Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Flashback

Go To

Flashback (also titled Flashback: The Quest For Identity in America) is a Cinematic Platform Game by Delphine Software International. It was first released in 1992 on the Amiga, and then ported nearly everywhere. The story is minimalist, but the game's aesthetic is full of nods to Cyberpunk films such as Alien, Total Recall, The Running Man, Blade Runner, and They Live!.

You play as Conrad Hart, a government agent in The Future. Using a molecular-scanning eyepiece, he discovers alien impostors living among the population, known as Morphs, who don't take kindly to him sniffing around their operation. Kidnapped, his memory wiped, he escapes his inattentive captors on hoverbike and is shot down over a jungle. Upon awakening, Conrad finds a Holographic log of himself with instructions to get his ass to Mars— ...err, New Washington, where his contact is waiting to help retrieve those memories.

Gameplay is similar to Prince of Persia, but with a gun. You get a personal force field generator in the second level that lets you block shots- this, along with rolling, is the key to winning battles. The levels can get quite long, although checkpoints (misleadingly called Save Points) are scattered throughout.

Made by the same company that created Another World, Flashback used a similar method to create polygonal cutscenes and rotoscoped animation that could be played on an Amiga, Genesis, or SNES. It billed itself as "the CD-ROM game on a cartridge/floppy", and was stuffed with cinematics, most notably when you pick up items. Later, it was ported to the CD-based consoles of the era, with a replacement soundtrack and CGI cutscenes. This title still holds the Guinness World Record for top-selling game from a French developer.

A sequel, Fade to Black, was released for the PC in 1995 and for the PlayStation in 1996. This was DSI's first 3D game, and it really shows.

An HD Remake for PS3, 360, and PC was released in 2013. In 2018, a 25th Anniversary version was announced for the Nintendo Switch.

Flashback 2 was released by Microids in November 2023.

Flashback is the Trope Namer for:

The 1992 Flashback contains examples of:

