I’ve gotta say, Turrican still holds up. It’s probably one of the perfect examples of old school run and gun gameplay. It’s got tons of enemies, a whole lot of replayability and some certified bangers in the soundtrack. Honestly, I think you owe it to yourself to check it out.
What is Turrican?
Turrican was a bit before my time. The installment that started it all first dropped in 1990 while I only dropped in 1998. Being a newborn, I couldn’t exactly hop onto a console right off the bat. It was a good couple of years before I had the interest, let alone the motor skills to enjoy any games outside of hide-and-seek or “drie stokkies”. This meant that I effectively missed the bus on games from the 90’s. Many of the releases from this era were pioneers in gaming, with ideas and mechanics that have evolved the games we know and love today. Turrican was one of those games, a pioneer in fast paced shooters along with titles like Contra and Metal Slug.
The plots of the Turrican games are actually quite interesting, especially the early titles. They are summarised for you in the main menu, but aren’t really expanded upon mid-game. That is until you get to Mega Turrican and Super Turrican which includes an intro and outro explaining the world and events leading to the protagonist donning the state of the art turrican Armour. The original game is an altogether different version of what the turrican actually is. Here turrican is a bio-engineered warrior who was created for the purpose of taking back the colony world of Alterra from a rogue AI. However the core plot point remains the same. There are nefarious forces in your way, wipe them out.
Runnin’ and Gunnin’
I really, really love Turrican’s gameplay across all four entries in the Flashback collection. It’s fast and challenging at times, but comes with the ultimate crutch, the rewind feature. Along with the inclusion of save states, rewind is a newly added feature for the release on the Nintendo Switch and PS4. Honestly, my hat goes off to those who have completed the game without it. The constant barrage of enemies and obstacles are no walk in the park. Anyone who could beat it with no rewinds or save states deserves a medal. Of course using either of these tools is completely optional, and in order to earn trophies, you need to beat the game without them.
However, as unforgiving as I found Turrican Flashback to be at times, it was always a blast. All thanks to the range of weapons and abilities you have access to. The lightning whip in Turrican 1 and 2 has got to be my favourite weapon in the series. Unfortunately however, by Mega Turrican it is replaced by a plasma rope. This tool is used for traversal, allowing the player to climb up and swing to out of reach spots. I can understand the inclusion. It adds depth to movement and exploration and keeps the series moving forward and growing. But it being added at the expense of my beloved lightning whip, left me sorely disappointed. This isn’t the only instance of something like this in the collection. The grenades and mines from the first game were scrapped; and what was once the lightning whip and plasma rope becomes the freeze beam in Super Turrican. I will admit though, the freeze beam came in pretty handy.
Turrican seems to have taken some inspiration from Metroid, in both its level design and the special ability to morph into a wheel which both grants protection and damages any foes in your path. Maps in Turrican, especially the early entries, are large and sprawling. There are hidden blocks that drop shields, power ups and weapon abilities for your gun like a bouncing bullet, multiple projectiles and wide laser beams. This along with the potential to find 1-ups (extra lives) creates incentive to explore.
The player finds themselves wandering through every pathway and jumping down into uncertain areas in hopes of finding any and everything useful. I loved this approach to level design as it not only encourages the player to take risks and explore, but also to replay levels. I’m certain that on the original platforms like the Commodore 64 many people were playing through levels multiple times, memorising every secret. Especially when considering the fact that there was no save state or rewind feature. You kind of had to get familiar with your surroundings if you wanted to survive. Although the series became more linear as it went on, it still kept some level of exploration available for the player.
Turrican has got a wide variety of enemies in the collection, from flying types and giant robots, to creatures clearly inspired by the movie Alien, like eggs bursting with facehuggers. The diverse assortment of creatures and machines to fight and avoid make for gameplay that keeps fresh throughout extended sessions.
The stars of the show however, have to be the bosses. They are obviously the most challenging, but the player is able to memorise the move sets and routes of movement. There are bosses galore across the collection and they really step it up by Mega Turrican. In this third entry you’ve got a boss fight at multiple sections in each world, and they’re all pretty great. They’re memorable, and have got just the right amount of challenge to keep you on your toes. Thanks to the rewind ability it never goes so far as to make you throw controllers across the room, or tear the hair from your head.
As Appealing as Ever
Even for someone playing a game in 2021 which came out so long ago, it still looks excellent. I loved Turrican 2 and Super Turrican’s visuals and colour gradients in certain levels. I also love the added depth in the backgrounds of Mega Turrican that ebb and flow, breathing life into each world.
And then there’s the music. The soundtrack in this series is top tier, my ears loved every moment, and I could hardly stop my head from bobbing along as I made my way through a map. From the menus to the boss fights, I couldn’t get enough of the music. Chris Huelsbeck, the composer, killed it in every game, and I just hope that if Turrican ever gets itself a modern remake that he returns to lend his talents to the project.
Speaking of remakes, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that Turrican deserves one. This is a title that may have been forgotten by some throughout the years. Though, after playing through the Flashback collection, I can only hope that it comes to fruition. When considering the success of the Doom Franchise following the 2016 reboot. I’d say it has the potential to compete with the frantic gunplay and iconic weaponry. But until that day comes, I’d recommend checking Turrican Flashback out post-haste. It’s worth it.