planets and taken hundreds of innocent people captive, yet a young girl manages to send out a cry for help, a message which Bren intercepts. As soon as he realises his greatest foe is the one responsible, he knows it’s up to him to end this once and for all.
Super Turrican (Super Nintendo – 1993) is very similar to the plot of Mega Turrican, only The Machine has been freezing people instead of destroying planets and enslaving the citizens. But, other than that the story is pretty much the same – Bren received a distress call from some survivors, realises The Machine is back, and then dons his suit for the final showdown.
Looking at the Turrican Wiki (as I’m not very knowledgable when it comes to the Turrican releases), it appears there are two missing games – which I’ll discuss later in the review.
Turrican is a very hard side-scrolling shoot-em-up with platforming, backtracking, and exploration thrown into the mix. This is the same for all titles in the series, with the later ones providing new gameplay mechanics and more densely-detailed environments. There are a few obvious inspirations in the gameplay from similar games at the time, such as the ability to morph into a bomb-dropping ball as first utilised by Samus, another protagonist in a bionic suit.
Each level is linear yet open for exploration. Rather than simply going from point A to B, you’re forced to move in all four directions as you explore big levels for enemies, secrets, weapons, and the exit – whilst on the clock. That’s right, Turrican has a timer that results in instant death if you’ve not escaped by the time it reaches zero – even if you’re using cheats in some of the games. This adds an extra level of stress and frustration in this classic collection as you have to not only try your hardest not to die, but you also need to be mindful of how many seconds you have left.
As you move through the titles, from Turrican to Super Turrican, you can see how the games’ design and mechanics develop. The first two are quite simple in their mechanics, run and gun with all your might, picking up upgrades as you go. Yet the later games introduce the morph ball ability, a rope that you can shoot and swing with, and even special moves that can wipe out everyone on-screen or those all around you.
Each game is solid in its mechanics, despite being very hard – although the later ones do have a difficulty selector, which was a welcomed addition.
Thanks to the work from Ratalaika Games, the Turrican Flashback collection isn’t a simple emulation of the original games – well, it is but there are a few bonus visual options. First of all, as with most retro collections, you have the option to emulate a CRT, adding scanlines to the gameplay. I’m not really a fan of this effect, but if you like it then there’s an option to enable it as well as customise it. I think this is the first time I’ve seen options to adjust the type, how intense it is, how sharp, how much it curves, and other such options. It’s usually on, off, and a few presets.
In terms of the general visuals, you can play the games in fullscreen, 4:3 or in their original aspect and pixel ratio – resulting in the game being smaller than the edges of the TV – I just played in 4:3 and was happy with the results. If you pick either of the first two options, you can choose to scale with a soft, crispy, or razor level of scaling. Also, you can choose what backgrounds you want if you pick either of the latter two options (as they don’t fill the screen) – picking from None, Turrican Flashback, Mega Turrican, or Turrican II (no love here for Super Turrican or the original game!)
Finally, there’s something you don’t see too often, you can pick what colour mode the games run in. You have RGB, B&W, BGR, BRG, RBG, GRB, and GBR, each one basically altering which colours are used – kinda like the Super GameBoy with its customisable pallets, but these are only preset settings and not editable.
Would I have liked to see any other options? I would have liked more filter options for the visuals, there’s a smoothing one that makes the games look more rounded instead of blocky, which common emulators have, but other than the CRT option, there’s no visual filters.
There’s enough here to emulate the game as if it’s on an old TV and adjust the size of the gameplay screen to match your preference. I imagine this will be more than enough for the majority of people – it’s more than some of the other retro collections provide.
The Turrican Flashback collection has an additional feature that I wish other retro collections would have, as well as a feature I despise and is very surprising considering who the porting studio was! First, the good thing, each game has a ‘Cheat’ menu, a screen that tells you what button combinations or codes you have to type in to activate certain cheats. This is handy as it means you don’t have to scourer the internet and look for an old article on GameFAQs and hope the codes work on the emulated versions.
The first bad thing, activating any of these cheats instantly blocks obtaining any trophies – they even stop your kills from generating a score within the game. So, you can’t happily plod along as you could in the Aladdin and The Lion King collection, with invincibility, and easily grab all the trophies. For fans of the series who want to show their skills at obtaining the trophies, this is a good thing as it means the leaderboards on PSNProfiles won’t be full of dirty cheaters (like me).
The second bad thing is that there are two gameplay modes – Standard and Trophy Challenge. In ‘Standard’, you can use save states and the rewind function (holding L1 to undo any silly mistakes you make), but you can’t earn any trophies. That’s right, you can only earn trophies if you avoid the temptation to use cheats AND play in the mode that disables the rewind and saving functions! This is why I used cheats, as I was playing the Standard mode so I wasn’t going to earn any trophies anyway!
Due to you having to resist any form of making the game easier (other than the in-game difficulty selector on a few games), just how hard is the game? Personally, I really struggled to get anywhere when playing the game normally – just as I did many years ago on my Amstrad. As such, I’m ashamed to say that even now, as a 36-year-old, I’m unable to progress within the game unless I’m using the cheats or the rewind function. But, if you’re really into your retro gaming and love the challenge old classics present, then the Turrican Flashback collection would be the perfect game to test your skills with.
