Six years in: reflections on gaming culture and a revised mission statement title=

Six years in: reflections on gaming culture and a revised mission statement

About six years ago, I realized that I wanted to share my love for forgotten games with the rest of the world. A lot has happened since then, both personally and culturally. I have largely left the “core” gaming world and found some much-needed perspective that I would feel negligent not to discuss here. Put simply, the insularity, prejudice, and anger that surrounds video games is horrifying and, if left unchecked, will surely destroy this terrific and expressive medium.

More now than ever, I find it essential to celebrate the weird and out-of-the-way games of yesteryear. Serendipity and discovery are merits on their own, but they also promote a healthier, more fun, more vibrant, and more inclusive culture. I want to reaffirm my commitment to this site and to emphasize the good things that obscurities can bring about. Read more »

Posted on August 26th, 2014 by Phil "Shadsy" Salvador

1 Comment »

Noctropolis title=

Noctropolis

It shouldn’t be controversial to suggest that big ideas need great talent to pull off. Richard Garriott nearly single-handedly created Ultima, but he was a designer of immense skill and vision. Not everyone can execute a game of that scale, and if you don’t have a capable team, the results will not match the scope and ambition of its design.

Noctropolis is the ultimate casualty of an unskilled developer tackling an ambitious idea that it could never see to fruition. In an ideal world, Noctropolis would be a rollicking comic book adventure with high energy, snappy writing, and grand stakes. But that is not this game. Noctropolis is an endless series of failures and mistakes, a parade of terrible acting, nonsensical plotting, and unchecked psychopathy. Flashpoint Productions tried so hard to make the ultimate original adventure franchise, and wow, what a spectacular mess. Read more »

Posted on May 10th, 2014 by Phil "Shadsy" Salvador

1 Comment »

PSA: Get Pegasus Prime! Now! title=

The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime

I make no bones about the fact that The Journeyman Project is one of my all-time favorite games. It’s a classic of its time, but apparently not resting on their laurels, Presto Studios released an FMV-tastic remake in 1997. Sadly, it was only released for PowerPC Macs and, bizarrely, the Apple Pippin, leaving it to languish on a shelf of unplayable could-have-beens for nearly two decades.

Seventeen years laterThe Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime has been released for Windows and OS X! This is a big moment for a series that’s seen a tremendous word-of-mouth comeback thanks to fans and availability via GoG.com. I will always have a special place in my heart for the original Journeyman Project, but this redux gives the game a facelift and story overhaul that puts it in sync with the rest of the series. (Above is Agent 3, Michelle Visard, a key character who originally didn’t appear until the second game!) And now that Pegasus Prime is available for anyone with a modern PC or Mac (in contrast to the original, admittedly hard to get running nowadays), there’s no excuse not to play all of them.

As of this writing, Pegasus Prime is only $8.00 on GoG. Please buy a copy! Then buy everyone you know a copy!

Posted on April 14th, 2014 by Phil "Shadsy" Salvador

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GADGET: Invention, Travel, & Adventure title=

GADGET: Invention, Travel, & Adventure

GADGET is a nightmare. I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. It very much has the qualities of a nightmare. The game ambles in repetitive and disorienting directions, chained together by irrational, non-sequitur plot developments. Imagery is bold and surreal, punctuated by out-of-body experiences and blurry detail. It is unsettling.

Developed by Japanese studio Synergy Interactive, GADGET: Invention, Travel, & Adventure lacks much of the mechanical structure we associate with games. There is little meaningful interactivity. But because the experience is so un-game-like, so rigid and suffocating, it evokes genuine confusion, terror, and discomfort. This is not a game that will make you jump, but once you’re deep within GADGET‘s pseudo-Soviet web of intrigue and conspiracy, some gut reaction will tell you that it should not be happening. Read more »

Posted on March 22nd, 2014 by Phil "Shadsy" Salvador

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Eastern Mind 2 has been FOUND title=title=

Holy fucking shit. As of yesterday, a copy of Eastern Mind 2 (Chu-Teng) has been found and ripped. I can’t link to it for legal reasons, but suffice to say, if you look for it, it is out there. Moby Dick has been slain.

This is an enormous milestone. I am so proud to have been one of the instigating forces behind the search for this game. Although I was not involved in this particular effort, it is the crowning achievement of a 5-year effort to generate awareness for Eastern Mind. I re-discovered Eastern Mind in fall 2008, and I started The Obscuritory (both the blog and my YouTube channel) in part to show people this specific crazy game. One thing led to another, and after years of evangelizing and a well-placed link from Cracked.com later, Eastern Mind has a second life, and Osamu Sato’s legacy has been completed.

