I hate to open up old flesh wounds like a dentist carving up teeth to get cavities out, but do any of you guys remember or think about old Flash games? These old computer games could be played on websites that support Flash, like Armor Games, Kongregate, and the website with the attitude of “everything by everyone”, Newgrounds. However, with the death of Flash at the end of 2020, it’s been hard to try and find ways to preserve these old games. While some successful efforts have popped up like Ruffle for Newgrounds and the Flashpoint archive, there are still some games that wouldn’t be able to be experienced. Some ways for these Flash game developers to keep their old projects alive is that they can sell them on online storefronts like Steam. The latest addition to this league of Flash games on Steam is The Elephant Collection, a collection of 10 of jmtb02’s elephant games, and they’re just as fun as they were back in the day.
The plot is almost nonexistent. The blue elephant wakes up and has forgotten everything about his past as a washed-up Flash games star. To make matters worse, his beloved wife, Pink Elephant, has gone missing. His mission is to go through his past adventures and track down his missing wife while regaining all his memories. After beating each game in this decalogy, you get a vague message saying that your memories are slowly coming back, but the story for the most part only really comes back in the end, in a surprisingly somber and sweet way that still fits the attitude of these games.
The real focus here is the ten different games for you to check out and explore. There are three games in the Achievement Unlocked series, each asking you to go around the level and do many increasingly oddball ideas and achievements to overcome and unlock. The This Is The Only Level trilogy has you going through the same stage 30 times with each trip offering a new gimmick for you to deal with. The remaining four games are odd one-shot adventures. Elephant Rave tasks you with dancing around lasers and avoiding them for about half a minute. Run Elephant Run has you racing back to your wife and away from a Hollywood deal as obstacles keep threatening to halt your run. Elephant Quest deals with a bully mammoth called Wooly stealing your hat, tasking you with tracking him down, and getting it back in a Metroidvania-stylized game. Finally, Obey The Game is a simple WarioWare-lite game with a handful of minigames where you either need to do what the text says, or disobey when prompted.
In the spirit of the original Flash games, you will need to unlock achievements to progress to the true ending. You don’t need all of them; just 24 will do. Each achievement you unlock counts as a memory that can be hovered over with the mouse on the door, giving you a little background information from the creator’s perspective when designing the game. It could be how an element of the game came to be, a personal experience he had while programming it, or even some thanks to others for putting up with him. Alongside the side of my brain that goes into primate mode when it sees a number going up to match the number of achievements here (“OOK OOK! Big number good, but big number matching other big number is better!”), these personal stories were enough for me to stick around for 100% completion.
Well, that, and the games here are fun as well. They’re not as big and grand as traditional games you can find today, but one look at them and you can tell that they have a style all to themselves. The super simplistic colors and shapes, especially the shape of the main lead. The animations are just as stiff, but endearingly so. The elephant just moves by rocking back and forth, and double jumps are just him flipping in the air. In games where you can die, your corpse just flips upside down and turns gray. The music used in this game can be distinct with its love for polka tunes. It all screams early Internet Flash games, and it loves and respects its past.
The Achievement Unlocked games are all about throwing everything you have against the wall and seeing how many achievements you can get. These achievements can range from simple stuff like just walking to the left and moving to the right, to more advanced tasks like jumping into the same spike pit ten times in a row or staying in the air for as long as possible, or even more bizarre stuff like using a coffee machine, going to a secret level and then falling to go to another secret level. While some of these achievements can be hard to perform or even discover, such as letting the hamster wheel spin you around a couple of times, typing in a specific letter and number combination, or even bouncing on multiple hamsters without landing, for most of the time, you’re able to figure out what’s happening by just reading the achievement titles and descriptions. These are all fun games to test your knowledge of how many crazy things you can perform for achievements.
The three This Is The Only Level Games are all about seeing just how nonsensical getting through one stage can be, and how many kinds of ways it can change and challenge you. Just like the Achievement Unlocked games, each level has its tricks that you need to overcome to get to the pipe. While there are a couple of challenges that feel too much and are more just throwing random stuff at the wall (looking at you, “D34TH 15 2AD” with your spike guessing game), all the other times the tasks to complete the levels are not only sensible, but also fun to complete, like going through the ceiling to reach secret warp-pipes, spelling out words, and even navigating invisible mazes. This trilogy managed to be a troll game while still being funny to witness and fun to play.
And of course, we have the four different oddball games. Run Elephant Run is a short little game where you have to go back to your wife while surviving each stage. It’s best experienced on the game’s insane difficulty, as it forces you to jump around and dodge all different kinds of obstacles alongside being part of one of the memories you need to unlock. Since there are checkpoints after each stage, it’s not hard to keep working back to where you were, meaning it’s only a matter of time till you win. Elephant Rave is just a simple game, the first one ever created by jmtb02. You just have to dodge lasers while enjoying the laser show with how many lights are going off. This can be a bit of a problem for those with photosensitivity (something that can be applied to the whole game more or less), but the game is respectful enough to tell you before starting. Obey The Game has you quickly trying to decide whether or not to obey an on-screen command. Alongside the standard mode, other modes switch up the gameplay; from just placing only two different microgames, switching commands up, or going nonstop, there are plenty of ways to enjoy and experience this chaotic side game.
The real surprise one-hit game here is Elephant Quest. This game comes with the story of Elephant’s hat being stolen by Wooly, leading to you going across caves, ruins, forests, and even going up into the clouds. It’s only about half an hour long, not even the longest game on this collection (that title being Achievement Unlocked 3), but it’s surprisingly in-depth. Alongside exploring, you can beat enemies by shooting at them with a laser. As you beat more enemies, you get more experience points to level up. With each level up, you get more credits to use on a skill tree, getting more health or four different types of skill points, with them having three different types of categories to spend them on. These can give you more defense against spikes, higher jumping arcs, faster speed, and so on. You can even get more guns and auto-firing turrets to help you. There are even quests here to help you get more experience points or even more firepower, from talking with select elephants to finding quest items and giving them to their proper elephants. It’s pretty much a Flash game Metroidvania, and it’s a natural fit for the Elephant games.
Overall, this collection is an enjoyable blast from the past. Every single game here is at least one worth playing through to check it out. They’re pretty much the same games as they were back in the day and are just as much fun as they were back when Flash reigned supreme. They may not be the most technologically impressive games released, but it’s a game that is unapologetically proud of its past Flash game origins. It’s a breath of fresh air to see these old Flash games come back to life through these collections, and it gives off a hopeful future for bringing back even more old Flash games and thrusting them into the limelight.