Cinematic platforming games are just wonderful, from Another World to Flashback, it took limited graphics and made something mind-blowing. I haven’t played a lot of Flashback but I have played its sequel Fade to Black, developed by Delphine Software International and published by EA, it was released in 1995, it’s a 3D platforming game that was directed, written and designed by gaming legend Paul Cuisset. Is it any good…sit down for this one, there’s a lot of explaining to do.
So there are aliens called Morphs, able to replicate any shape at will, and they’ve taken over Earth. You play as Conrad, taken from his sleep in a cryogenic freezer by the Morphs, and locked up in a prison…ON THE MOON! But then he gets a video call from John O’ Connors (Terminator reference lol), he’s part of Mandragore (Doctor Who reference), a rebel organization (Terminator again), and you later meet Sarah Smith (ANOTHER TERMINATOR REFERENCE!?!?!?!?!?!) he recruits Conrad to run covert missions to destroy the Morph empire. The cinematic cutscenes are pretty cool; it has that movie feel at times despite the graphics not aging well.
So you start in a cell and you walk around, you have a shield which is your overall health bar, the only way to refill is use charging stations. You have inventory, you begin the game with a gun with unlimited firepower, a scanner, a watch, and a communicator but you can collect other items, but go to the next level, you lose all the items, I’ll come back to that later.
The movement is ye old 360° movement, it’s clunky and sometimes unresponsive, but that’s only the beginning, there is combat mode where you need to kill enemies using combat mode, the camera is pretty good when walking around but in combat mode it’s horrible, press square to get your gun out and press square again to shoot enemies, very clunky aiming as it uses the 360° movement, you have no crosshair so you need to use the gun itself to actually hit enemies which is ok but it needed a crosshair.
And since you don’t have a crosshair, you have to aim your weapon at the enemy until you get an icon indicating that you can shoot the enemy, but the enemies can move away, meaning you have to slowly move to their viewpoint again while in combat mode, when you move you somehow continue to gain momentum and it’s annoying because you’re more likely to lose shield power doing so. And it’s also because of the controls, they’re so unresponsive, it literally has a mind of its own, half the time I feel like I have no control in combat mode.
Also, when in combat mode, you can only aim for one enemy at a time, in level 2, I came across a robot spider, I shoot it but another robot spider kills me from behind, I had no idea an enemy was behind me and you have no chance of reacting to it. It’s annoying and makes this unfair to play.
I also had issues with jumping, walk to leap (when you stop, still gain momentum, had this issue with electrical panels, trying to leap but momentum stopped me from stopping) but stand still to do a responsive leap (leap using that method and you stop and don’t gain momentum, the instructions don’t cover this properly.
When in combat mode, you have no freedom of how to tackle your enemies, you will always get hit one way or another and even though you have the ability to strafe, it never works properly because when shooting, you can’t strafe…and then it does now, WTF? You need to stop and then strafe which is ridiculous. When trying to shoot aliens in level 2, you need to get ready for them, I kill the first, I’m nearly at death’s door, but then the alien shoots homing missiles at me, so even strafing isn’t going to help you, this game is so broken and awfully flawed that I can’t get through level 2.
To make matters even more worse, in level 1 you eventually collect explosive bullets and they’re very helpful, but then you go to level 2 and you lose your bullets and go back to default, are you kidding me? The game gets harder but you expect the player to use default bullets to shoot harder enemies?
The puzzles are challenging mostly because of the controls, if you have the manual it should have a small walkthrough, it’s great for beginners, however it just stops halfway, so you have to figure out what to do which is actually cheating out players, if you’re going to give us a strategy guide on a manual, give us a full manual of the entire game, furthermore if you don’t want to spoil us with help, why give us a walkthrough at all, you didn’t have to but I’d be just as stuck as I am now going further without the manual, it’s annoying, it’s unfair, what’s the point?
The graphics haven’t dated well at all, very blocky textures, I understand because it was the PlayStation but even some of the blocky textured games have dated OK, like Tomb Raider, I’m saying this because whenever I look at the first Tomb Raider game’s graphics I will now say “Could have been worse?”, sometimes I have no idea what texture is what at times. Saving and loading is a complete mess, save anywhere and you load from where you saved, but should you have no memory card you’ll start all over again from the beginning which is very annoying for people with no way to save, there’s a password but it only takes you to the beginning of the game.
My main criticism is that if you get further in a level and eventually die, you need to go back to the beginning of the level, it took me 4 hours to beat the first level, so if I died without saving, all those hours would have been a waste of time.
But I suddenly noticed that these saves are actually temporary saves, when you turn the game off, it won’t save, you have to continue playing the game and save or load with the game on at all times, you have a password, but it’s to enter the next level, not for checkpoints or save points, thank goodness I wrote the password for the levels. But as it turns out, to save the temporary save, you have to quit the game, go to resume, save, and then save the temporary save, really, why couldn’t you automatically save the game from there. It’s a very trial and error game, much like Another World or even Flashback, but while those games made you think of how to solve your errors, you can see those errors but you’re unable to correct them due to the broken gameplay.
Did you know? The game was released for DOS and PlayStation it was going to be released for the Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn but was cancelled.
Overall, this is a really annoying game, very bland story, horrible graphics, anger-inducing gameplay, douchebag controls and music that I forgot what sounded like, I know Delphine Software was trying to make a puzzling 3D experience, but this is just one big mess, it’s literally so full of itself that it fools into thinking that it’s a good game when it’s not when you think about it. It was a hit, it must have clicked with gamers, critics liked it so it might have been good at the time but this is really aged poorly, I hate this game, it’s so bad!
For anyone who hates me for bashing a Delphine Software game, it makes you feel better, they developed Shaq-Fu…yes, they made one of the worst fighting games of all time, the games that makes you break the cartridges by law, and Paul Cuisset, creator of Flashback, also created Shaq-Fu, they inform of this in the manual, as in they were so proud of the making of Shaq-Fu…this is a dark day my friends. Pray the independent sequel can do justice to the first game.
I played the PlayStation port, I know there was a DOS port, it could be slightly better than the PlayStation port but I have no faith on it.
You can get it on DOS and PlayStation.