Title: The Flash
Platform: Master System
Release Date: 1993
Aside from a few appearances in various Justice League themed games (and a fantastically fun to play turn in Injustice: Gods Among Us) the Scarlet Speedster is not exactly the best represented of DC’s characters in video game form, so this solo title is a rare thing indeed. What a bonus it is then, that it’s actually pretty damn good, stays faithful to the character’s abilities, and offers a stiff challenge into the bargain.
Developed by Probe Software (Alien 3, The Terminator, Mortal Kombat), and released in 1993, some two years after the first TV movie pilot, the game is influenced by, if not directly connected to the live action series from 1991 starring John Wesley Shipp and Mark Hamill (both of whom now star in the revamped show on The CW). As The Flash, you must do battle with the Trickster, who is, of course, causing mayhem throughout Central City. Barry’s companions from S.T.A.R. Labs are on hand to give updates on the Tricksters whereabouts between levels, but it’s up to The Flash to disable the ‘Trickstermobile’ and save the city.
On first look, it’s a pretty standard platform layout, with the massive exception of the central character’s incredible speed. It’s somewhat akin to playing Sonic the Hedgehog, as opposed to say, Alien 3, in that it’s ridiculously easy to overshoot obstacles and run directly into traps, fire, bad guys, and controlling The Flash’s momentum is paramount to progressing in the game.
The action is broken up into six episodes, each split into two sub levels: section one is a platform level, with all manner of traps and fiendishly placed bad guys to overcome, where Barry must find the switch to open the level exit, and then reach said exit before the timer reaches zero. If the latter task is not completed, the FED enters the level to chase you down, usually bringing your sprinting days to a sudden halt. The second section involves a battle with the Trickster in his ‘Trickstermobile’, parts of which must be disabled to complete the level. The difficulty of these sections ramps up sharply, with a suitably enhanced and trickier (sorry) enemy to face in each subsequent battle.
Aside from his speed, The Flash has a short range vibration attack for taking out bad guys, opening boxes, and a whirlwind attack for use on the move. Both of these attacks drain the power meter, which can be topped up at stations placed around the level. Players can take three hits before losing a life, but there is plenty of pizza dotted around to replenish your energy. When hit, the Flash becomes invulnerable for a few seconds, and this becomes a useful mechanic to avoid further danger.
Considering it’s a Master System title, the game does look surprisingly good, and not too far off the standard of it’s more powerful sibling, the Megadrive. The intro and cut scene are high quality, and The Flash sprite looks fantastic, and is given plenty of frames of animation to make his movement fast and clean without any graphical break up. Level design is similarly impressive, with a few nice touches like the ice patches on the second level, where our hero ‘wheel-spins’ in place before gathering enough traction to propel himself forward, and sticky floors on others negating our hero’s unique skillset.
Music is excellent throughout, and the game features a few standout tracks, particularly second level theme, and the heroically intoned music of the game’s impressive introduction sequence. Sound is rudimentary for the most part, with a selection of blips, bloops, squeaks, and squeals used to bolster the action. Once again, it’s not too dissimilar from the Megadrive, just a little rougher around the edges, and certainly toward the higher end of what the system is capable of.
Overall, The Flash is great fun, but be in no doubt: it’s tough-as-nails, and will provide a stern test for even the most hardened of gamers. It’s most impressive feature is also it’s most challenging, and plenty of practice will be required to bring the character’s speed under control in order to being to fully enjoy and appreciate the game.
The Writer of this piece was: Martin Doyle
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