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Fact, fiction, and fear in Ghosts and Weird Adventure categoryEducational categoryMultimedia category

Screenshot from Ghosts

Ghosts and Weird: Truth is Stranger than Fiction aren’t exactly educational games. They’re more like those sketchy shows on the History Channel.

There’s plenty to learn in Ghosts and Weird, though not anything you’d hear from a more reputable source. Both these games, created by largely the same team led by producer-director Philip Nash, tell stories about alleged encounters with the paranormal – ghosts, ghouls, hauntings, psychic premonitions, alien visitations, and everything else spooky that somebody ever claimed happened to them. They take folklore, and they blow it out into a larger-than-life 3D world, like a gallery of supernatural curiosities.

This type of immersive encyclopedia was common for a short time in the mid-90s, when publishers were discovering new ways to present information on CD-ROMs, like the virtual museums in Eyewitness Virtual Reality. With The X-Files and the 1995 alien autopsy hoax frothing the public’s interest the supernatural, that made it great subject for a CD-ROM. But in the spirit of a dodgy cable TV documentary about aliens, these two games act like they’re serious informative programs. Is it still just spooky, or is it misinformation?

And can you believe Christopher Lee is here?! » Read more about Fact, fiction, and fear in Ghosts and Weird

Guest appearance on the Bad Game Hall of Fame Podcast Blog category

Here’s a quick plug! This week, I stopped by the Bad Game Hall of Fame Podcast to talk about my favorite bad game, Gooch Grundy’s X-Decathlon. It’s a wild misfire attempt at a comedy-sports game that’s even funnier because it tries so hard to be funny.

Bad Game Hall of Fame is a blog that revisits games with bad reputations and gives them another shot, with a closer look at their history and the reasons they’re disliked. It’s part of Game & Love, a network of queer game bloggers, streamers, and video creators. There’s lovely folks over there!

It was fun talking with Cass about Gooch Grundy! The Bad Game Hall of Fame’s mission has a lot in common with The Obscuritory, so it was great to help celebrate the fun side of bad games with them.

Extreme Rock Climbing Sports category

Title screen from Extreme Rock Climbing

Niche sports should get to be games too! The extreme sports game boom in the late 90s and early 2000s turned skateboarding into its own genre, and that opened the door, however briefly and unsuccessfully, for more games based on smaller solo sports, like Wakeboarding Unleashed featuring Shaun Murray. And why not? They’re athletic challenges that emphasize personal growth and achievement, which is a perfect fit for a style of game where you practice something over and over until you finally nail it in record time.

What sport is better suited for that than rock climbing? It’s a literal representation of that struggle to improve yourself and surmount an obstacle, in this case a giant wall or a cliff. Given the popularity of the sport, it’s surprising that more games haven’t explored rock climbing outside of a few motion-controlled sports titles like Kinect Sports Rivals and Wii Fit U or something intentionally silly like the slapstick control scheme in GIRP. At the moment the extreme sports genre exploded in 1999, there was at least one climbing game. Alongside other games in the Extreme series like Extreme Rodeo, Head Games Publishing released the small and surprisingly clever Extreme Rock Climbing.

But how do you translate the physical challenge and dexterity of rock climbing into a computer game? To find out, we need some help from a delicious, energy-boosting PowerBar®. » Read more about Extreme Rock Climbing

Join The Obscuritory Charity Tea Party Marathon 2019 for Trans Lifeline! Blog categoryStreaming category

The Obscuritory Charity Tea Party Marathon 2019 banner

Tea icons by Pixture

It’s happening again!

On November 9, I’m hosting The Obscuritory Charity Tea Party Marathon 2019, an all-day stream to raise money for Trans Lifeline.

Trans Lifeline is a non-profit organization that provides microgrants for trans people to cover the costs of name changes and updating IDs to affirm their gender, as well as running a support hotline by and for trans people. It’s a great cause, and it will be great to stream for y’all to raise money for them!

The last time I did a charity stream, I said I’d go for 24 hours, and I did not make it. So I’ll just say that I’m starting on November 9 at 10am EST, and we’ll go from there.