Above I said that the trophy situation was strange, based on who the port team were – what did I mean? Ratalaika Games are the team who ported the game for ININ Games, a studio well-known among the trophy hunter scene for their incredibly easy to achieve Platinum trophy games. For years they’ve published games where you buy it once and get multiple versions (PS Vita and PS4, now PS4 and PS5), usually offering the platinum trophy in less than an hour and without completing the actual game. Turrican Flashback is the Dark Souls of Ratalaika Games‘ games (although I expect ININ Games had a major part in deciding the trophies).
Regarding the trophies, the EU version currently sits at 0.9% of people who own it having the Platinum. There are gems such as beating the first, second and Mega game without using ANY continues, collecting a large number of diamonds in each game, finding and beating secret bosses, and collecting a number of extra lives in each. Surprisingly, there are no trophies for playing Super Turrican – did they just forget that game was part of the collection? Due to these incredibly difficult trophies (for me, anyway), this collection is one I’ll play casually but know I’ll never obtain any trophies within.
Super and Mega Turrican
I was pondering over these two titles just before I wrote this review, the Wiki says that Mega Turrican is basically the console version of Turrican III, yet Super Turrican was released the same year. This confused me as it seems like Super Turrican was the odd-one-out, having no number or link to a previous game (directly). But then I looked into the details of each game a little closer – Mega Turrican was released on the Mega Drive and Super Turrican was released on the Super Nintendo! It’s another instance of the same game being made for two systems with a similar plot but different gameplay – like Aladdin from the Aladdin and The Lion King collection.
So, although they both cover the same concept, and some of the gameplay is similar, these two games have very different levels and even a new set of weapons and abilities. Super Turrican even had a Director’s Cut made, which was never officially released, and a sequel which was aptly called Super Turrican II. Sadly, this collection doesn’t include either the Director’s Cut or the sequel – which would have instantly boosted the appeal to pick this up as the DC version has only shipped with the Analogue Super Nt, having been rejected by Nintendo for the Wii Virtual Console due to never having previously been a published release.
The only theory I have, in regards to these two games not being in the collection, is that they couldn’t strike a deal with the original publisher of the sequel and maybe the DC version has an agreement with the Analogue Super Nt which is still in place? I’ve had a look online, at the physical version of the game, to see if ININ Games decided to do what they did to the Space Invaders Forever collection, put more games in the physical version which weren’t in the digital one, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.
I do find it a little strange that there are no trophies for Super Turrican though, maybe it was a last-minute inclusion?
Music and bonus features
The audio within all four games sounds incredible, the developers have managed to emulate the music so it sounds brilliant and super clear. Even the vocals which are present in a few of the games are easy to understand and quite clean, considering how old the games are and that vocals weren’t common back then. The only downside is that there’s no soundtrack option in the menu, allowing you to easily listen to the audio whilst doing something else. A few retro games include this feature, such as the Aladdin and Lion King collection, so it’s a shame to see it missing here.
When you think about it, there is a lack of any bonus features in the collection – something I’ve noticed in previous ININ Games‘ games. Bubble Bobble 4 Friends was the latest game in years, yet other than the original arcade game as a bonus feature, there was no history or info on the series. The Space Invaders Forever collection had a bunch of missing games (held back for the physical edition) and any form of history, despite being a collection to celebrate the anniversary. This collection is celebrating 30 years of Turrican, but I see no celebration, just a few paragraphs about each game.
I’m not complaining, and I don’t think it affects the quality of the games on offer, because the gameplay, visual options, and emulation are great. But, as a milestone collection that is supposedly celebrating a beloved franchise and bringing it to a new generation of gamers, I feel it should have a timeline, concept art, soundtracks, interviews, trailers, the two missing games, etc… Capcom provided a comprehensive bonus section in their Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, as did Konami and SNK.
New, young gamers won’t have any idea what these old retro games are, stuff in as much history as you can and I’m sure you’ll have more fans waiting for the long-awaited revival.
In terms of the games themselves, the Turrican Flashback collection is a great way to replay the classic series, with or without the rewind and saving mechanics. However, in terms of a collection that is celebrating the 30th anniversary, it once again falls short by offering no bonus features or additional content for the player to enjoy and educate themselves with. The trophies are disabled unless you play the game old-school, so only the most patient, skilful, and those with quick reflexes will be the ones who obtain the platinum – showcasing just how good they are at brutal retro games. For the rest of us, the provided cheats and rewind mechanic means we can casually enjoy each game and finally see the end credits – even if we had to cheat to do so!
If you grew up in the 90s, you will know about Turrican, it may even be one of your favourite games of that era. If so, you can finally replay these classic titles on modern consoles with a few CRT visual options and colour modes. If you’ve not played them before, but you like retro games that kick you when you’re down, points and laugh at you, then slaps you until you cry, you’ll probably enjoy the challenge this collection gives you.
Turrican Flashback Collection£24.99
- - A great selection of classic games
- - Some visual options to enhance the experience
- - The music is incredible
- - Options for both casual and hardcore gamers
- - Solid and responsive controls
- - Two games are missing, Super Turrican: Director's Cut and Super Turrican II
- - You can't earn trophies if you enable cheats or the mode with save states and the rewind function
- - Brutally difficult
- - No bonus extras despite being the 30th anniversary collection