Obscure video games

2008-10-28

10 video games on my shelves that probably aren’t on yours; a mutated meme from Gareth. Actually I have many more books than video games, so it might be a bit difficult to find games that you don’t have. Let’s try. I think I might be doomed anyway. Possibly at least one of my readers not only has all these games, but has a games collection that is a strict superset of mine.

Odama (Nintendo Gamecube). Well, obviously it’s everything you expect from the samurai/fields-of-death/realtime-strategy/pinball genre. One of the more amusing features is that the japanese voice-over is subtitled not dubbed; the endurance-like enthusiasm and vigour of your samurai training officer egging you on in japanese is just hilarious! It even comes with a mike that you clip onto the Gamecube controller so you can bark your orders. Aduvansu!

Starsweep (Sony PlayStation). Eye-watering good puzzle game. I bought it on a whim for GBP 2 and it’s one of my favourite puzzle games ever (right up there with Tetris Attack). It’s the classic stem-the-rising-tide-of-pieces by eliminating them in various combinations. The gameplay is chillingly simple: all the pieces are 1 by 3 (with irrelevantly chamfered ends) and they are eliminated by matching the symbol on their end with their neighbour’s. Pieces don’t fall by gravity; in another simplification you eject a piece from the nozzle of your starfish and place it anywhere on the board where it fits. Like all the best puzzle games, you need eyedrops after a session. Whoever commissioned the cover art had never played the game (or even seen a screenshot): it features tetris pieces.

Rox (Nintendo Game Boy). One of my few “black cartridge” games. When the Game Boy Color came out Nintendo had a problem. Two in fact. One was that consumers wouldn’t buy a new console that didn’t play all their old games; the other was that no-one would make games solely for the tiny installed base of Game Boy Color devices. The solution was the black cartridge: games that used enhanced colour palettes on the Game Boy Color but still worked on the older (black and white) Game Boy. Grey carts were old school Game Boy, crystal (translucent) carts were Game Boy Color only; black carts bridged the gap. Oh, the game. Actually it’s not that good. It’s a falling pieces puzzler based on dice (and I bet the use of colour works out really badly on the Game Boy). Oh, but that reminds me…

Devil Dice (Sony PlayStation). A much better puzzle game based on dice. It’s sort of 3D. You play a small elf that runs around on the top of dice and has the power to move them by rolling them from one of their sides to another. In order to make room for new dice being dropped into the room from the space shuttle you have to eliminate dice by cunningly rolling dice together so their top spots match. Actually, I have no idea where the pieces are dropped from, but traditionally it is the space shuttle that drops pieces in puzzle games.

Bangai-O (Sega Dreamcast). Run of the mill puzzle/shooter with 8-way side scrolling featuring flying robots, fruit, and the most inscrutable translations ever. Trademark “too many bullets” slowdown. Well, how many puzzle/shooters do you know? It’s awesome. Yet another game where I haven’t killed the final boss.

Rebelstar: Tactical Command (Nintendo Game Boy Advance). Gollop’s homage to his earlier days of squad level tactical gaming on the ZX Spectrum. Corporal Jonlan lives! I love the trademark Gollop elements: blasting walls and doors down with grenades; ducking and shooting in locations lovingly furnished with office chairs and toilets; and the ever present action point juggling to decide if you can afford to break cover to pick up your fallen comrade’s rifle. Sadly in this GBA incarnation you can’t booby trap the plant-pots by hiding timed grenades in them; unlike Laser Squad which me and a friend played to death whilst listening to The Cure on loop.

Kirby’s Block Ball (Nintendo Game Boy). There was a time when “if it says Kirby or Mario, buy it” was a good rule of thumb. Perhaps Nintendo got a little bit careless about slapping “Kirby” or “Mario” in front of a title in order to boost its sales, because this is not Kirby’s best outing. It’s merely a mediocre breakout/arkanoid clone. And now dated to boot.

Rocket: Robot on Wheels (Nintendo 64). This is what happens when physicists make knock-off versions of Mario 64. 3D worlds all accessible by wandering around the central hub. You play a unicycling robot in a theme park. The game engine makes a reasonable attempt at realistic physics and many of the puzzles make use of it. There’s not just stacking boxes, optics and ballistics get a look in too. It’s not a great game (especially since it’s competing with Mario 64 on the same console), but it is a good game, and it’s an interesting study in how physics can add depth to gameplay.

UN Squadron (Super Nintendo Entertainment System). From an era when games were hard. I haven’t played this nearly enough (I’m too weak!). It’s a side scrolling shooter with selectable pilots, planes, weapons. The graphics are lovely, and the soundtrack is pretty neat too. There’s a tiny element of strategy and RPG in that you can upgrade your plane with money after each mission, and you can choose which mission to play next based on which tiles on a map you have opened. Did I mention that it’s damn hard.

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (Super Nintendo Entertainment System). Weird. A side scrolling beat-em-up featuring the usual oriental tropes. And a shop. And a fun 2-player co-op mode. And, just, weird bosses. The 2-player co-op is fun, not enough games do it. I haven’t played it enough.

Perhaps I should’ve stopped at 8 or 9, I was definitely struggling.

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4 Responses to “Obscure video games”

  1. Nick Barnes Says:

    I don’t own any of these. I don’t think my children do either, although I might see whether I can acquire Starsweep.

  2. drj11 Says:

    I have now defeated myself by buying one of my readers one of the games I listed. :)

  3. Nick Barnes Says:

    … and very fine it is too :-)

  4. mjb67 Says:

    There’s a new Bangai-O on DS now, and Legend Of The Mystical Ninja is on Wii Virtual Console.

    The DS Bangai-O has level editing, and level sharing using audio coupling! V.cool. You can download levels from the internet that people have encoded as MP3.

    I enjoy Odama but it is very hard.


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