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
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 are 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 Nukem. Crystal 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 about Crystal Caves
The Mille Miglia was an epic automotive endurance contest that started in the late 1920s. Back before safety issues were a big deal in the racing world, the Mille Miglia sent the most foolhardy drivers on thousand-mile open road race through the Italian countryside. It popped up around the same time as similar events like the Le Mans 24-hour race, but it was canceled when officials realized that the Mille Miglia was incredibly, incredibly dangerous.
Discontinued or not, the Mille Miglia has apparently ascended to the stuff of legends – at least enough to warrant a lavish game adaptation. 1000 Miglia treats the event with an intimate reverence, celebrating the Miglia’s first decade with an eye for historical accuracy. It is, in a sense, a documentary. Despite its good intentions and semi-educational purposes, 1000 Miglia just doesn’t have the technical strength to condense such a big race to a playable scale. » Read more about 1000 Miglia
It’s been a long and winding road for The Obscuritory. I’ve mentioned that I had to reboot the blog several times before I found a format that worked for me, but if there was one constant through that, it’s that the blog has been hosted on Holenet.info.
As a result of some recent reconfiguration over there, The Obscuritory has left the roost and found new lodging at Obscuritory.com. This is an enormous step forward and a commitment to myself and the blog. I feel like I’ve just purchased a piece of property for the first time.
Looking forward to where the next leg of this weird journey leads.
Noctropolis is a big, beautiful mess of a game. The creators at Flashpoint Productions made a massive epic set in an original comic book world, and it totally sucks. It’s a tremendous mismatch of talent and ambition, and I love it.
The soundtrack is one of the only parts of Noctropolis that keeps pace with its grand vision. The composer, Ron Saltmarsh, intended the music to play on a Roland MT-32 synthesizer rather than the standard, chintzy DOS MIDI output. Few computers at the time supported that hardware, and even fewer do today. Either way, the title track, “Darksheer Theme,” will knock your boots off.
I am always surprised when an orchestral MIDI piece – especially one from 18 years ago – packs a wallop like this one does. “Darksheer Theme” captures the massive scope, bravado, and heroism that Noctropolis was trying so hard to accomplish. This piece plays over a slow-moving panorama of the city of Noctropolis, and it is positively spine-chilling. Could you imagine if the entire game had been as good, as tense, or as epic as the theme? Hats off to Ron Saltmarsh for delivering the goods.
I used this image in my first test post because I needed something that was 640×480 to test the site width. Thanks NASA!
According to the “Hello World” post that WordPress made, I started The Obscuritory four years ago today!
I started this blog on a lark because of my increasing interest in CD-ROM games at the time, and I honestly just expected it’d fizzle out after I lost interest. And it did, at least twice. I rebooted this blog several times before I finally figured out a style that worked for me and that people enjoyed reading, and it was worth putting in the effort.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge how sporadic the updates are, but having The Obscuritory as outlet for me to talk about old, forgotten games has been exciting and liberating. I really did not think I would follow through on it, but here we are. Thanks for reading if you have!
William Soleau has had a steady output of shareware puzzle games since 1991. Quality of some of the games aside (see Ladder Man), this is an accomplishment in tenacity. If nothing else, Soleau Software is prolific.
Maze Mission Adventure Game may be one of his earliest; the game predates the Soleau Software brand. It’s clearly the work of a developer getting their bears. It’s riddled with typos and sits comfortably about five years behind graphics technology at at the time. But it’s pretty good. The game never progresses or goes anywhere, but it captures the fun of exploring and getting lost. » Read more about Maze Mission Adventure Game
Even people who have never read an Asimov story know of his famed Three Laws of Robotics, so ubiquitous that it would be redundant to list them. Asimov’s robots took on life and popularity beyond his novels and short stories, which eventually led the author to commission a series of books based on his famous motifs. The Robot City series acted almost like a perfunctory exercise in testing the Laws of Robotics in extreme circumstances, but it at least did so in the dressings of a murder mystery.
The game adaptation of Robot City is inherently more interesting. The game mines a surprising level of narrative intrigue out of the Three Laws, chiefly because you can interact with the robots rather than just reading about their reactions. In the process, Robot City nearly perfects the art of the dialogue puzzle. So let’s never speak of the devastatingly slow exploration sequences tucked in-between the puzzles.