The natural thing to do would be to compare Flashback with Another World. Although they are aesthetically very similar, Flashback offers much more in the way of gameplay than Another World did.
In fact, there is a common misconception that Flashback is actually a sequel to Another World. This is not the case, which is further reinforced by the fact that sequels to both Another World and Flashback are under way.
Prince of Persia first set the standard by which character animation was subsequently judged, then came Another World and Cruise for a Corpse, both by Delphine. Flashback continues this animation excellence and throws in a large and healthy dollop of gameplay to boot.
Such animation, married with excellent background graphics, seems to be a trademark of games from our French friends. But despite the excellent visuals, they never quite seemed to master that most ethereal ingredient of good gameplay - until now that is.
Flashback is not only visually great - the control method, atmosphere and general difficulty level have been balanced to a point of perfection. This is a game everyone will finish because it will grab you by the throat and drag you back for more purely because it's so good.
So, what's it all about, I hear you ask? Well, the story goes something like this. Conrad B Hart, a research scientist, has prepared his end-of-year thesis. He has developed a pair of glasses which can measure molecular density.
His device reveals aliens, whose molecular density is far greater than ours, living among the population. As is the case with the majority of aliens, they are not on Earth for a holiday but to take the place over.
Unfortunately, Conrad's investigations raise suspicion among the aliens who, quite understandably, don't want some human strolling around, conveying to all and sundry the exact nature of their presence on Earth. So, being a clever dick, combined with his fear of capture, Conrad prepares a holographic message and then saves the contents of his memory, which he then sends to his friend Ian.
Conrad is eventually captured and his memory erased by the aliens. Still held captive, he manages to escape via a hoverbike with the aliens in hot pursuit. During the chase, Conrad's bike is shot and he crashes to the jungle below. Content that Conrad did not survive the fall, his pursuers leave. However, Conrad is a lucky bugger and has survived the crash.
He awakes, not knowing who he is or where he is. This is where you take over You have to guide Conrad on his mission to find his pal, Ian, and to recover his memory. However, as is the case with most missions, to find your memory as well as a bloke called Ian, things are not going to be simple. There are oodles of obstacles, most of which shoot at you, so some nifty joystick manipulation will be required.
Thank goodness good ol' Conrad just happens to have a rather mean handgun, which as is humorously evident in so many TV Westerns, doesn't seem to exhaust its supply of bullets.
Thankfully, Flashback's control method is as good as the main characters animation which it controls. Too many good games have died a quick death due to poor joystick programming and Delphine are obviously aware of that fact.
Once you grab hold of the joystick, you will have Conrad running, jumping, rolling around and blasting baddies with consummate ease in no time. In fact, the key to success is the ability to quickly master the various movements which Conrad is able to do. Those of you who have played Prince of Persia will no doubt take to the controls immediately as they are extremely similar.
As you guide Conrad around the various screens, blasting away all opponents, you will also have to contend with puzzles. You will come across many objects such as a force field, anti-grav belt and even exploding mice, all of which you will find useful.
Besides the amazing character animation and great background graphics, there are also spot animations that occur when such actions as picking up an object or using one are done. An example is the shield which absorbs four hits from an opponent, after which you will die. Various power outlets are dotted around the terrain and when stood next to one, you may recharge the shield to full strength.
Therefore, a good memory is invaluable when you find your shield low. Knowing where the nearest power outlet is will improve your chances of survival against a particularly son-of-a-bi... I mean rather difficult to kill enemy or enemies, and believe me, there are quite a few loitering around.
One suspicion I was harbouring when asked to review this was that Flashback, although visually stunning, was going to be one of those games whose philosophy is to put you right back to an unreasonably early position on the level should you be unfortunate to be killed.
I was pleasantly proven wrong on that point as the game has various Save Game points of well thought-out positions on the levels. However, the game isn't saved to disk, so if you turn off your Amiga you'll have to start from the very beginning of the level you are on. Combine this RAM save feature throughout each level, with the level passwords which are provided as you complete each part and you have a system whereby even the most impatient of us who throw the joystick against the wall shouting "Oh $?£", it took me ages to get to this point!" - will find adequate.
Most gamers expect a lot from today's games, both in terms of visuals and sonics. Well, from the screenshots, you can get a good idea of the overall look of the game - you'll just have to take my word for it about the stunning animation.
The sound effects are equally impressive. As well as various "spot soundtracks" as you move from screen to screen, there are lots of sound effects interspersed throughout the game. These are especially evident on later levels which are outdoors, where you get the effect of chirps, bleats and generated noises of hidden alien beasts ringing in your ears. Very atmospheric I can tell you.
Besides the nasty occupants of this planet you find yourself on, which in general, need to be shot as soon as you see them, there are also some friendly folk eager to help (if only to make a fast buck). There is limited interaction with these people in that you simply walk over to them, press the joystick button and read the conversation between Conrad and the aforementioned person.
Many of the conversations will give clues as to your next course of action and pretty soon, Conrad regains his memory and the action really begins to speed up.
To conclude, Flashback is as slick as a James Cameron film and I for one can't wait for the sequel.