Back in 1992, Delphine Software released Flashback for the Amiga. The game became a hit, and the following year, it was ported to other computers and consoles. Among those ports, was the DOS version. So how did the port turn out? Read on.
In Flashback, you take on the role of Conrad B. Hart, an agent for the Galaxia Bureau of Investigation. After learning of a plot involving aliens disguised as government officials who want to destroy the Earth, Conrad makes a copy of his memory, just in case he's captured and has his memory erased by the aliens (and really, who doesn't do this these days?). As fate would have it, he is indeed captured, has his memory erased, and is left for dead after escaping his captors. And this is where our game begins.
The first thing you'll notice about the Flashback, are the graphics. With backgrounds that are wonderfully detailed, and animation that is very fluid (thanks to the use of rotoscoping technology), the game is quite nice too look at and watch. The cinemas also have a very fluid feel, and look rather good despite being comprised of relatively simple, flat shaded polygonal shapes. The next thing you'll notice, is the lack of music during the levels. There are tunes that play during the cinemas, but for the most part, you just hear the sound effects as you go from scene to scene. This may seem odd at first, but thanks to the sound effects being done well, you become accustomed to the minimalist approach the game designers took with the aural aspect of the game.
The controls for the game appear complicated at first, as there are various commands for you to use with your character. Running, walking, sifting through your inventory, drawing your gun, firing it, jumping, climbing down... they're all needed, and their various buttons are a bit spread out. The game also has buttons that have multiple traits assigned to them. However, because Flashback is more of a “thinking man's” action game, you don't find yourself having to hurry up too much in the beginning. By the time the action starts heating up a bit, you'll have gotten used to the control scheme, and be able to handle them fine. They may seem daunting at first, but they're easily manageable with a little practice. It also helps that they're responsive, and don't fall into the “mushy” or “laggy” trap that some games do with such fluidly animated characters. This is a good thing, considering what awaits you.
The game offers a solid challenge. The puzzles and confrontations in Flashback start off simple and obvious, but they become more complex as you progress, and some will rely on good timing as well. You'll find yourself staring at the screen more than once, studying the scene and trying to figure out the best (or only) way to go about getting past the obstacles and enemies that await you. None of them are nonsensical though, so with a little planning, you'll figure them out. If all else fails, trail and error will be your guide.
If there's a downside to the game, it comes in two small doses. The first one, is that some of the ledges that you'll need to jump down from or up to, don't have clearly defined edges. Just where exactly you're supposed to interact with them doesn't always stand out, and this seems a little sloppy for a game that obviously had a lot of time and care put into its planning. The second one, is that the game uses passwords as its main way of saving progress, which are only given at the end of a level. Granted, there are some temp save points scattered about in the levels, but those temp saves get erased when quit the game. The end result can be many, many replays of easier level sections, and that can get tedious. It's true that these aren't major issues, but it would have been nice to have been given more passwords along the way. And while the ledges in question aren't everywhere, in the heat of the action, they can still lead to an unnecessary demise.
Basically, Flashback is a wonderful game, with a couple of minor flaws. It has an interesting story, a tough (but fair) level of difficulty, gorgeous graphics, good sound, and solid design. You'll work the logic part of your brain on the devious puzzles, and your itchy trigger finger on the enemies, as you unravel what happened to Conrad. This leaves you with a satisfied feeling by the time you reach the end, and that's the mark of a well thought out and executed game.
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