First Released: Amiga (1992) Mega Drive/Genesis, Super Nintendo (1992)
Now Available On: N/A
Flashback was, in many ways, ahead of its time. Sure, the side-scrolling gameplay bore more than a whiff of Prince of Persia – three years its predecessor – but it was the game’s presentation, Blade Runner-style story and cerebral cinematic action that really set it apart from the pack.
Released on Amiga in 1992, Flashback delivered a fantastic science fiction tale grounded in sound gameplay, all wrapped in a rich world created using hand-drawn backdrops, motion capture animation and detailed cut scenes.
Set in 2142, the story launched players into the nightmarish future world of Conrad B. Hart, an agent working for the Galaxia Bureau of Investigation. Taking a leaf from Philip K. Dick’s weighty storytelling book, Flashback‘s narrative dealt with tough issues of corruption, memory and identity.
On a seemingly routine investigation, Hart discovers a plot to destroy the earth involving alien Morphs posing as high ranking government officials. He then becomes the target of these shape-shifting nasties, who capture and erase his memory. It is up to the player to restore Hart’s mind and save the world from the aliens.
Navigating levels such as the lush but danger-filled jungles of Titan, or the dirty urban sprawl of New Washington required brains as much as brawn, as both alien foes and environmental puzzles push Hart to his limits.
Controlling Hart is a little tricky at first, but the side-scrolling soon becomes intuitive and engaging. Instead of sword fighting, you shoot the Morph enemies with a pistol, which fortunately has unlimited bullets. In the earlier sections, you can just blast away at the foes to dispatch them, but not for long.
Later adversaries offer a sterner challenge, requiring you to use your rechargeable bulletshield which offers protection from shots for a brief second. This opens up a timed parry system, involving blocking the enemy attack and then countering with your own. Hart can take four hits before dying and while there are plenty of save points, the overall save system was annoying.
The seven levels all have wildly different lengths, but you cannot actually save your game within them; instead you’re given passwords to access the different stages from the menu. This means that you either have to finish the level, or just leave it – and on longer levels such as the second one, this was pretty limiting.
Alongside the shooting, playing the game also involves hanging from ledges, rooting out keycards and using teleporters. There are various other tasks, such as hunting down rogue Morphs as a bounty hunter a la Rick Deckard, or taking part in a survival game show called Death Tower.
After being released on Amiga in 1992, Flashback was then ported to consoles, SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis and Nintendo’s SNES, a year later, followed by other versions for the SEGA CD, 3DO, PC and Atari Jaguar.
The game often gets mistaken for Another World, not only due to similarities in the gameplay and presentation, but also because both games were developed by Delphine.
But Flashback was in its own world; spawning a sequel called Fade to Black in 1995, which was less favourably viewed by the critics. A third game, Flashback Legends, was developed by Delphine for a 2003 release, but shot down when the company went bankrupt a year earlier.
LEVEL: EASY – NORMAL – HARD
Level 1: WIND – FIRE – MINE
Level 2: SPIN – BURN – YOUR
Level 3: KAVA – EGGS – NEST
Level 4: HIRO – GURT – LINE
Level 5: TEST – CHIP – LISA
Level 6: GOLD – TREE – MARY
Level 7: WALL – BOLD – MICE