  • Advancing Wall of Doom: The end of the fourth level. Conrad has to sprint, jump, and roll into a small cavity before the green death catches up with you. There are several mines littering the floor, plus a shutter door which won't open until the nearby flybot is destroyed. Flybots are very resilient, and they can't be harmed in melee range. All told, there is zero room for error if you want to clear the mines, skid to a stop, plug the flybot from a safe range, get the door open and escape.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Conrad's second mission in New Washington is to track down a Death Tower android which has gone berserk and escaped.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Conrad overhears the aliens' plot from a ceiling grate - which promptly collapses under his weight. To the dungeon with you!
  • The Alcatraz: Level 5, aka the "Paradise Club", is something of a misnomer, as Conrad gives the club a thorough doing-over in Level 4. He breaches the alien stronghold, by which time he's tossed into jail and the fifth level begins.
  • Alien Invasion: The Morphs are hunting for new real estate.
  • Aliens Speaking English: The aliens converse in perfect English, even in private.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Some of the policeman seem to be in on the alien plot, or, at the very least, insanely corrupt and trigger-happy. They nearly gun down Ian before you arrive in his lab on New Washington. As for airport security, let's just say it's beefed up by the year 2XXX.
  • All There in the Manual: A comic outlining the backstory was included with the manual. Oddly, there are some significant contradictions to how the backstory is presented in the game. According to the manual Conrad was a government agent who tested the scanner that accidentally revealed the aliens, while according to the game he's a science student and the device was part of his thesis work. The manual also mentions him having a girlfriend and coworker named Sonya who was involved, but she is never mentioned in the game.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The dead scientist you find on Morph is carrying a diary of his exploits: incredibly, this man spent years devising a way to travel to the alien homeworld and destroy it. Using his instructions, Conrad is able to nuke the planet's core and thwart the invasion.
  • Artifact Title: Flashback set some sort of world record for this by restoring Conrad's memories in Level Two. However, the suffix only appears in the American release, and was dropped in time for Fade to Black. Still, the hi-def remake slows Conrad's memory retrieval so it happens more gradually.
  • Artificial Human: Flashmen, AKA Replicants.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Be warned that Flashmen are both dumb and smart. They are dumb in that they can't materialize on the edge of the screen, so you can easily corner them and get your hits in while the Flashman impotently warps in and out of the same position. However, they are smart in that they can climb ledges as well as Conrad can.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: You can only hit Stunbots from a crouched position, and only when their arm is deployed. However, the loss of its only weapon triggers a self-estruct which will knock Conrad flat on his ass, so keep your distance.
  • Badass Longcoat: The cops.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Conrad has saved the galaxy, and destroyed the Morph homeworld... but he is stranded in unknown space, with no way back to Earth. He enters cryogenic sleep, prepared to drift in space alone for a long time.
  • Boss Corridor: Right before the brain.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Conrad never runs out of ammunition, which is fortunate. His blaster apparently does not fire bullets, yet it still spits out shells.
  • Bowdlerise: "Death Tower" becomes "Cyber Tower" in the SNES version. The bar has also been renamed "Cafe" — the kind where they serve coffee in longneck bottles and shot glasses.
  • Brain in a Jar: The Auxiliary Brain and Master Brain.
  • Broke Episode: The second level has you doing odd jobs for cash.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Conrad's prize for surviving the Death Tower game show: a first-class ticket to Earth.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Conrad isn't some super-badass saviour or mankind, he's just a science nerd who likes studying eyes. He uncovered the alien infiltration entirely by accident. His initial in-game motivation is nothing more than getting his own memories back.
  • Climactic Elevator Ride: Conrad has one before the final battle with the Master Brain.
  • Collapsing Lair: Level 7, after planting a bomb to destroy the alien homeworld.
  • Container Maze: In the secret area under the Paradise Club, where the aliens' forklifts and cargo containers are.
  • Cool Shades: The cops wear Terminator-like sunglasses in the Genesis and Amiga versions.
  • Costume Evolution: Depending on the version you're playing, Conrad's shirt will be either red or white during gameplay, though it's universally white in cutscenes. The 2013 version splits the difference and makes it black.
  • Deadly Game: Death Tower. This bit 'borrows' liberally from a certain Arnie flick.
