Streaming schedule for the near future Blog categoryStreaming category

Thanks to everyone who joined the stream last week. It was fun to have everyone unpacking Beyond the Wall of Stars together. The article is still in progress; look for that in the next few days.

The Saturday streaming time seems to work well, so for the near future during the stay-at-home period, I’m going to try to stream every Saturday at 3pm EDT! I don’t have plans for a particular game this Saturday, but please stop by at twitch.tv/obscuritory!

As always, I’ll be drinking plenty of tea.

I’ll still be writing in the meantime – this isn’t a replacement for the blog! – but the streams are a great way to have a community gathering space while we’re all still isolated from each other. This is new for me, so I’ll update this post if plans change.

With the world on pause Blog category

For reasons that are hopefully understandable, The Obscuritory hasn’t been active this month. This is the first time I haven’t posted on the blog during a calendar month since 2015, so let’s talk for a little bit.

The coronavirus outbreak has been stressful, and as I’ve had to pour more energy into my job, I’ve been focusing less on anything else that feels like work. For the last few weeks, I’ve been taking a break by helping a friend with a game development project, which has been a new fun set of challenges! I’ve also been getting back into Minecraft after eight years away from the game, because there’s something soothing about chipping away at a giant tunnel, like doing a coloring book. But in general, it’s been difficult to focus, and The Obscuritory has taken a necessary break while I take care of myself and regroup.

I’m eager to get back into it again, but things will probably be a little slower for a while, even slower than usual. I had plans for long-term research projects this year, and I’ll probably need to put those on the backburner for a while too. But I want to help make things less painful, and this blog is a minor thing I can do.

(I swear, there’s this dark historical adventure game I’ve been meaning to play for over a decade, Azrael’s Tear by Intelligent Games, and I finally started on it right before the United States went into emergency mode. It’s tough to get excited about dark, moody games right now, so I’ve put that one aside again for the time being. Look forward to that in another decade, I guess?)

Given that everyone is cooped up at home for a while, I’m going to try streaming unusual old games during this isolation period, just for the sake of having a positive social space. I know I could certainly use that too, and I already have a webcam and microphone for work, so why not? I’ll update on here with more information once I get that going, but please check on Tumblr and Twitch as well if you’re already following there.

Seriously, please be well, and be kind to yourself. We’ll get through this by looking out for each other and treating ourselves well. Nobody is just the sum of their productivity or their work or their output. Rest is good. And bread. Bread is good too.

UPDATE: This is short notice, but I’ll be streaming the 1992 choose-your-own-adventure story Beyond the Wall of Stars today at 5pm Eastern! I should probably make a dedicated post for a streaming schedule, but I’m adding this here for now. https://www.twitch.tv/obscuritory

Capitalism Simulation category

Title screen from Capitalism Plus

The tutorial for Capitalism takes an hour and a half to complete.

Capitalism isn’t merely a game about running a business. It’s a game in which you manage a massive corporation down to the smallest details, down to every statistic for measuring brand loyalty and product quality. The micromanagement in this game is so far beyond useful that it feels like it’s just trying to show off how complicated it is.

The game does seem to be faithful to the subject matter, because the endless stream of statistics and relentless pursuit of profit pretty much captures the capitalism experience. » Read more about Capitalism

The dystopian information network of Perihelion: The Prophecy Essay category

The NetStation interface from Perihelion: The Prophecy. The terminal readout lists commands that can be typed in, such as help, talk, ask, analyze, and read.

I don’t usually get to talk about games from a librarian perspective, so please indulge me with this one!

Perihelion: The Prophecy, a role-playing game for the Amiga from 1994, is set in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk wasteland, built atop the ruins of a technologically advanced society that has long since faded from memory in a nuclear war. Although this chaos-riddled civilization continues to research new technology, notably a new field of genetics that bridges the gap between science and religion to engineer cyborgs and artificial life, there still doesn’t appear to be much in the way of meaningful infrastructure that hasn’t just been repurposed from the old world.

One thing they’ve managed to get working is a crude version of the internet called the NetWork. This might be the most plausibly dystopian part of this whole society. » Read more about The dystopian information network of Perihelion: The Prophecy

Koji the Frog Arcade categoryMacintosh category

Title screen from Koji the Frog

What did Koji the Frog do to deserve this? All Koji wants to do is eat bugs, and not only does he have to deal with angry bees and cars and lightning strikes, but there’s a gopher underground who’s trying to blow up Koji with dynamite! The gopher can’t sleep through Koji’s incessant hopping, so I understand being annoyed by that, but dynamite seems like a disproportionate response.

