There are certain comic book characters that frequently get the video game, movie and TV treatment. For example, Batman gets tons of work, as does Superman, the X-Men and Spider-Man. Hell, even Spawn and the Punisher have had plenty of presence outside of comic books. However, there are some characters that seem to exist purely as the "+1" on the party invitations; always the bridesmaid and never the bride. One of those characters is the Flash. Even though he is a founding member of the Justice League, he doesn't get the same level of attention that Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman receive. In fact, I think even Green Lantern had more of the spotlight. However, in the early 1990s, Dr. Allen had a brief chance to shine thanks to a CBS TV series (that ended after one season) and his own game on the Sega Master System. Perhaps this points to why he's still wallowing in obscurity.
The Flash's game was clearly designed by fans of the comic. Of the superhero games I have covered, this is the one that best represented the character and had the best plot. The story involves the Trickster becoming mayor of Central City and declaring the Flash a criminal to get both the good guys and bad guys after him. Barry is out to clear his name and bring the Trickster down. It's a simple plot but told very well through the use of comic-style cutscenes.
The Flash is also extremely well-represented in the actual gameplay. He has two attack moves, a high-frequency beam to hit foes from a short distance and a Crash Bandicoot-like tornado spin up close. Of course, he also has his speed. That man can seriously move! I definitely applaud Probe for their mastery of the Master System hardware. The scrolling is buttery-smooth even when the Flash reaches top speed. Who needs "blast processing"? In fact, all of the visuals and sound are excellent, creating a great atmosphere for superheroics.
By now, you must be thinking that I had made some kind of mistake. Up to here, I have had nothing but praise for the game; yet, you saw the score at the top. There was no mistake. All of the wonderful things I mentioned are defeated by one thing: The level design is terrible. The game wants you to go supersonic with a short time limit (enforced by a droid that pops in to kill you if you run out of time) and the fact that YOU'RE THE FRIGGIN' FLASH! YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE RUNNING SUPER FAST!
Unfortunately, the levels were not designed with super-speed in mind. Every time I started to build up speed, a bunch of tricky platform jumps came up. I was frequently having to come to a full stop to jump a slew of platforms separated by deathtraps and losing momentum from hitting foes that were right in the path that I didn't see until I was in their faces. The level designers needed to take cues from Sonic the Hedgehog; those games showed how to do high-speed platforming right.
The Flash, while decent, was ultimately a huge disappointment, and I can only really recommend it to die-hard fans of the Flash who have super-human levels of patience. Clearly the developers loved the character and wanted him to have a chance to shine. However, poor level design in his only solo outing has doomed him to an eternity as a "+1."