The Flash (is Sluggish)

The Flash is a pretty cool guy. He can run really fast and doesn’t even need to collect Chaos Emeralds! Although a major DC character, the Flash has not enjoyed as much fame as his buddy Superman… but as Superman 64 has shown us, perhaps that is a good thing. While the Flash has been featured in many DC universe properties, he rarely has been the star of his own game. In what may have been his first solo outing, the only Flash game I have had the pleasure(?) of playing is his Game Boy title.

Flash, The_title

I really like this title screen. It’s simple yet somehow feels exciting.

Presented in beautiful DOT MATRIX WITH STEREO SOUND, The Flash is a 2D platformer that has a heavy emphasis on being frustrating, clunky and occasionally fun. With YOU in direct control of the Flash, make your way from the left side of some area all the way to the right side of the area with the intention of punching some dynamite! It’s a fairly standard formula that manages to do a bit right, and a bit more wrong.

Controls

On your journey as the Flash, you get to punch AND kick things! The Game Boy, with it’s two primary buttons, does the best it can accommodate all the actions the Flash needs to perform. Kicking is assigned to one button, punching the other, and jumping, sadly, is UP on the directional pad.The Flash’s normal movement speed is pretty fast but by pressing and holding the A and B buttons, you can use his super speed to racing through the level in a flash (sorry). It’s a reasonable control scheme but there are a couple significant flaws.

Flash, The_gameplay

Level 1: Watch the Flash do some mid-air squats and kick things.

Punching is useless. The kick has a much longer range compared to the measly little punch. Other than the fact that certain things, such as the end of each level, cannot be triggered by kicks, there is no reason to ever punch something. Kicking is always better. I cannot stress this enough. Do not punch.

UP to jump is almost always horrible and The Flash is no exception. Jumping feels very awkward and makes leaping over instant-death pits incredibly nerve racking. It’s hard to explain the weird disconnect-y, laggy-ness to jumping. To compound this, the game is filled with ladders that you must climb. Guess what button climbs ladders? UP! This would be fine if not for the fact that half the time you try to climb a ladder you end up jumping in place.

All the controls feel slightly… off. Everything has some strange lag to it. There’s a bit of a wind-up when attacking which means you have to stutter and anticipate your attacks a bit in order to properly combo an enemy to death. Most noticably, however, is the landing lag. When hitting the ground from a jump, the Flash ducks down for a brief period. It feels very halting and heavily contributes to the overall clunky-ness of the game.

Game Mechanics

Every level is a timed race to the right to disarm a bomb, though not a particularly exciting or hurried race. Enemies each take several hits to kill as does the Flash. The Flash has a fairly generous life bar and it’s even more generous in that every single enemy you kill drops a health pick up. The combat is really dull and easy. Just run up to an enemy, stagger kicks until it dies. That strategy works for every single enemy. It’s trivial until you get the the enemies that shoot. It seems like the shooting enemies will take off 1/4 of your health with each shot. Given how clunky the controls are, it’s often extremely difficult to avoid getting hit.

Everybody knows the Flash is known for running fast. It’s sort of… his thing, you know? By holding both attacks and moving, you can perform the previously mentioned super speed but by standing still you can also perform a power-draining, useless spin-kick move. It drains your super power meter so fast and is so obnoxiously useless that it makes me wonder why it was even put in the game at all. The super speed, on the other hand, is very useful and hardly drains your super meter at all.

Flash, The_scroll

Oh, joy! I love not being able to see where I’m going!

One of the main reasons why I like the super speed is that it causes the screen to show more in the direction you are facing. One of the big platformer no-nos is when the screen doesn’t start to move until you hit the very edge of the screen (I’m looking at you, Turrican!). The Flash suffers greatly from this common retro ailment. As shown in the GIF to your right, notice how little time you get to react to a quickly approaching death-hole. At least super speed causes the screen to show you what’s happening before it kills you.

All the speeding around does come at a price! Using super speed builds up a mighty hunger! Scattered throughout the levels are vending machines at which you must score some delicious snacks. The vending machines will always cost as much money as you have, up to $5. This means, if you have 1-5 dollars, it will use all your money. Depending on how much money you put it, a different snack will come out. Each snack fills up your speed power meter by a considerable amount but the difference between a $1 snack and a $5 snack is so negligible that it always feels like the Flash is getting ripped off.

Dying is a pain in the butt. The good news is that you probably won’t get killed by any enemies. The aforementioned death-holes will most certainly take your life 9 times out of 10. They are everywhere and due to how the screen scrolls, they pop up out of no where. Even more frustrating, you only get a few lives until you are booted back to the title screen. There is a password system to continue progress but dying and continuing both result in you starting at the beginning of the level so it’s just an unnecessary annoyance.

It’s Not All Bad

The Flash does have a few things going for it. Punching and kicking things is always fun and the speedy running feels pretty cool in the context of a Game Boy game. Despite it being shallow and a bit sloppy, there are a surprising amount of levels, interesting music and several distinct environments, including a couple train chase levels. This little game feels like it had some care put into it but not enough to overcome it’s faults. Is it worth playing, though? We’ll just ask the Flash himself…

It was the best five seconds I ever had.

How can you turn this down?!

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