Koji seems reassuringly chill about this. He carries the same blank expression throughout the game. Even when he wins, to express his enthusiasm, he holds up a sign that says “Ribbit!”, like a Looney Tunes character. Maybe he’ll get eaten by a snake. It’s all good. He’s Koji the Frog.

Screenshot from Koji the Frog

Koji’s gonna fall right into that snake’s mouth and enter a world of pain

Besides the unrelenting misfortune that poor Koji has to endure if he wants a meal, the interesting part of Koji the Frog is how Koji moves around. His tongue can stretch out pretty far, but he still has to jump to catch bugs out of the air. Koji’s hop has a wide arc, which can be tricky to line up with the bugs in motion, so you have to lean into his momentum. Plus there’s the gopher, who will blow you up if you stand still for too long (maybe as a homage to the gopher from Caddyshack?). These minor variations – his limited range, his big hops, the homicidal gopher – add a nice twist to this cute, simple game. Otherwise, it gets by on how utterly terrific Koji the Frog himself is.

I expected that developer Marco Carra, operating under the name Slimyfrog Software, would have exclusively made frog-related games, but most of the other titles in the Slimyfrog catalog are desktop utilities, educational tools, or novelty programs (like EarthQuake, a program that shakes the screen around). That means Koji the Frog shoulders the responsibility of being the only frog software produced by Slimyfrog Software. I am happy to confirm that it is certifiably froggy.

A note on versions

The screenshots in this article might look different than the version of Koji the Frog you can find online. Most copies on the internet are version 2.0.1. These screenshots were taken from version 1.0.1, which was included on the demo disc for MacAddict issue #1.

Below the Root Platform category

Title screen from Below the Root

Below the Root is based on a series of children’s fantasy novels by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and without having read the books, I can’t speak to it as a literary adaptation. What I can say is that the game, co-designed by Snyder, is clearly drawing on rich source material, and the Green-Sky Trilogy is a perfect setting for a game with lots of exploration.

In the world of Green-Sky, the people live up in the trees, in harmony with nature. Relevant to the game, the people in Green-Sky wear these cape-like garments called “shubas” that they use to glide through the air, which are very fun to control. As fun as it is to glide through the treetops, though, the thing that makes Below the Root greater than its parts is how pleasant it is, and how it puts kindness, peace, and connectedness at the forefront. » Read more about Below the Root

Mirage Multimedia category

Title screen from Mirage

Multimedia CD-ROM games – live-action games in particular – can have a bad reputation because it’s easy to dismiss them. They can be weird and obtuse, often told in a way that’s intentionally fragmented, and they’re rarely given the dignity of being appreciated on their own terms. Corny live-action games get lumped into the same category as multimedia art like Puppet Motel. They’re treated as these bizarre anachronistic objects that don’t deserve respect or patience. Yet these sorts of games, which seem the most confusing at first, can be the most rewarding if you give them a chance.

The tragedy of the surreal Western game Mirage is that it justifies those gut reactions. It’s the kind of nightmare fiasco that you’d imagine if you assumed the worst from the genre. » Read more about Mirage

Pandora’s Box Puzzle category

Title screen from Pandora's Box

Here’s a odd thing: back in 1996, Microsoft hired Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of Tetris, to design puzzle games for Windows 95. Pandora’s Box was one of the games Pajitnov worked on with Microsoft, and it marks a surprising step away from the Tetris-style games that had characterized his work up to this point. Instead, it’s a visual puzzle game, defined by an almost archaic sense of wonder. » Read more about Pandora’s Box

battalion Action categoryArcade category

Title screen from battalion

The poor citizens of this town are not ready for the destruction you’re about to unleash. You, the most adorable monster.

Andy Johnson, the creator of battalion, said he wanted to make a game that was like kids playing with toy monsters in a model city, “the kind of game that Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes) would love to play.” In the spirit of Godzilla, or specifically Mechagodzilla, you are a giant monster, inflicting havoc on a random suburban town that’s woefully underprepared to deal with a 50-foot-tall killer robot. battalion is like a cutesy, tiny monster movie, fit into the constraints of a niche computer platform. » Read more about battalion

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