Loops and pathways have been institutionalized as puzzle mechanics, popping up in everything from classic board games like Tantrix to modern blockbusters such as Bioshock and Warframe. Something in our reptile brains loves connecting lines into bigger and bigger chains. But it’s telling that these puzzles have been relegated to minigames in recent years: they can be monotonous beyond short-term investment. How do you make these linking games fun?
The solution might lie within Troubled Souls, one of the better puzzle game derivatives from the 90s. Beyond its heavily Gothic, body horror-influenced theme, Troubled Souls adds a clever progression system and forgiving mechanics that keep the game lively and constantly moving. And as a bonus, it’s scary. » Read more about Troubled Souls
In the interim between the sporadic articles I post on here, I’ve been posting screenshots, videos, and other tidbits to the Obscuritory Tumblr page. I use Tumblr as sort of a clearing house for all the content that hasn’t made it onto this site, which often means artistic screengrabs, quick blurbs for games I haven’t written articles about, and updates on weird stuff I’m adding to my collection (like my copy of Iron Helix!) I try to post new content every day, so there’ll always be more obscurities to check out. If you’re on Tumblr, swing by and say hello!
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.
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 its design.
Noctropolis is a notable casualty of a developer tackling an ambitious concept 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 about Noctropolis
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 produced 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 later, The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Primehas 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!
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 about GADGET: Invention, Travel, & Adventure
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, 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 the 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 is alive and well.
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 damn if that has not been accomplished.
Bouncer exists somewhere between Breakout and billiards. The goal is to knock ball pairs together using a paddle. It’s a straightforward game with some of the skill of pool because of a few complexities in its controls, but those controls are less intuitive than they should be.
You control a Pong-style paddle with the mouse; you can push the balls around when the mouse button is held. Pressing the arrow keys turns the paddle to face whatever direction you’re hitting. If you strike a ball close to the end or side of the paddle, it adds spin, allowing you to curve around other balls to match pairs.
Usually, you can make most connections in one or two shots. You could feasibly save time and make better shots with a deeper understanding of how to add spin to balls, but it’s difficult to predict. Randomly knocking things around usually yields comparable results, so you can ignore that part of the game and still play it fine. Adding spin always feels clever, though. You wish the game could be clearer about how to use that mechanic.
Bouncer has simple enough ambitions that it isn’t a bad game. It’s a short, easy time-waster, and its controls don’t click as well as they should. That’s alright for the one or two times you’ll play it.
(This post was substantially revised on November 12, 2017.)
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 about Angst: Rahz’s Revenge
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. 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. I’d worry that a non-law enforcement layperson 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 about Life & Death