I can’t contain my absolute giddiness about this discovery. My goal with The Obscuritory was to show people weirder, harder-to-find games that were forgotten by time. And goddammit if that has not been accomplished.

(Thanks to everyone who sent this in!)

Posted on July 5th, 2013 by Phil "Shadsy" Salvador

4 Comments »

Bouncer title=title=

Bouncer

Bouncer exists somewhere in a space between Breakout and billiards. It invokes some of the skill and strategy of pool, in part because of a more complex control scheme. But that same control scheme is less intuitive than it should be.

The goal of Bouncer is to knock similar balls together. If you don’t eliminate all the matching pairs by the end of the round’s timer, you lose. You control a Pong-style paddle with the mouse; you can push the balls around when the mouse button is held. Since aiming with a paddle is often difficult, Bouncer is capable of recognizing spin. A well-aimed shot can curve a ball’s trajectory, getting it closer to the target.

Bouncer

Ka-thunk!

There are a few immediate downsides. Since you’re controlling a paddle, it is often difficult to make a vertical shot (especially when there’s no room). Even when you can, the game often misinterprets finicky maneuvering as an extreme curve. Often, balls that are meant to go up — and sometimes ones meant to go horizontally — will just spin in a circle or go in a wild direction. You could feasibly make better shots with a deeper understanding of the curve system, but it’s difficult to predict. Randomly knocking things around usually yields comparable results, especially for difficult-to-hit balls on the top of the board. Unfortunately, that takes enough time to end the game.

Bouncer has low enough ambitions that it isn’t a bad game. It’s a short time-waster, and it has a large problem. But that’s alright for the one or two times you’ll play it.

Posted on February 9th, 2013 by Phil "Shadsy" Salvador

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Angst: Rahz’s Revenge title=

Angst: Rahz's Revenge

Nothing can prepare you for how terrible Angst: Rahz’s Revenge is. Every second of this game is the worst. It is impossibly bad.

There are a lot of awful games out there, but Angst deserves special condemnation among first-person shooters. Its minimalist approach treats the core precepts of the shooter with contempt, exposing them as inherently flawed and harming the entire genre in the process. Read more »

Posted on February 7th, 2013 by Phil "Shadsy" Salvador

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Life & Death title=

Life & Death

Games have a dubious track record as instructional aids. I don’t mean edutainment games but rather games designed to give people virtual hands-on experiences. As the legend goes, the Sim series veterans at Maxis once built SimRefinery as an orientation tool for Chevron administrative staff who weren’t familiar with how the company worked. Adventure game luminary Sierra even at one point claimed that police officers had used Police Quest as part of their training. To my knowledge, no one has studied to see if this type of hands-on game is effective. My worry would be that someone would consider the gameplay in Police Quest a substitute for learning the real thing.

Consider those fears heightened for Life & Death, a surgical simulator that has an unclear relationship with science. The game’s manual clearly states that the game should “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES” be mistaken for genuine medical advice or education, but that’s a forgivable error. Life & Death is sickeningly realistic and unfair, just like the real thing. Read more »

Posted on January 29th, 2013 by Phil "Shadsy" Salvador

5 Comments »

At MAGFest! title=

To anyone who may be attending and reading this on short notice: I’ll be at MAGFest in National Harbor, MD this Saturday. If anyone wants to talk old games and troll the classic game merchants for rare finds, I’d be more than glad! Just let me know in advance.

Posted on January 4th, 2013 by Phil "Shadsy" Salvador

3 Comments »

Crystal Caves title=

Crystal Caves

Game genres tend to be hard to separate, with the blurry lines between categories often not worth arguing. Is Mass Effect an RPG or a shooter? Does it matter? Genre terms probably find the most use as ways to discuss structure since, generally, we recognize what we’re getting into when we’re told that we’re going to play an adventure game or a fighting game. Even then, the chances of taking elements from multiple columns is high enough to render the exercise pointless.

Case in point: Crystal Caves, one of Apogee Software’s last games before they found massive success with Duke NukemCrystal Caves is the sort of extra-difficult platformer that begs you to repeat stages dozens of times before you complete them, god forbid with the highest possible score. It has a unique pace that encourages forethought over action. It shares more DNA with Chip’s Challenge than Mario. Read more »

Posted on December 23rd, 2012 by Phil "Shadsy" Salvador

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