AGH Jaguar Review: FLASHBACK

by US Gold

In Flashback, you assume the role of CONRAD; just awakening on the planet Titan with no memory of who you are or why you are here. Armed with only your gun and your shield, you set out to re-discover your identity and explain your current situation. You must travel through seven different stages in a race to regain your memory and save the planet Earth from alien invaders.

Flashback is a great PLATFORM/RPG type of game; very similar to Prince of Persia. There doesn't seem to be any variables in the gameplay; it is very straight-forward, requiring you to complete one task before going to the next. The odds of you getting stuck somewhere because you didn't accomplish some previous task are slim to none. The seven stages you travel through are fairly large so don't worry about finishing this game in a day. Below is a brief summary of each stage:

Stage 1 - You awaken on the Planet TITAN with no memory of past events. You find a holocube, which gives you instructions what to do.

Stage 2 - You find your friend IAN, who restores your memory. He sends you to his friend Jake to get papers to enter the DEATH TOWER show and win a ticket to EARTH. You must get a work permit and complete odd jobs to earn the 1500 credits that Jake wants for the papers.

Stage 3 - The DEATH TOWER TV Game Show. Survive and win a ticket to EARTH.

Stage 4 - You arrive on EARTH and the aliens quickly discover you and try to kill you. You escape their grip and find the alien headquarters.

Stage 5 - You discover the alien plans to dominate the human race but are captured by the aliens in the process.

Stages 6 & 7 - You end up on the Planet of MORPHS. You search for info to destroy the planet by setting an atomic charge.

  • Along your journey, there are many objects you can acquire and interact with. Objects you can pick up are:

    Holocube - Gives you info to start you on your journey.

    Force Field - Stops enemy bullets. Time it right because it only lasts a second.

    Stone - Useful for activating cameras and pressure pads.

    Credits - form of money needed at certain points in the game.

    Magnetic Cartridge - creates an energy source when charged at an energy generator.

    Mechanical Mouse - Can be picked up. Useful for setting off traps, pressure pads, cameras.

    Exploding Mouse - Explodes on contact. Can be picked up when it's not moving.

    I.D. Card - Necessary for access and identification.

    Key - Used to open key lock.

    Teleport Receiver - Can be thrown and re-used. The receiver marks the spot you will appear when you activate the Teleport Control.

    Teleport Control - Beams you to the Teleport Receiver.

    Other objects you encounter can be interacted with. These include:

    Teleport - Teleports you to specific place.

    Energy Generator - Used to recharge your shild or magnetic cartridge.

    Switch - Opens a door or calls an elevator.

    Camera - Same as a switch. Can also trigger a laser cannon.

    Pressure Pad - Same as a switch, Can also set off an alarm.

    Card Lock - Can only be opened with card.

    Key Lock - Can only be opened with key.

    Save Marker - Used as a save point during a level so you don't have to start the level from scratch.

    Disintegrator - Lose a life if you cross it.

    Electrified Floor - Run and Jump over it.

    There are an abundance of enemies and hazards you will come across as you make your way through the game. As well as numerous enemies that shoot, morph, and de/re-materialize, there are some hazards that can't be destroyed and must be avoided:

    Land Mine - Jump over to avoid.

    Falling Mine - Passing under it causes it to fall.

    Laser Cannon - Activated by a pressure pad or camera.

    Conrad can perform more than a dozen different moves including jumping, running, climbing up and down, somersaults, and shooting his gun. The controls can be tricky at first and the moves take a little time to master so it's best to spend a little time practicing. My suggestion is to use the first level as a training ground; testing the limits of your jumps, and trying out all the somersaults and shooting manuevers. Once you have the controls down, you'll be able to move around pretty rapidly. Don't run into unknown regions too fast though, because a fall of more than two floors means certain death. It's safer to hang off a ledge, rather than walking or jumping off it, when going to a screen below. This allows you to scout out any trouble that might await.

    When you first turn on the game, you are greeted with an animated cinema sequence of events that show Conrad being chased and shot down by an alien craft. Likewise, there are many of these cinematic sequences throughout the game, linking events together and showing the passing or collecting of objects. These scenes are nice and help the story along but graphically they aren't up to par with what the Jaguar can do. My guess is that the cinema sequences were ported over from the 16-bit versions and not refined or enhanced at all. The in-game graphics are well-drawn, detailed and crisp but seem a little lacking in color. Not having played the 16-bit versions of this game, I can't say whether the in-game graphics were ported over, re-done or enhanced in any way.

    The sound in this game is well above average. The music that accompanies the opening animation is great and really puts you in the mood to do some blasting. Unfortunately, once the game starts, there is no music, except at certain points in the game when you are treated to a short tune. The sound fx are accurate and do the job well, but they're really nothing to get excited over.

    After the opening animation, you are taken to the Main game screen. From here you can select to start a game, enter a password, change options, or run a demo of the game. The password screen lets you enter a password up to six characters long which will take you to the beginning of the level you are playing. Passwords are given out at the start of every level so be sure to write them down (HINT - if you like guessing at passwords, they don't have to be six characters long and the obvious ones (USGOLD & JAGUAR) don't work). One of my big gripes with the game is the fact that the passwords take you to the start of a level and not the save point that you last saved the game at within the level. The causes you to replay a level (which I mentioned earlier are fairly large) to get back to where you were. Make sure you have enough time set aside to complete a level when playing this game.

    The options screen has five different options for you to select. Difficulty settings can be set to Easy, Medium, and Hard. You can select the game text to be in English or French. Selecting controls will allow you to customize your joypad controls to anything you're comfortable with. The option screen also has 2 sound test modes; TEST TUNE and TEST FX. Naturally, the first will let you select any of the game music and the second will let you listen to any of the game's sound fx.

    Overall, the game is well worth the money to someone who has never played it before. I imagine if you've already completed the 16-bit version, you probably wouldn't find anything new to keep you interested here. But for someone like myself who has no prior experience with FLASHBACK, this game keeps me coming back for more.

    Before I finish and give my ratings, I'd like to touch on a couple of bugs I encountered while playing. Twice while playing, I lost all sound (music and sfx). This happened both times while I was bypassing the animations by pressing "PAUSE". The game completely froze once although I don't remember what I did to make it happen. The last problem I had involved some serious slowdown. Although the entire game suffers at various points from slowdown when too much is going on, one time the entire game kicked into slow-motion. Everything was crawling along and I couldn't get it going again without turning the game off and on. This problem with slowdown is outrageous on a machine like the Jaguar; there's really no excuse for it. Anyway onto the ratings.

    Title Flashback
    Publisher U.S. Gold
    System Atari Jaguar
    Graphics 6
    Sound 7
    Gameplay 7
    Overall 6
    Reviewer John Hardie

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