Obscure games you've played recently

This being a forum for retro gaming enthusiasts, I’m sure you guys regularly play obscure, nearly forgotten games. So, why not share your experiences with those little-known gems (and duds) with us?

I’ve been playing Vandyke (UPL, 1990) recently. It was released as an Arcade Archives title a couple of months ago.

Gameplay-wise, it’s nothing special. It’s a top-down beat 'em up that kinda resembles Capcom’s 1987 arcade game Avengers, but in a medieval fantasy setting. There are a few times when some silly and absurd enemies appear on screen to make matters a bit more interesting (like the above three-eyed green elephant with an evil genie on its trunk), but that’s about it.

Never did get this one on Arcade Archives so thanks for sharing your impressions. It’s a shame that gameplay-wise it’s not up to anything particularly special, but thematically it certainly has caught my eye.

I don’t think I’ve played many games from UPL. I bought Gomola Speed on HuCard earlier this year and had a blast with it, hoping there might be other whacky games from their repertoire worth playing. Anyone?

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If you’re still on the fence about Vandyke and want to know more about the game, I’d suggest reading this HG101-article:

Never heard of Gomola Speed, by the way. Seems like quite an interesting Gauntlet/Snake hybrid!

The UPL games I’ve played so far are Atomic Robo-Kid, Ninja Kid 1 & 2, Omega Fighter and, of course, Vandyke. You won’t see me pour lots of hours into those games, but I wouldn’t say any of those are particularly awful.

I’m kinda looking forward to the Switch Arcade Archives release of Mutant Night, mainly because that game looks rather surreal and, well, unsettling.

UPL was quite a quirky game developer, that’s for sure.

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Today I got Uprising Join or Die and its sequel from this week’s GOG sale.

It’s often described as a RTS/Action-game hybrid, which isn’t exactly wrong but the RTS elements are so simple and abstracted that anyone looking for a Starcraft where you can play as the units will be dissapointed. Basically, the premise is that you control a hovertank called the “Wraith” in first of third person. Each maps has pre-designed building locations: you drive over a specific square to drop in a “citadel” (an heavily armed command tower thing) and once that is set up, you can drop buildings on the remaining slots that allow you to summon specific type of units, power reactors to generate ressources, base defense and other things.

This sounds like typical RTS stuff except that instead of queing builds and giving order to your units, you simply teleport them line-of-sight on the battlefield using the Function keys, at which point they’ll automatically do what they’re assigned to do. You can just as quickly reclaim them using the delete key once their job is done.

The Wraith is pretty well-armed and tough so it would be tempting to just do everything lone-wolf. HOWEVER, you can’t destroy buildings yourself so you’ll need to either have infranty (which are stupid and frail, but cheap) plant bombs or call a bomber to do the job. At the same, enemy bases are well-fortied so it’s not a bad idea to call in fighters and tanks to distract them while you coordinate your assault. The cooldown for summoning units is pretty fast so you’ll soon witness some impressive combined arms scenario. It all sounds pretty complex but once you do the quite-helpful tutorials, it’s actually quite simple and remarkably intuitive.

In-between missions, you can use the money you’ve acquired to purchase upgrades for your units, buildings and the Wraith itself. By keeping the action fast and simple and the RTS elements dumb but not pointless, Uprising is a remarkably unique and fun genre-blender. It’s possible repetition sets in as I do more of the campaign, but so far I’m pleasantly surprised.

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Oh wow! Did you ever play Battlezone on PC? That was an amazing RTS first person hybrid that really did the license justice. It even got a remaster in 2018…

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I have the N64 port though I didn’t play a lot of it.

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Wow I didn’t even realize there were any ports. I thought it was PC only… in fact, per Wikipedia the only other version of Battlezone is the N64 version! And I learned something else interesting:

The game’s artificial intelligence was reused from Dark Reign: The Future of War

Wow, there’s a deep cut… I had almost forgotten about that RTS altogether. It was supposed to be very innovative, but I remember it as meh, especially compared to the gold standard of Total Annihilation, which is in my top 5 games all time on any platform.

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TA was amazing… I played a ton of that online, finished it twice too.

Still my favorite RTS of all time.

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There’s a first party PSP release which that I’m confident less than a hundred people played: Influence.

INFLUENCE | プレイステーション® オフィシャルサイト (playstation.com)

This is a puzzle game designed by Masahiko Sato, the designer of Intelligent Qube, but it seems it was sent to die, released as a digital only PSP game for 800 yen in Japan with very little fanfare, and rebranded into a PlayStation Minis game for its western release.

With basically nothing written about it, I decided to purchase it yesterday and played about an hour today…it’s certainly interesting but maybe on the wrong system.

