Also just known as “Flashback“, this 2D platformer was originally released in 1992 for the Amiga computer, but was ported all over the place including the Sega Genesis, which I’m reviewing today.
I remember reading through one of the many video-game magazines that were out at the time (don’t really remember which one), and there was a preview for a game described as “CD-ROM on a cartridge”. A game that was going to use motion-capture technology so the ‘platformer character’ would seem to have very fluid mobility. A game that was based in a dark sci-fi universe instead of the usual cute-fantasyland. A game developed by the French….alright I admit that last part didn’t sell me on it, but the rest made for a launch-day purchase, and those that know me realize spending full retail doesn’t come easily for me.
Delphine Software, now long gone, was the French Developer behind Flashback, and had previously given us Another World/Out of This World. Not to mention a future game by the name of Shaq Fu and a Playstation sequel, Fade to Black. Although not a true prequel of Flashback, Another World is still seen in the eyes of the computer-gaming community as genius. Flashback is set in the future of spaceships, holograms, and jetpacks…although they still use bullets in guns. Your hero, a Galaxia Bureau of Investigations agent named Conrad Hart wakes in a jungle with no memory of who he is or what he’s doing out there. Luckily, a holocube is found nearby with cryptic instructions. He discovered that shape-shifters are on Earth and have been infiltrating the government for takeover. He was captured, mind erased, and after escaping, wakes on this jungle-planet. The game is Conrad’s story to regain his full memory and stop the aliens. I remarked on Twitter as I was playing the game that it’s a sci-fi tale that combines elements of “Total Recall“, “Running Man“, and “TheyLive“….and I had a lot of agreements. Why “Running Man“? Everybody loves a killer-game show. Eventually, you’ll make your way to the alien planet and take the fight to them, but I don’t want to spoil any more of the game for you. Trust me when I say it’s worth the ride.
Visually, it may seem at first like a standard screen-to-screen platformer, but once you get into it you’ll be blown away at the phenomenal work with the backgrounds and the intricate level designs. The levels are linear, meaning eventually there is only one way out of an area, but with clever use of backtracking, it seems very wide-open. Conrad himself, as I mentioned before, looks human. That may sound silly now, but in 1992 was groundbreaking technology.
The way Conrad runs, jumps, stops, rolls, even pulls his gun will blow you away. I admit the first go-around with the game I just held the fire button down and shot in the air because it was so damn cool to watch the cartridges fly out from the gun. Also, I think you’ll appreciate little touches like Conrad‘s jacket flapping while running, and the fact that you can’t actually see a ‘bullet trail’ after shooting.
Each level has it’s own unique environment, from the thick jungle on Titan, to the city of New Washington, the Paradise Club, and the Death Tower. Delphine went all-out to give us a fantastic view of this universe, and there are a number of ‘event’ cut-scenes that help move the story along.
Audibly, the sound effects are a bit sparse, by design. Like in a classic movie, it can be a bit silent until DANGER STRIKES, then the heart-pounding, blood-pumping music adds to your frantic gameplay. It was a welcome display of ‘just enough to tantilize’, but certainly not too much.Like a Tomb Raider game, there will be switches, keys, and hidden items that will allow you to enter and exit doors. Solving puzzles have always been a favorite of mine, but if you’re frustrated easily maybe this isn’t the game for you. There will be some controller-throwing moments when you’re trying to make a particularly-difficult jump, especially given the fact that Conrad will die if he falls from to great a height. All you have is your gun for weaponry, but it has unlimited ammo. For defense, a shield which will take a couple of hits before going out, and can be recharged at certain stations. Also, a force field will be found later, along with other cool items like a teleporter and rocks…yes, rocks. Don’t laugh, you’ll need them. Save stations are also spread throughout, and I believe not too far apart. But, keep in mind there’s only one save “block”, so don’t do anything stupid and save directly after (I’ve done it).
Flashback: The Quest For Identity still holds up perfectly today. A 6-10 hour adventure that looks gorgeous, has clever and confusing puzzles, tells a great story, and has plenty of mutant-killing action. If this game is not on your Top-10 Platformer list, then you’ve never played it. A must-have for any Sega Genesis collection.