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Flashback: The Quest For Identity!
by: Dr. Boogie

Last week, I told you about a fun little adventure game where you control a wimpy scientist trying to escape from the clutches of brutish, polygonal aliens and a heinous demise via lasers, leeches, spikes, venus flytraps, etc. Good times, to be sure, but it was a bit short, not counting all the time added on through reloading and making your way back to the spot where you had the fleshed flayed from your bones by an alien death ray. Moreover, maybe you're getting a little tired of trying to discern the meaning of the obscure puzzles in your alien surroundings and just want something with a little more familiarity. Thankfully, another French game designer named Paul Cuisset was willing to indulge us with a wondrous bit of software called Flashback: The Quest For Identity.

Purple goo is important to the plot.

The actual quest for identity is pretty short: You are Conrad B. Hart, but the problem is you don't remember that on account of some thugs kidnapping you and erasing your memory. You escape from your captors and get shot down over the jungles of Titan (those jerks at NASA would have us believe that it's frozen, nitrogen-rich wasteland). You have no memory of who you are, but luckily, you had the presence of mind to make a holocube to remind you that you made a copy of your memories and left them with a friend. You find that friend, and then the real quest begins, one involving an alien conspiracy and some eyewear straight out of "They Live!".

Like Out of This World, Flashback used rotoscoped animations for both cinematics and in-game characters, giving them fluid motions with a chic polygonal look. However, the game is set up more like Prince of Persia, with ledge-climbing and gap-jumping alongside trap-dodging. However, all the prince had was a sword, and you, meanwhile, have your very own firearm.

Low-res action!

I admit, I do wish it had the force field and skeletonizing effect of the OoTW laser pistol, but a limitless supply of ammunition is good too. And heck, if the bad guys get too friendly, you can always pistol whip them into submission. Conrad loves it. Just listen to the eagle shriek he lets out whenever he swings that gun of his.

However, even more useful than the gun is a handy, pocket-sized device that Conrad keeps in his pocket at all times: a shield generator. It's a nifty little device that can absorb gunshots, electric shocks, pistol whippings, and more, and all it needed to supply this convenience was an occasional recharge at one of the surprisingly prevalent recharge stations:

What does the '7' mean?

It's probably a coincidence that it looks like a giant battery. I suppose when you create a device that converts bullets and bomb blasts into a knockdown with a strange noise, you aren't going to be too concerned about aesthetics..

The game does have one other similarity with both PoP and OoTW, and it's the one thing that your little shield battery can't protect you from: traps. To begin with, Lester from OoTW could often fall from significant heights without hurting himself, and the Prince of Persia could survive anything up two three stories. Conrad, on the other hand, manages to twist himself around in midair so that he lands on his side and dies after a two-story fall. Bummer. Also, an unshielded gunshot wound is bad for him, but bullets and falls are so... pedestrian. How about something a little fancier, like this:

Zapped, starring Scott Baio.

That'll teach him to walk across a... tiny green spark of electricity. It'll fry him good, or maybe teleport him to another dimension. I can't really tell what it's supposed to be or what it does. You're dead, though, and that's all that really matters. Speaking of ambiguous deaths, take a look at the next recurring trap:

Good for asthma.

That's right, it's a green humidifier. Get too close, and you'll breathe in toxic vapors and have to sit down for a spell. No, not really. It's actually a disintegrator. Seems silly to me to have a disintegrator constantly disintegrating a single spot in a wide area, especially when switches to deactivate them can almost always be found nearby, but you can't argue with results.

Foot odor... too... strong!

Now when you see that, don't you think to yourself, "disintegration"? I know I do.

Traps aside, you'll have to contend with an assortment of quasi-futuristic enemies, including a lawnmower with a green sparkler attached to it:

The future of law enforcement.

Cops with jetpacks:

Gotta wear shades!

And even a few of those spheres from the Phantasm movies:

A product of Tall Man Industries.
Drill attachments not included.

As you can see, there's no shortage of action, which may have been what drew me to it as a kid. Then again, maybe it was because there was less of a chance that you would be killed on every single screen in ever single level. That reminds me, Flashback did have a lot of action sequences, like when you sign up for an ultra violent game show, but it also had a lot of great mundane sequences, like when you do odd jobs to make enough money to buy forged documents so you can sign up for the ultra violent game show. And every exchange of items is documented with its own rotoscoped video clip.

See daily errands in incredible 3D!!!

Now that's commitment. Anyone can have cinematics showing action sequences or important plot development, but when you've got footage of the main character showing his papers to the customs guy, that's real dedication.

Interesting side note: This game is actually the best selling French video game of all time, narrowly beating out the Super Nintendo adaptation of Jean Paul-Sartre's "No Exit". That said, you owe it to yourself to check it out if you haven't already done so. If nothing else, it's a chance for you to try and figure out what it is about French game designers that allows them to make such nifty adventure games, and all with polygons no less. Coincidence? I think not.


Questions or Comments about this piece?
email Dr. Boogie

*** You too can play Flashback: The Quest for Identity! ***


Note: to play this game you'll need a Sega Genesis emulator.

Want to see some more video game related content?
Then check out Dr. Boogie's feature on:

Out Of This World!
Out Of This World!

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