Simply put, you pick a character, then hop around a 3x3 grid which happens to be populated by cubes of varying stacks. If you press the shoulder buttons you can expand/shrink your field of ‘influence’, which, when activated, eliminates any cubes that it encompasses. The catch is, any empty space that resided within your field of influence becomes a cube on the other side of the map, so you’ve basically got to come up with the optimal number of moves to eliminate all cubes.

It’s pretty clever - almost too clever for its own good - and I think it’s the sort of game you have to keep coming back to regularly so it slowly clicks. Right now I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t clearing half of the stages without trial and error rather than looking at the map and thinking about my next best move.

Honestly this sort of game would just work much better on the 3DS or VR. It’s quite hard trying to read the play field since it’s an isometric set of floating cubes, and while you can move the field using the analogue stick the whole thing is a bit reminiscent of trying to play Crashmo or Fallblox on 3DS without the 3D on, it’s possible but there’s a lot of visual noise that comes with not being able to parse everything in a proper 3D space.

PSP INFLUENCE(インフルエンス) PV - YouTube

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Played the Arcade Archives release of Empire City: 1931 for a bit.

It’s a pretty fun take on the shooting gallery genre. Unlike its contemporaries such as Operation Wolf, the screen doesn’t scroll automatically and it’s also not littered with enemies. Instead, the player can move freely through the level and pick off bad guys one at a time. It’s a nice change of pace.

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Little Magic on Game Boy Color. A really neat Sokoban game.

Game Boy Color - Little Magic © 1999 Altron - Gameplay - YouTube

The key twist is while you can move objects around as usual, you can also push objects without moving, and summon magic bubbles, which, upon exploding, displace adjacent objects by one square. The game comes up with dozens of clever challenges that make you think about how to use these magic bubbles and its puzzles have been a delight to solve so far.

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Never heard of this game. Looks pretty fun!

INFLUENCE seems like a 3D version of the classic “lights out” puzzle game.

And I need to try Little Magic! Seems like just my thing.

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I need to get back to INFLUENCE, was distracted by Powerful Golf at the time…which I also need to get back to! But yes - it has that feel to it, the need to carefully study every step and the effects on the adjacent tiles.

Funnily enough I’ve been playing Metal Gear: Ghost Babel on and off and they have these switch activated puzzles that open/close different positions of doors…but there’s one moment where the designers design a puzzle that’s impossible to solve which I found hilarious.

I spent a good 10 minutes trying to figure it out and then a cutscene happens where a guard comes along and just stands in front of the doors to open them…which is all that’s required.

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Vic Tokai’s Lucle is another obscure game I played through recently after finally tracking down a cartridge at a reasonable price for it from Japan.

It’s a really fantastic game that is hard to describe in words so I’ll let this longplay do the talking:

Lucle (GB) - YouTube

Apparently it was originally going to be a Taito F2 game but it was cancelled, however the planner returned to work on this Game Boy release. Makes a lot of sense because the timer-based challenge is very much out of the arcades.

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I finished Yoot Saito’s Odama recently.

What a fantastically involving game! You have to lead the bell men (troops carrying the Ninten-do) to the gates of each stage, using your pinball to gently (or not so gently) impact the warring troops amidst it all.

Odama greatly exceeded my expectations in its inventiveness and how the use of pinball was as equally strategic as directing your troops with your voice. The giant Odama rolling around really is force to be reckoned with - for both good and bad.

The narrative also threw me back - the game basically centres around the Yamauchi bloodline.
There’s even a section where you get transported to new-era Kyoto and conscript modern-day Nintendo employees to fight alongside your troops:

A very special game indeed.

Also: The GameCube mic support is surprisingly robust - it rarely, if ever, failed to recognise my commands.

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I didn’t know the game would become so quirky with the modern setting and all. Gotta play it sometime!

If you’re after something entirely new I couldn’t recommend it enough! Of course that’s a given with Yoot Saito directed works! Aeroporter on 3DS has a similar multitasking vibe to it.

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Having finished Kururin Squash over a week ago now with no cramped mazes in sight to navigate since, I’ve been having withdrawal symptoms. So I started playing the N64 version of “Irritating Stick” from Hudson Soft, or rather Ucchannanchan no Honou no Challenger.

You basically guide a stick through a very tight maze in mid-air, taking care not to touch the edges. It’s viewed side on so the stick becomes a blob on-screen.

Being based off a real world game show, it doesn’t have the virtual whackiness or inventiveness as Kururin Squash, but it is a focused challenge.

Despite only have just six stages, where’s always room to do better…I have only cleared the first four stages so far, using the gold (fastest) stick.

It’s also a rare 60fps 3D N64 title, so there’s that!

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I often wonder random facts about obscure games on obsolete platforms.

Like, how many people in the world played Gordo 106 on the Atari Lynx today? :thinking:

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