You know, I'm amazed that I've never played this game before. It got an awesome review in ZZAP! 64, and I actually had a tape full of games that had this on, but I just never bothered with it. Silly me. Time to put that right, eh?
Flash Gordon was released under Mastertronic's Mastertronic Added Dimension (M.A.D.) arm, which added an extra pound to the asking price but promised extra quality and scope with the games. It didn't always work like that.
However, as the budget market grew the companies were able to spend money on licenses. Not necessarily on things like massive arcade games... it wouldn't make sense to release those on a budget label, even at £2.99. Lesser-known arcade games were targets, though, with Motos getting a successful release on the M.A.D. label and
Peter Packrat coming out via Silverbird, just as examples.
OK, according to this map, we should be... somewhere. Hmmm.
So was the money well spent on the Flash Gordon license money well spent? Let's evaluate.
The game is split into three levels. The first sees Flash stranded in the jungles of Mongo, having crash-landed his ship. Crash-landed? Surely it's just crashed? It's like when you're on a plane and they say "in the event of a landing on water". If you come down where you don't expect it, it's just a crash.
Anyway. Flash is trying to find and defeat the evil Ming the Merciless, and being stuck in a dense jungle isn't doing his cause any good. Flash has to find his way out, which might be easier if he wasn't being assaulted by the jungle's inhabitants, who are miffed at the intrusion of this odd-looking character. In true heroic style, Flash can make his way past these denizens by blowing them to bits with his trusty laser pistol.
You just don't mess with Flash Gordon.
It's a right trail to get through the jungle, which is unfortunate because, as we all know, he only has twenty-four hours to save the Earth. There are pathways leading in all directions, with danger at every turn. Eventually though, Flash will find the exit. It's guarded by a ferocious tiger, but that's no bother at all to a man like Flash Gordon.
On emerging from the jungle, Flash bumps into Prince Barin. Barin works for Ming, but he's an honourable man and a sound thrashing from Flash sees Barin respecting Gordon and becoming his ally. Handy.
All that remains is for Flash to make his way through a deadly minefield on his bike, where he'll surely find Ming and defeat him. Winged guards attempt to destroy Flash, but they can be taken out with a well-aimed laser blast. As can Ming, once you finally encounter him. Pity... surely you should have got the chance to impale him on a big spike?
Is that... is that... Brian Blessed?
Flash Gordon is a top-quality effort for a budget game. Each of the three sections has its faults, but they're all good fun. I struggled a lot with the jungle level, which reminded me of Ocean's Platoon in design but not execution. I whupped Barin's ass convincingly... it's not the greatest beat 'em up ever, but it breaks up the other two levels nicely. I was then put firmly in my place by the Hawkmen, the bastards. That bike level is really hard.
Put together as one release at £2.99, Flash Gordon is a great deal. I do wish that I'd given it more of a shot back in the day, although it's much easier to say that in hindsight... without the aid of trainers and cracks I might never have made it past the jungle! Mastertronic did Flash proud with this one.