  • Death Course
  • Death Throws: Flashback — even moreso than Another World — has aspirations to be cinematic, and as such the characters die in a flamboyant manner. Conrad will flail his arms spread eagle if you fall from too great a height, sometimes accompanied by a short cutscene of him flapping to his doom. On the other hand, the Green Death kills him instantly, freezing him in place as a charred skeleton.
  • Dirty Cop: Funny how cops in this future only want to take bribes, shoot civilians and never, say, protect the innocent.
  • Disintegrator Ray: Flashback's most irritating obstacle, aka "The Green Death", will soon become your most persistent, implacable foe. Conrad will get reduced to a skeleton if he so much as brushes against one. They also make a buzz.
  • Dramatic Chase Opening: The beginning starts with a cinematic chase focusing on Conrad and his pursuers' feet, followed by a first person flying car chase.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: The Morphs have a giant passageway leading directly to the planet's core. Dropping a palm-sized nuke into the hole destroys the planet.
  • Edge Gravity: If you run really fast toward a cliff and stop at the very last moment, the camera will change to a close-up view of Conrad nearly plunging to the bottom.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: In the rear room of the Paradise Club, hanging onto the ceiling lamp activates a hidden elevator shaft. This lift descends into the bowels of the club where the aliens' forklifts and cargo containers are.
  • Escort Mission: There's one in the second level. The VIP is one ungrateful bastard.
  • Exposition Beam: Ian's chair restores Conrad's memories with a laser directed at his forehead.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel
  • Flash Step: The Flashmen's main mode of attack.
  • Flying Car: Conrad cannot pass a chasm on the Earth level without hailing a cab. The remake ditched this nice, quick cutscene in favor of a roofhopping sequence with Conrad clambering onto passing cars above a giant abyss.
  • Foot Focus: The opening cutscene shows Conrad's distinctive sneakers beating a fast retreat from some pursuing gunmen.
  • From Bad to Worse: In the sequel the Morphs are still around, have successfully conquered the Sol system while Conrad was asleep, and when he finally wakes up, he's in enemy hands.
  • The Goomba: Stunbots. These are little robots on treads that will deploy a little arm to stun and harm you. The arm can't hit you if you are standing in the same space, but the stunbot will sense this and blow itself up.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The Galactic Bureau of Investigation.
  • Graffiti Town: New Washington.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Not only Conrad is stranded in space in the end, no one knows of his feat of saving humanity (Ian might figure this out, but he has no proof).
  • Green Hill Zone: The jungles of Titan, which serve as your tutorial to all things Conrad. The enemies are easy, but the obstacles are not.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy:
    • "A SPY... Throw the wretch into the dungeons. We'll interrogate him later."
    • The aliens erase Conrad's memory upon his capture, instead of killing him outright. He might have been more useful to them alive, but this is never explained. In any case, Conrad easily gets free and steals a hoverbike from the aliens' garage; he's shot down over Titan and, after a quick sweep to make sure their prey is dead, his pursuers switch off their spotlight and head back home. Perhaps they did not expect Conrad Hart to survive the inhospitable jungle.
    • Later, Conrad is imprisoned yet again. When the jailer opens the cell door, there's nothing preventing you from simply dashing out of the cell and reclaiming your gun, which is conveniently lying on the floor.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • There's a jump at the beginning of the second level that requires a maneuver you won't use often. The obscure move was deliberately included as a form of Copy Protection. Unless you had the manual, you were unlikely to progress past the second screen of level 2.
    • Also, there's the door in the sixth level that requires you to shoot it open, the only door of its kind. Nowhere in the game at all does it suggest to shoot any door, but the comic book in the game's instruction manual shows Conrad doing just that in this exact area.
  • Gun Kata: A key element of the original Flashback involves getting the drop on enemies before they can open fire. To that end, Conrad has an Unnecessary Combat Roll which can be initiated while coming out of crawlspace or falling from above, and is essential in many spots. Originally, Delphine had the license to produce a game based on The Godfather, which was presumably dropped early in the development phase; however, the realistic movements and gun mechanics wouldn't be out of place in a Prohibition-era shooter.
  • He Knows Too Much
  • Hub Level: New Washington flits in and out. The majority of the action is concentrated in sub-basements and "Restricted Areas" that are numbered and won't open until the Job Center sends you there. The surface world will not protect you: the police have free reign, and a mutant barges his way into the cafe.
