Review - Flashback: The Quest for Identity

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Review - Flashback: The Quest for Identity

Post by FrumpleOrz » Sat Jul 07, 2012 2:58 am

Ah, youth. I remember renting this game on my Super Nintendo multiple times when I was a child. I've always enjoyed cinematic platformers (on a side note, can someone help me come up with a less pretentious name for the genre?) and the opening green first level has always just stuck out in my mind. Talk about having a living environment. Beautiful, beautiful stuff.

As I mentioned earlier, the game is in the cinematic platformer (GOD I HAD THAT TERM) genre, which means it plays like Prince of Persia (the original game, not the modern acrobat sim) or Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee. It uses "step mechanics," so a tap of the D-Pad will move you one "step" in the direction you push. It's like a giant grid system, more or less. Running is different from your standard game as well. It's a fluid motion and stopping isn't instant. This can cause you to fall into pits. Oh yeah, falling from too far of a distance makes you die. The controls are a little tricky if you've never played anything like them before but once you get the hang of it all, it becomes pretty natural for the most part.

The graphics are gorgeous, as I mentioned earlier. I believe the characters have been rotoscoped, so they have a really neat look to them. It adds a nice touch of realism to the characters and it just looks COOL. The backgrounds are gorgeous and look like they may be hand-painted. Anyone know if that's right? The first level's beautiful green jungle mixed with a Flash Gordon-esque sci fi element that doesn't look too far into the future to be absurd.

The green level stuck with me from childhood and I soon found out why. I never passed the first level until last week, heh. Still, the rest of the levels don't look quite as pretty but they all have their own nice touches and have their own unique feel. No level is the same, at first glace.

The core of the game is climbing up platforms, toggling switches, and shooting goons. The switches are usually involved in a minor puzzle, which usually involved something like placing a stone of them or simply jumping over a canceling switch. If you've played a video game in the last 30 years, you've seen these puzzled before. Occasionally, they'll throw in a puzzle element that you've never seen before and it just doesn't make sense. For example, there's a part of the game when there's a locked door and a high platform that's difficult to get to that just doesn't seem to lead anywhere. It turns out there is some glass you have to shoot to get into the next area. Completely counter-intuitive and the mechanic hadn't been used prior in any part.

The shooting is pretty standard stuff. Pull out a gun, aim at a bad guy, press the A button to fire, and if the bad guy is still alive, avoid his shot and repeat. I played on the hardest difficulty, so I don't know how much that changes this part of the game, but this became tedious at times. Crouch, shoot, either use your energy shield or roll out of the way, start over. It just became "Oh god, this again?" It seems okay at first, but by the end of the game, it gets frustrating.

That makes it sound like I didn't enjoy the game as a whole though, which is untrue. I enjoyed the heck out of it. It was frustrating at times, but it's gorgeous to look at and when you DO get to a puzzle that is challenging and makes sense, solving it just feels good. It's also fairly lengthy, especially compared to Out of this World, and can keep you going for a little bit. The password system is fantastic as well. THEY ARE REAL WORDS. How great is that?

The story, though, oh the story. It doesn't really make sense. It's some convoluted story about the main character blanking his memory to avoid aliens he detected with glasses that can see the density of molecules or something. Yeah, it's a standard excuse plot. There is one part of the story that is a little infamous among my group of friends though. The main character's name is Conrad. His goal for the first level is to find his friend Ian. My name is Ian and I used to live with my friend Conrad. Not often those names come up together, heh.

Overall though, if you have any interest in playing this game or enjoy cinematic platformers (seriously, we have to change that name) at all, you can't go wrong with it. It seems to go for a little bit of cash nowadays but it'd probably be worth slapping down the cash for it. It's definitely enjoyable and not something that appears on modern consoles too often. In summary: Go for it! You'll probably like it!

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Post by Austin » Sat Jul 07, 2012 3:30 am

Good review. I didn't give the 3DO version much time, but I played it into the ground on the SNES, and then later the Sega CD. I think the reason I didn't get far into the 3DO version is that it lacked the constant streaming in-game music of the SCD version. Still, an excellent game, and one that I highly recommend. Actually, I think I have a disc-only 3DO version sitting around here still.. Maybe I will pop it in sometime..

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Post by FrumpleOrz » Sat Jul 07, 2012 3:36 am

Austin wrote:Good review. I didn't give the 3DO version much time, but I played it into the ground on the SNES, and then later the Sega CD. I think the reason I didn't get far into the 3DO version is that it lacked the constant streaming in-game music of the SCD version. Still, an excellent game, and one that I highly recommend. Actually, I think I have a disc-only 3DO version sitting around here still.. Maybe I will pop it in sometime..
There's music in the Sega CD version, huh? That's one thing I forgot to mention in my review is that there is practically no music in the 3DO version. Didn't the Sega CD version have a comic book in the manual too?

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Post by Austin » Sat Jul 07, 2012 3:59 am

I think it might have. I don't remember. I know the Genesis version comes included with a separate mini-comic book.

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Post by Martin III » Sat Jul 07, 2012 1:35 pm

Interesting review. I don't think I even realized this game was available for the 3DO. Pretty cool, since I don't have any other console the game appears on.

I've seen videos of the Jaguar version and it has very little music too... Is the 3DO version basically the same as the Jag version?

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Post by Trev » Sat Jul 07, 2012 5:03 pm

Good review. Flashback is on of my favorite games of all time! :D I have several versions of this game and, despite minor changes, it really is great on any console.

