The game roars onto the screen with an explosive introduction. A man (you) screams away from captors and his stolen craft is shot down overtop of a jungle. The game picks up right there, fresh after the crash.
You find yourself tangled in a web of confusion and action as you set off on a quest to find out who the heck you really are. Small things happen, like the holocube message from you(when you had your memory) to locate someone to replenish your lost memory.
You're a wanted man as well. There's an enemy behind every corner with a blaster ready for you. Why? Well, that's all part of the game. You'll be wrapped in intrique as you uncover bits and pieces that will help regain your identity. But, once you find out.. you may see that knowing isn't such a good thing after all.
The year is 2142. The player takes control of Conrad B. Hart, a man who has lost his memory. After barely escaping from hostile aliens, Conrad's bike crashes on an unknown planet. Conrad finds himself in the jungle, and from that moment on his quest for survival and his lost identity begins.
Flashback: The Quest for Identity incorporates elements of platforming, shooting, and problem-solving. The game can be described as a "cinematic platformer" (commonly referred to as Prince of Persia-style), following a design philosophy that was also manifested in Delphine Software's previous work, Another World. Compared to that game, Flashback focuses more on platforming and exploration of large levels.
While a large bulk of the gameplay is dedicated to running, jumping, and shooting enemies, there is also a considerable exploration element in the game, as well as some puzzle-solving. The player navigates Conrad through platform structures, performing various moves. It is possible to simply jump or do a longer run-and-jump, run, climb, hang off ledges, and pick up objects lying on the ground. To defend himself, Conrad can shoot enemies with his gun and also use various objects (such as stones) to harm or distract them. Crouching and rolling are possible (and often essential) moves that can be executed during combat. The gun has unlimited ammunition; however, shields that Conrad uses to protect himself from attacks are depleted when he is hit, and can be recharged at special stations. Though most environments in the game are hostile, there are a few locations that are devoid of enemies. The player is usually required to talk to characters, gather information and compete tasks in an adventure-like fashion in these areas. Most of the versions utilize cutscenes with polygonal vector graphics. The CD versions replace those with pre-rendered 3D animations. The Sega CD version also features voice-overs.
Following the 1992 release of Flashback: The Quest for Identity, the year 1995 saw the release of an enchanced CD version featuring new cinematics with better music and digitized speech.
Unfortunately the "enchancements" are something of a mixed blessing, by and far constituting of replacing the subtitled cartoon-style cutscenes of the floppy version with pre-rendered 3D videos with digitized speech and new background music. The 3d graphics are hardly exceptional by modern standards (but still look acceptable), and the music has been re-recorded so that it will sound exactly the same on any real or emulated audio hardware (in the floppy version, different sound hardware caused slight changes in playback).
While the digitized speech is decent, removing the subtitles was not a good idea: some players might find it difficult to understand spoken English, and consequently - what events are they witnessing.
Many designs were changed and a few parts of the script slightly altered, so if you expected the exact same scene just with improved graphics you might find yourself surprised.
Unfortunately, the changes make the cinematics feel "off" compared with the style of the game itself, and the new music doesn't help either (the floppy version outro was my favorite cutscene - the one in CD version just doesn't come anywhere near close to it).
Gameplay-wise, the almost complete lack of enhancements is somewhat disappointing: a particular glitch that allowed the player to pass through the walls has been removed, and... there's no "and" - it's the only change that was made, and everything else is exactly the same. One would think that an "Enchanced CD-ROM" version could add an extra level or expand the existing ones somehow, replace the sounds effects with higher bitrate samples or add digitized voices into the in-game conversations just as it was done with the remade cutscenes - why nothing like this was done for the re-release escapes me.
The floppy original has maximum score in my book, but the CD version just doesn't live up to being called "Enchanced". Delphine could (and should) have done more then just revamping the cinematics. For that reason (and for destroying the outro sequence), I can't help but drop the score by a point.
Despite the re-release's misgivings, it is still the same game, and those who have enjoyed Flashback will also enjoy replaying it for the new cinematics.
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