Working in a company that produces six video entertainment magazines, I get to see a fair few games. Whether it's C64, Sega, Nintendo or Amiga, there's an almost endless supply of software for me to pick through during those (infrequent) spare moments. This isn't without its drawbacks though - you soon become jaded. As time goes by, it takes something really special to make you sit up and take notice. Flashback does just that.
In many ways, it's not your run-of-the-mill computer game, but an interactive film. Like Another World, it uses cartoon-style graphics and animation to illustrate certain movements and occurrences. But that's where the similarities end. Flashback's plot is unusual in the way that it's actually relevant to the game, as opposed to a few cursory lines in the manual by way of an introduction. As the game progresses, the story line continues and becomes more complete.
The first thing you notice, though, are the graphics. While the animated scene-setting sections aren't quite as good (or as fluent) as Another Worlds, they're still impressive. But it's the in-game graphics that really shine. Using a technique known as Rotoscaping, the movement of the game's sprites is as realistic as you'll find in any computer game. Like Prince Of Persia, your sprite is capable of clambering and leaping over platforms and scenery, and generally moving in an authentic fashion. Initially, it's a little confusing - judging where and how to roll or jump is hampered by the fact Conrad's animation slows the response slightly. This is by no means a bad thing though: if anything, it adds to the realism.
However, playing the game isn't a simple case of exploring the numerous screens and levels, as a lot of the action involves combat and the solving of puzzles. Conrad has a fair amount of adversaries to either avoid or destroy; from mutants to Terminator 2-style terrors, there's enough to keep you on your toes. A quick stab of the space bar draws a suitably powerful firearm, and while this is in use Conrad is unable to jump or run. Instead, he moves stealthily and slowly in a fashion not dissimilar to your average 15-year-old worried about being chucked out of the pub - and it's incredibly handy when moving onto previously unexplored territory, where anything could be waiting...
I'm not joking when I say that this is one of the most difficult reviews I've had to write. Flashback is the sort of game where you want to discover everything for yourself - the last thing I'd have wanted was to read a review, and have all the secrets and twists explained in graphic detail. So I've tried not to give away too much.
As I mentioned earlier, it takes a lot to impress me these days - and Flashback has. The use of passwords and 'save' points (storing your position and status in memory) alleviates frustration no end, and the variety and originality of the design (especially in the second level) is a welcome break from the recent rash of consolesque platform games.
If I had to criticise anything, it'd be the in-game sound. Rather than using a continuous soundtrack, Delphine chose to have pieces of music played at key points - triggered by walking at a certain point on a screen. This can be quite handy at times, as more often than not it indicates you're about to be ambushed.
Flashback is one of the best games I've ever played, and if you don't at least look at it once, you've missed something unusually special. After hours and hours of play I'm just about to finish the Easy level - and there's Medium and Hard to get through yet. As Rutger Hauer said in the Guinness advertisements, 'Talk among yourselves - I may be some time.'
Many people call it the next episode of the Another World. Maybe it is. But we can indentify that the style is very similar. The difference is in the graphics. Not so vectored, more colors used, cool animated intro. Good game!
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