In keeping with the mission of The Obscuritory, I’ll be streaming weird old games and software. But this time, I’m going to try to play a few games at length. I haven’t settled on what we’ll be playing, but it will include a full playthrough of Wrath of the Gods, an extra-cheesy educational live-action adventure game that I want to share with as many people as possible. There will probably be some bonuses too, to be determined.

As the name of the stream promises, I’ll be drinking lots of tea over the course of the day. Bring your own tea too, and we can talk about how great tea is! It’ll be a relaxing, silly, and hopefully thoughtful time.

See you on twitch.tv/obscuritory on November 9! Sign up here for a reminder on Twitch.

Marble Drop Puzzle category

Box art for Marble Drop, courtesy of MobyGames.

When I read picture books as a kid, my favorite part was following the illustrations. If there was a cross-section drawing of a house, I would trace my finger up the staircases and through the doorways. That’s probably why I loved illustrated mazes, or the busy scenery in hidden object books, or puzzle books where you had to untangle a bunch of strings, because it’s fun to follow a winding path and see where it goes.

Marble Drop taps into that same sort of fun. It gets you to follow the path that a bunch of marbles are about to take through a complicated maze of gizmos. You don’t even have to finish solving it correctly to enjoy it! » Read more about Marble Drop

When a re-release gets unreleased Essay category

Registration reminder screen from Barrack

The registration reminder screen from Barrack. There’s no way to register it anymore though

One of the post tags on this blog is “still sold,” which I use to indicate games that are still commercially available in some form. Usually, the games were re-released on a digital platform like GOG.com, or they’ve been ported to mobile. Occasionally, they’re still sold through the original developer’s website. It’s worth supporting developers and publishers who go through the effort to make old games available and working on modern platforms, even in cases where the rights might have been snatched up by some larger publisher.

From time to time, I’ve gone back to older posts to add the “still sold” tag them, like Lighthouse: The Dark Being, which was officially re-released a few years ago. But there’s also an alarming movement in the other direction – games that go back out of release. » Read more about When a re-release gets unreleased

Boom Arcade categoryMacintosh category

Title screen from Boom

What do you get when you combine Bomberman and Doom? Chances are, it looks like Boom, a game that certainly does not infringe on intellectual property.

This was a shareware game that was sold for $15, not a free fangame. And despite whatever risk it opened up for the developer Factor Software, Boom doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s basically Bomberman with Doom characters. It even calls the games out by name. You play as a space marine in a green suit of armor who fights aliens – not demons – that look like human soldiers. One of the enemies named Thick Lizzy is almost identical to the fireball-throwing imps from Doom, except that it’s named Thick Lizzy. Technically speaking, these weren’t actually characters from Doom, which must have given the developers just enough of a cover to call it a parody if they needed to. The likelihood is that since the game was for the Macintosh and it was distributed through shareware CDs and the late-90s internet, nobody’s lawyers knew or cared about Boom, and under the cover of obscurity, Factor Software got to see what it would be like to map one franchise over the other. » Read more about Boom

The Legend of Lotus Spring Adventure category

Title screen from The Legend of Lotus Spring

The Legend of Lotus Spring has more in common with a poem than an adventure game. The big moments are intimate and quiet – feeding a fish, playing a musical instrument, finishing a piece of needlework. There are no puzzles or challenges to overcome. The main action of the game is to remember.

In Lotus Spring, you walk through a palatial garden, dreaming about a lost love. The idea was something intentionally outside the expectations of gaming in the early 2000s. It was originally a project by a group of 3D artists to recreate the old imperial gardens of China, and through happenstance, it became the only title produced by a short-lived company dedicated to making games for women. They created an elegant game that takes you on a short, emotional journey through memory and acceptance. » Read more about The Legend of Lotus Spring

SoulTrap Platform category

Menu screen from SoulTrap

In several ways, SoulTrap is a nightmare.

For Malcolm, it’s a literal nightmare. He’s become trapped inside his own mind by his deepest fears, and apparently, he’s scared of everything. He’s afraid of death. He’s afraid of clowns. He’s afraid of fast-paced life in the big city. He’s afraid of robot sharks… which I guess is fair, I’ll give him that one.

And so he must conquer them and escape. His fears have manifested as a dreamworld, so surreal that it borders on abstract. » Read more about SoulTrap

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