Flash Gordon, the movie, is something of a cult classic thanks to its awfulness. That and the abundance of Queen music. But whereas Flash Gordon the film is easy to love because of its flaws (and Queen), Flash Gordon the game’s flaws aren’t so lovable.
Flash Gordon is a passable endless runner with a handful of levels, a soundtrack that manages to pull off the right level of cheesiness (plus the inclusion of the iconic title song), and access to one of the most beloved cornball sci-fi film licenses ever. Honestly though, the music is really all this game has going for it. The title screen alone could arguably be worth the price of admission, but unless you’re a major Flash fan everything that comes after it won’t be enough to make up the difference.
It’s true that I said this is a passable runner, but “passable” is really it. Flash (or Dale Arden if you’d prefer to change things up a bit) simply runs to one side while trying to avoid enemies and obstacles. Tap the left side of the screen to jump and the right side to attack, or tap both while airborne to perform a stomp. It honestly wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that none of the gameplay every stands out in any way. The controls are decent, the action is decent, and the integration of everything in order to keep you on your toes is decent. Even the power-up system can’t surpass decent, with a bunch of rather dull abilities that don’t actually appear during a run all that often and don’t make much of a difference when they do.
You can spend coins (depicted as lightning bolts for some reason, even though they do call them “coins”) to increase a power-up’s effectiveness, but when they hardly even show up it doesn’t seem like that big a deal.
But that music! It probably won’t be enough to sway anyone who doesn’t still have a pair of Flash Gordon pajamas, but if you’re going to make a game based on this movie you absolutely need to include the theme song, and they did! It’s just as bombastic as ever, and the weird vector-y artwork that accompanies it on the main screen ties in really well. The music that plays throughout the various levels is also appropriately full of synthesizers and sci-fi sounding twangs, though it of course pales in comparison to Queen’s original number. Not that I’d expect otherwise, of course.
As for the rest of it… well, it’s not terrible I guess. The artwork on the title screen is certainly colorful and interesting, but it barely makes the transition into the actual gameplay. Instead, things look rather dull and a little empty. The animations also fail to satisfy, with some really awkward running and little impact to the, well …impacts. I hate to say it but it’s reminiscent of the kinds of simple browser-based flash games (no pun intended) you can find all over the place. Everything just feels… empty.
All of this culminates in a runner that, despite the epically bad (in a good way) movie license , just doesn’t stand out. Except for the title screen, which is flippin’ awesome. Mostly because of the – okay, entirely because of – the original Queen music. In a way I feel like it would have actually been better if Flash Gordon was a bad game instead of an extremely bland one. Then it could at least have a shot at hitting that “so bad it’s good” sweet spot.