C64 games I've heard of but never played before - Flak

by Paul Morrison


For some reason, I used to get confused between this and FRAK!. I have no idea why, seeing as one is billed as “The Ultimate Flight Experience” and the other features a fat purple caveman with a yo-yo. Anyway, eventually I played FRAK! a lot back in the day, and I never played Flak at all. Time to see what it’s all about, then…

What you don’t see here is the title logo flashing away in glorious technicolour.

What you don’t see here is the title logo flashing away in glorious technicolour.

With a subtitle like “The Ultimate Flight Experience”, I was expecting something along the lines of Project Stealth Fighter… well, given its age, maybe something more like Strike Force Harrier, or ACE. What I was not expecting was an average clone of Xevious…

Yet, that’s what we have here. It’s a simple, vertically-scrolling arcade shoot ‘em up. Not that I minded finding that out… I prefer shmups to flight sims, any day. I’ve always liked Xevious, too, so I thought this one had a fighting chance of becoming a newly-discovered gem for me.

Let’s see if I can take out these deadly Doritos.

Let’s see if I can take out these deadly Doritos.

It hasn’t quite panned out like that.

The most obvious difference between Flak and Xevious is that this game doesn’t have any flying enemies in it, at all. Not a single one. That disappoints me, because I like fending off squadrons of enemy fighters and any vertically-scrolling shmup feels a little empty without them.

This all looks very serene.  What you don’t see are the masses of underground gun emplacements…

This all looks very serene. What you don’t see are the masses of underground gun emplacements…

That’s not to say that Flak isn’t challenging. It is. Very challenging, in fact, once you get a bit further into the game. Some might say that it’s unfairly challenging, in fact, as half the guns firing at you are underground and only appear when they feel like it… often, when it’s too late to avoid any bullets they spew. It’s especially annoying when you’re sure you hit the installation, only to find you missed it by a pixel as it blows you to Kingdom Come.

There’s another irritation here, too. Most people hate it when a game sends you back to the start of a level when you die. Flak kind of does that, and kind of doesn’t. By that, I mean that it does send you back to the beginning, but then it makes you sit and wait while your next fighter flies all the way up to where you just died. It’s one of those things that probably sounded like a good idea at the time, but in practice it’s annoying.

Does this remind anyone of Xenon?  No?  Just me?

Does this remind anyone of Xenon? No? Just me?

Still, for anyone who enjoys a challenging shoot ‘em up, Flak is still a decent proposition. It’s the kind of game that you can master through repetition, as everything is in exactly the same place in every game. If that’s your bag, then this would keep you going for ages. Me? I’m off to find something that features attack waves.