The music in the Sega cd port really makes that version stand out as different. The transformation of a generally quiet game into one with a quality full musical score is worth checking out for fans of the game. The Scd version also has voice acting, but lacks the cool comic book the Genesis version had.

I don't own the Jag version, but one immediate difference is that it doesn't have the fmv video cutscenes found in the 3DO, Scd, Cd-i ports. Not sure if that is a bad thing, as I love the original look ...

One more thing about the 3DO version, it actually has even less music than the 16 bit versions, which would sometimes cue short tracks at the approach of certain enemies. Not sure why, but you'll miss it if you remember it from the earlier versions. Still a fantstic game on 3DO, or any system you can play it.
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Post by Austin » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:35 pm

Martin III wrote:I've seen videos of the Jaguar version and it has very little music too... Is the 3DO version basically the same as the Jag version?
Close to the same thing music-wise. The Jaguar version has bits of slowdown during gameplay that you won't find in the 3DO version, and as Trev mentioned it also has the older-style cut scenes. The ones in the Jaguar version run choppy at points as well, very reminiscent of the 16-bit versions, which is a shame. It would have been nice if they were full-speed in the Jag game. Lastly, the Jaguar version also has a few subtle background details that you don't have in the other versions.

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Post by Jones » Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:40 am

Another thing about the 3DO version that is different from, as far as
I know, all other versions is that they paced up the general gameplay
speed. Which is good! Everything moves a bit faster, the controls respond
a bit quicker - the general speed got increased, what makes the game
even better.

Oh, and I found this:

"Reportedly the best-selling French game of all time, Flashback was a phenomenon
when it debuted on Commodore's Amiga in 1992, and it remains a
fascinating experience today. It's a science-fiction action adventure set in
the year 2142, viewed side on, like traditional 2-D platform games, and is
in a sense "realistic" as the character explores the world in a manner
consistent with him being a normal human being.
Flashback is not a game where the skills of platforming are the payoff,
however. The rewards here are in carefully exploring the rich
environments and figuring out what you need to do in order to progress.
As in traditional point-and-click adventure games, the solutions are
often obscure, meaning that patience and experimentation are rewarded
as much as skill and finesse with a joystick. All this technical and game
design cleverness would be for nought if the game didn't have a decent
story at the heart of it, and Flashback's tale of alien infiltration and
forced amnesia is superb. It juggles action with atmosphere and
delivers a game that is both intriguing and tense.
"

Found in: "1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die"
(Mott, Tony. Published by Quintessence. London, 2010)

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Post by FrumpleOrz » Thu Aug 02, 2012 10:27 pm

Jones wrote:Another thing about the 3DO version that is different from, as far as
I know, all other versions is that they paced up the general gameplay
speed. Which is good! Everything moves a bit faster, the controls respond
a bit quicker - the general speed got increased, what makes the game
even better.

Oh, and I found this:

"Reportedly the best-selling French game of all time, Flashback was a phenomenon
when it debuted on Commodore's Amiga in 1992, and it remains a
fascinating experience today. It's a science-fiction action adventure set in
the year 2142, viewed side on, like traditional 2-D platform games, and is
in a sense "realistic" as the character explores the world in a manner
consistent with him being a normal human being.
Flashback is not a game where the skills of platforming are the payoff,
however. The rewards here are in carefully exploring the rich
environments and figuring out what you need to do in order to progress.
As in traditional point-and-click adventure games, the solutions are
often obscure, meaning that patience and experimentation are rewarded
as much as skill and finesse with a joystick. All this technical and game
design cleverness would be for nought if the game didn't have a decent
story at the heart of it, and Flashback's tale of alien infiltration and
forced amnesia is superb. It juggles action with atmosphere and
delivers a game that is both intriguing and tense.
"

Found in: "1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die"
(Mott, Tony. Published by Quintessence. London, 2010)
I was with it until it got to the story part... Am I alone thinking the storyline seemed secondary in the game?

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Post by Jones » Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:19 pm

Yes, it is secondary - opinion shared!
What made me even more confused was that the actual "story"
reminded me heavily of that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie
"Total Recall"! That's why some German gaming magazines
called it "Total Recall - the video game". :-)

Anyway, there was an unofficial successor of that game,
called "Fade to Black". The protagonist was also called "Conrad",
but apart from that I've only seen screenshots from MS-DOS PCs.
Is that game any good? Does it have any closer connection to "Flashback"?

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Post by Austin » Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:23 pm

I thought Fade to Black continued on where Flashback left off?

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Post by FrumpleOrz » Fri Aug 03, 2012 1:57 am

Austin wrote:I thought Fade to Black continued on where Flashback left off?
Yeah, it's a direct sequel. Same characters and everything. I had it on PS1 as a kid and I liked it back then. I tried playing it recently though and it's awful. Absolutely terrible.

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Post by Austin » Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:36 am

Yeah, I had a hard time getting into it even when it was only a couple of years old.

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Post by Trev » Fri Aug 03, 2012 4:11 am

I'm kinda in the mood to play it after reading these posts. It may be a sequel, but Fade to Black plays nothing like Flashback. I wish they had kept it 2d, as the Psx can't do the 3d justice. Still, I'm gonna give it a whirl as it's been a while.
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Post by BryWI » Fri Aug 03, 2012 11:01 pm

I've always wanted to play Fade to Black. I had a demo of it for DOS way back in the day. It didn't seem to play to bad from what I remember of it.

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