  • Humanoid Aliens: The mutants.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: The human survivor Conrad meets on planet Morph dies almost immediately, but at least he's nice enough to hand over all the info you need to blow up the planet before he croaks.
  • In Medias Res: Somewhat subverted. The plot should be no secret to anyone who bought the game legitimately note , and you learn the truth behind Conrad's mission in the second stage, anyway.
  • Item Get!: You get a short cutscene whenever Conrad finds an important item, or exchanges it for something else. DA-DAH! Badada
  • It's All Upstairs From Here: Level 3, which is set in a tower.
  • It's Up to You: The only person defending Titan from mutant colonies, escaped replicants, and nuclear meltdowns is some guy posting classified ads in the Job Center. The police certainty aren't interested. (In fact, cops are behind most of the mischief in New Washington.)
  • Jet Pack: The cops.
  • Jungle Japes: The jungles of Titan.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Played straight, and then literally flipped right around when Conrad's memory is reimplanted by... lasers.
  • Laser Sight: Appears ominously on Conrad's back in a Flashback sequence, right before he's tranquilized and tossed into a car.
  • Lock and Key Puzzle
  • The Many Deaths of You
  • Marathon Level: New Washington is very long with its sheer size, tedious subway travel... and a surprise Timed Mission which will likely reduce the city to an irradiated crater on the first attempt. Clear your calendar for this one.
  • Matrix Raining Code: This is the Loading Screen used in the rerelease.
  • Meat Moss: Planet Morph (though it looks more like bubble gum).
  • More Criminals Than Targets: If you add up the mutant hordes, corrupt police, and renegade robots. This is as much true of Earth as on Titan.
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: Conrad B. Hart.
  • Never Say "Die": "Death Tower" becomes "Cyber Tower" in the SNES version.
  • Never Trust a Title: The title makes it sound like Conrad's amnesia will be a major factor in the game. He gets his memories back practically at the beginning of the second area.
  • New Neo City: New Washington.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: While on planet Morph, Conrad finds another human survivor. Unfortunately, you can't reach him without triggering a motion sensor, which leaves the stranger wide open to getting shot by an alien lying in wait.
  • No Body Left Behind:
    • Flashmen (quite rightly) explode once defeated.
    • Fallen cops, on the other hand, vanish into a purple flash of light. It could be that they carry teleportation devices to warp them out of danger — or maybe the dev team just didn't want dead cops' bodies littered around.
    • The Morphs revert to a plume of blue smoke and disappear. Which is a pretty unique way to expire.
    • The mutants' corpses are persistent, however.
  • No Hero Discount: An old hillbilly who lives next to a giant chasm on Titan won't fork over his Anti-Grav belt for less than 500 credits. New Washington is even worse, with a 1500 credit requirement for advancing to the next stage. What do you think this is, some kind of video game where you can find money in pots? Get a job, hippie.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Conrad wears a brown leather jacket, jeans, and Nikes.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The 25th Anniversary edition for the Switch is a bit of a misnomer, as the game was originally published in 1992. The game's creator explained that it's dated in reference to the SNES port, which came out in 1993, and it's been 25 years since the game was available on a Nintendo platform.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The floppy versions have no music, only brief leitmotifs.
  • No Time to Explain: Conrad neglects to explain the overall plot in his holocube recording.
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: A holographic interface is the standard for most vehicles, including Conrad's hover-bike and the escape craft at the end. However, the Job Center's terminals are still stuck in the IBM 5150 days.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Replaces the standard gun attack when an enemy stands too close to Conrad. Can also be used to smash out windows... too bad there's only one breakable window in the game.
  • Pixel Hunt:
    • A lot of the items on the ground are hard to see. Some of them blink, others, don't.
    • Lifts can also be hard to see. Like the one at the very end of the game that you need to take to the spaceship to escape the Morph homeworld. This very lift even became a Guide Dang It! for some.
  • Police Are Useless: Extortion, corruption, and indiscriminate shooting are all part of a day's work.
  • Port Town: The only flight out of New Washington must be won by competing in the Death Tower game show. Worse yet, Conrad needs a fake ID to enter, and forgeries don't come cheap.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: In post-Amiga versions (except the Genesis port and the HD remake), Conrad wears a magenta shirt instead of a white one, but it reverts to white for cutscenes.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: It's They Live... in SPACE!
