Atari Jaguar

by Chad Ridgeway

How does a 2D side-scroller from 1994 compare to nowadays complex 3D graphical adventures of today? Quite well, especially if the game is Flashback. "How?" you might say. Read on to find out.

You'll be doing more pondering and thinking then jumping and shooting. In Flashback, you're not simply on a mission to beat people down, you're on a quest. A quest to find yourself. Your identity. Your past. Your position. You've lost your memory. You've been shot down. You're alone.... but wait! You've got a gun. You're in shape. You've got style.

Needless to say, whenever you pop a new game into the Jag your anticipation is already high. Flashback will make you get off you seat. It warms up with smooth cinema. Yes, a cinema on cart. It's cartoon and there are some moments of slowdown but the first time you see it you'll think it's spectacular. The music is fantastic with a futuristic, bass-buzz beat to it.

After the opening cinema you're treated to the title screen with a few options and a gorgeous 3D rotating image of you. You've got Start, Options, Password and Demo to choose from. Picking Demo will take you to various levels of the game where you can watch what you're about to experience.

You've already figured out that Flashback is a well designed game with true attention to detail. The first level is a perfect beginner level featuring a few puzzles and many ledges and holes for you to practice the controls. Once you finish the first level you're treated to another great cinema while you bask in the satisfaction that you've conquered one of the games many puzzles.

Overall, the graphics are real decent. I have to down the score because it looks like we're using a Genesis color palette here. Some areas are bland and ugly. Some foreground objects look nice but seeing 16.7 million colors on screen would've been incredible. Other then color, animation is superb. The box says it's rotoscoped at 24 frames per second. Whatever that means, the animation is extremely realistic and fluent.

Check it out, when you jump you bend you knees, look up, swing your arms back then leap upward. Running then jumping results in an Olympic long jumping animation. When you jump forward and grab a ledge with your hands your body dangles there before you slowly pull yourself up. If you tap a button to pull out your gun you'll side-step like a spy then pull your gun in front of you to aim. Sometimes when climbing up a ledge you see dirt fall down. Get my point? Very cool, realistic, and fresh even if the game is four years old.

Sounds are... well, sometimes there and sometimes not. During cinemas you'll get to listen to some coolio atmosphere enhancing tunes. Sometimes when you're about to rumble with an enemy this thumping electro, twangy song comes in then starts getting fast. It matches to action like perfect. Unfortunately, there isn't an music during normal gameplay. I would've liked some subtle background songs playing but there isn't. So most of the time you're listening to your footsteps with occasional water drips, elevators and so forth.

Controls are all over. You've got hop jumps, normal jumps, running jumps, ducking, rolling, firing, hanging and more with elevators, switches, machines etc. Master them all or you won't get anywhere. Although the controls aren't sluggish you move kind of slow. This isn't a complain, just a warning for those that are use to precise jumping on a dime type control (a la Street Fighter Alpha and more).

Flashback has skill. There are mission objectives everywhere. Fighting cyborgs, running from the clock, earning money to get back to earth, participating in game shows then eventually blowing up an alien planet. Flashback varies so much that it never gets old. Level 2 has multiple things to do. You even talk to people (or rather press buttons and read pre-set dialogue).

In the end, Flashback is quite an enthralling experience. Sometimes I just smile to myself while playing. Why? I don't know, it's just a magical game that with suck you in. Finishing Flashback will truly be a milestone in your life. If you aren't use to puzzles or slow, methodic gameplay then Flashback is probably not your cup of tea. For gamers that want a captivating game that will take a long time to beat and has a ton of things to do, then Flashback is ideal.

Graphics 6 Boring color but exciting animation
Sound 4 Occasional killer rythms then dull FX in other places
Control 8 Get anywhere a number of ways
Gameplay 8 Smart, clever and fun
Power 1 Identical to the 16-bit versions and some slowdown!
Innovation 9 Possibly the most innovative side-scroller in history
Replay Value 4 After you solve the many puzzles there's no reason to go back
Fun Factor 5 If you like puzzles then you'll love this game

So, how does Flashback compare to nowadays advanced texture mapped worlds. Well, how does todays advanced texture mapped worlds compare to Flashback. Not too well, I might say.

Overall - 6

10 - Absolute Perfection
9 - Spectacular
8 - Excellent
7 - Very Good
6 - Nice
5 - Decent
4 - Lacking
3 - Cheap
2 - Bad
1 - Pathetic
0 - Don't go there


--Chad Ridgeway

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