Developed by SEEP and published by Ratalaika Games S.L. Thunderflash is a retro top-down scrolling shooter. For old school gamers, this will tickle their nostalgic memories of maybe Mercs on the Mega Drive or Who Dares Wins on the Commodore 64. Those previous games were simple shooters and tested your reflex and your memory for patterns. Thunderflash is a real throwback both musically and visually as it has kept that real retro 8/16 bit style. With limited credits and a high score meter, it has tried to go all out to replicate the feel of the older style.
The story is as weak as they were back then, mixed with a little confusion. They claim ‘The Kashmir’ is being occupied by a criminal organization called the Bloody Wolf, so you have to do your country proud and eliminate this threat. Now, Kashmir is an area partly in India and partly in Pakistan. The way your bosses talk with such swagger, I think you play the part of the US. Kashmir, according to online sources, is over 200km in area, so it being occupied by an evil faction should mean its quite a large faction. It’s a good job the US sent in just 2 commandos to eliminate this threat and do their country proud…. I jest of course, as the story is not important. You play as two kick-ass commandos and you need to bring down the criminals – that’s all you need to know.
The controls are true to the original style games in that you use the left stick to move and aim. That will make sense to old school gamers but those brought up on dual-stick controls will see this as odd. Mainly because to aim at different enemies without losing your range you need to pull a move I used to call the “circle back shuffle”. This is because if one enemy is to the left and one to the right if you just moved that way the chances are you would be walking into their line of fire. Instead, you aim at one to bring them down and you would have to move backwards and circle back and then move towards the other. But old school moves aside you move with the left stick and you have 2 buttons to use, one for your main gun and one for your rocket special weapon with limited ammo. As you scroll through the screen and kill enemies and shoot barrels there will be occasional item drops. You will see medals and gold to boost your high score, energy kits to restore health, extra rockets to use, and different guns.
The different guns you pick up have limited ammo and shoot in different styles. There is a 3-way shooting gun, a long-range flame thrower and a fast-firing plasma weapon. They are all helpful in their own ways but once the ammo is gone you revert to your single firing gun. The enemies are what you would expect from this retro style and that is about 6 types of enemy that are copied and pasted as you scroll throughout the level. There are the standard dual-wielding knife melee enemies who charge you, the marksman who is rooted to the spot but their bullets seem to always find you, and the grenadier who throws grenades in no logical pattern to make it difficult to dodge. Those are the main enemies who feature almost on every level, but some stages have unique enemies and take the game in a real farfetched direction.
By this, I mean after a lot of running and gunning as you’d expect they seem to break things up with a stage that makes no sense. At one stage you are just on a motorbike which changes to a side-scrolling view and you have to take out motorcycle riding enemies whilst dodging obstacles. Another stage sees you in hovercrafts, but rather than fighting enemies you are shooting semi-sentient mines that swerve towards you to blow you up. Lastly and most weirdly is a stage that has you in jet packs and what looks like a Santa outfit, taking on enemies in jetpacks – why not, I suppose! The bosses are what makes me think that they stole parts of another game to make a Frankenstein of a game. Not all of them though, some of the bosses are standard like a helicopter and turrets etc. But some are a bit out there like a tank with horns and two extended arms with spinning horns on the end. The water stage boss is a dragon robot with multiple sections. The final boss is on a flying tank with protruding arm horns.
Thunderflash can be tough on your own and you will die quite a lot. Even though I am familiar with the games in the past, no muscle memory or reflex will help you here as too many things are designed to make you fail. There are traps that are usually a breeze to dodge like a moving rotary saw or a timed laser gate. But there is one trap that almost killed me more than the enemies; mines. They are small grey and on some of these stages camouflaged into the basic backgrounds. What’s cheap is that the enemies don’t trigger them and you are not given enough time to get away from them. If like me you couldn’t quite make it on the 10 credits the game starts you with then it unlocks the option to select 15 credits and another for 20 credits should you fail again.
There is a level select option to carry on where you perished which I used to complete the game as I made it to the last section and didn’t really want to play it all again, but the game is very short and can be completed in one sitting easily. It gave me almost all the 1000g achievements except one. For that, you have to play the survival mode game option and kill 100 drones which was way easier than I thought it would be and I probably could have doubled that number may be tripled, but once I got the achievement I kind of lost interest in that mode. The game does offer a boss rush mode and hints that there is a special ending if you complete the main game without using the level select option. But as they haven’t tied an achievement to them then there isn’t much motivation to do that. Thunderflash does offer couch co-op which is fun to play with a friend, but it makes an already short game even easier – when you’re not getting in each other’s way that is.
Thunderflash is a good blast from the past and does make you feel like you are playing a game from that era. It is fun to play through in its randomness, but it is quite short and I’m sure once you complete the game and have got all of the achievements you are unlikely to revisit it. The extra modes do offer some replayability but challenging for the high score just doesn’t mean what it used to. It’s a fun, quickplay game for fans of the old-style games and achievement hunters.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.