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.
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.
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
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
Cops with jetpacks:
And even a few of those spheres from the Phantasm movies:
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.
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
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! ***
[CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD 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!