  • Reptilian Conspiracy: The Morphs, A race of polymorphic, Bipedal reptilians that have shapeshifted into members of human society and plan to dismantle it from the inside.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Morphs are blue-skinned lizards in red pajamas.
  • Scenery Porn: The Death Tower and the Morphs Planet levels.
  • See-Thru Specs: Conrad's transparent green eyepatch doohickey, used to spot aliens who are hiding in human guise. Features prominently in cutscenes as well as the box art, yet you never actually get to use it. It does, however, get used in the remake.
  • Sentry Gun: They can't be destroyed, but a few have adjacent switches that turn them off. The firing rate is also slow enough that Conrad can duck, roll, or jump over the shots.
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: Averted. Morphs are incredibly dense as a result of having enough mass to shift to a variety of forms of varying sizes — The Molecular Glasses (from the backstory of the original and actually used in-gameplay of the HD remake) can identify them because a Morph in human form is significantly more dense than an actual human.
  • Shapeshifter Weapon: Morphs LOVE to pop up under you and attack.
  • Shout-Out: The game is full of little pastiches to 80's sci-fi.
    • Conrad's backstory is a blend of They Live! and Arnie's lost identity in Total Recall.
    • The second stage has Conrad hunting for a loose Replicant, a la Deckard and Batty.
    • The third stage is a nod to The Running Man.
    • The final image of the game is Conrad entering a sleep-stasis, and the camera panning outward from the window of his ship. Sound familiar?
    • We also get our obligatory A New Hope reference on the second screen: Conrad's Call to Adventure comes in the form of a hologram imploring him to go somewhere.
  • Sinister Geometry: invokedThe floating attack drones have an element of this. Like Phantasm's floating spheres, they have to get close to inflict damage. Naturally, they love to gang up on you atop of thin platforms.
  • Sinister Silhouettes: The title screen of the game depicts Conrad somewhere on Planet Morph, inching along the wall as an alien prowls the corner beyond.
  • Spirit Advisor: During the final sequence of the game, an "inner voice" (implied to be the survivor from earlier) guides Conrad in planting an atomic bomb in the planet's core.
  • Stationary Boss: The Auxiliary Brain and Master Brain. The former hides behind a rotating shield which deflects fire; the latter is protected by organic sacs that spit goo.
  • The Taxi: Conrad's first task upon returning to Earth is to hail a hover-cab.
  • Terraform: Titan (Saturn's moon) has been transformed into a lush alien jungle, with a metropolitan city beneath its crust.
  • Teleportation with Drawbacks:
    • An important tool to master, especially in the last leg of the game. The Telereceiver acts as a portable beacon; Conrad can lob it over great distances, then activate the Telecontrol, which beams him directly to the beacon's location. Nifty.
    • The teleporter in New Washington's Job Center.
    • This is also the mode of travel by which Conrad journeys to the Morph homeworld.
  • Theme Naming: New Washington's districts each have an "A" at the end of their names. This is evident when you visit Europe, which is rendered as "Europa."
  • Thriving Ghost Town: New Washington. Strikingly empty of actual people, but filled with mutants and volatile energy reactors.
  • Time Rewind Mechanic: Added in the rerelease, in the modern game mode. The easy difficulty gives unlimited rewind, while higher difficulty levels are limited. Of note, expert difficulty gives 5 minutes of rewind, while normal difficulty only gives 2 minutes.
  • Underground Monkey: Mutants carry guns, but don't know how to use them well, and so they spend a few seconds fumbling the gun into position before they can fire. The ones you meet on Titan (red hoods) die in one measly hit, and Conrad is much quicker on the draw. However, the mutants in green garb are a little smarter and start carrying force fields. A few of the mutant colonies have leaders who take more hits than normal.
  • Updated Re-release: The remake applying to this version keeps the original visuals, but adds some post-processing graphic changes, tutorials and things to ease in modern players.
  • Used Future: New Washington is dank and grimy, full of rotating fans and endless basements. Earth is slightly cleaner, but still a dump.
  • We Will Spend Credits in the Future: Money comes in floppy discs, in denotations ranging from 50 bucks to 15 grand.
  • "What Now?" Ending: After defeating the Morphs and destroying their homeworld, Conrad escapes on a spaceship. Alone in an unknown part of space, he puts himself in cryogenic sleep.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The spaceport in which Conrad arrives. Interestingly, this being a French-developed game, some of the outdoor areas evoke a Parisian feel, particularly the signs for the Paradise Club.
  • Wrap Around: Level 3. Justified because it's a cylindrical tower.
  • You All Look Familiar: Alarmingly, everyone in New Washington is an Ian lookalike. There are a few exceptions, like the barkeep with the 80's polyester jacket.

The 2013 remake contains examples of: