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Flashback: The Quest For Identity (Genesis) artwork

Conrad Hart?

Laugh, go ahead.

But I swear to the Pope, that this man is the cyber successor to David Belle or maybe Sebastien Foucan, moreso than any frilly Arabian prince. Not only that, but the areas that you’ll Parkour the living hell out of are so beautifully done and presented, that you’ll have no choice but to appreciate Flashback for one thing, if nothing else.

They’re all hand drawn, wonderful depictions of a range of diverse and dystopic places, be it a pulsating alien planet full of purples and pinks, or the muted, melancholy neutrals of a far off Earth.

And when the unfolding of the opening cinema is done, you’ll have escaped from mysterious captors and been chased by them, in high speed on a hover bike that eventually gets blasted with a charge from the pursuers’ laser cannon.

Thankfully safe from the scathe of a plummeting death, our boy Conrad comes to on the sultry soil of the jungle moon Titan.

Run, roll and leap your way through the often very difficult levels. But make sure to take a steady pace in order to avoid instant death traps and dangers, such as the multi-story drop to death and a sort of green plasma that radiates from the ground. Often called Green Death, this stuff will eat you up if you accidentally pass through it.

One of the most mind-blowing things about beating the stages, is in the way that it looks like Heaven.

All of Conrad’s moveset is rotoscoped, a technology recently popularized by the film adaptation of Philip Dick’s A Scanner Darkly and prior, the Linklater flick Waking Life.

So before he was a little man on your TV or computer screen, he was a man in the real world, traced over and implanted. What this makes for, is an incredible amount of fluidity in the animation, whether you’ve just safe landed from a hang or run face first into a wall.

Admittedly, the actual character sprites are pretty basic, but the coloring is put to a very good use here. So much so in fact, that they'll keep your mind off of whatever wrong you could find in the game's graphical design.

Of course, don’t get the wrong idea. You won’t be sprinting your way in a flash to the end of each chapter with a full plate of boredom.

Conrad's got a pistol with endless ammunition.

He’s got a force field to deflect projectiles that, thankfully, takes a very precise timing to use correctly. And eventually, the man’s even got a teleportation device.

It’d be easy to pass the different items off as a simple futuristic esthetic, but that’s not the case. You’ll need these things greatly, as they’ll be the only tools that stand between you and an untimely death. A lot of the time even using those things won’t guarantee you safe passage, because Flashback’s default difficulty setting is amazingly challenging.

And with save points as scattered as they are, you’ll say a small prayer before you perform every leap; creep your little two dimensional self onto the next map screen with your gun drawn.

Anticipate the need to roll from harm’s way, or to put a bullet into the chest of a cheeky Mutant or Flashman.

Yes, Flashman. The coolest opponent in the entire game, possibly one of the coolest of all time. Dressed in a purple soda jerk uniform, this asshole will turn into a green blur and sprint around the screen after taking a bullet, making your veins pump so fast they hurt.

After a while, you’ll be able to predict their pattern, but the intensity of your first encounter is definitely something you’ll smile about.

Solving enough puzzles and avoiding enough mines will net you the reward of seeing another cinema set to the invigorating pump and throb of a futuristic techno piece, that works in overtime to further the mood of the game, and your immersion into the story.

There’s only one damning problem with the game’s music, and that’s that there’s not enough of it.

At the very start of each new area, you’ll get an introductory clip, and then silence. Certain actions will cause another one to play, sometimes on your part and sometimes as an on-screen event. But these are never more than a few seconds in length, which leads to a little bit of an empty belly that could do well to have more.

It’s understandable, though, because you’ll need that silence in order to hear the sounds of the traps ahead of you, like the beeping of mines and the faint revving of a policeman’s jetpack.

In order to rescue Conrad’s stolen memory and eventually the fate of Earth, you’ll tackle odd jobs in New Washington and be subjected to the horrors of a game show set in a plexiglass tower that’s reminiscent of a number of 80’s movies. Proving once again; aliens are bastards!

A perfect length, a delicate balance and a uniquely told story that will keep you Cyber-Punk fans more than captivated enough to see this one through to the end. Another game that has stood the harsh test of time, by providing something that was fresh and fun, still is, and ultimately will be, years and years from now.


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Community review by carcinogen_crush (April 27, 2007)

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