#10: Planet Dob (PS)
Planet Dob is about collecting 144 scattered "Bits" from around several areas called a "Piece". To do this, YOU dresses up as DOB and uses his sound gun to win the hearts of the Bits so that they will follow him to be uploaded which in turn unlocks a level mini-game that must be beaten to progress on to the next Piece. The story is that DOB is flying through space when he crashes trying to avoid a giant net. Some scientists find him and send in a test subject with YOU printed on his forehead into DOB's brain (I'll not comment on what exactly the YOU character's head resembles). Then the disguised YOU begins his mission to collect all 144 data Bits.
The game itself is very psychedelic with bright 3D characters on still, pre-rendered 2D backgrounds. Each of the background stages is very similar to early fixed-camera levels in games like Resident Evil. And every stage has various doors to enter and points of interest to examine. There are bus-stops, residences, a police station, stores, data maps (that let you see where Bits are hiding), and when you get enough Bits per Piece the end-level mini-game entrance will appear.
The inhabitants may need an item you find and give you a Bit or something else in trade. But most items allow you to interact with the environment in some way so that you may reach the next Bit. Bits will follow you in groups of up to three (they are small walking boxes printed with a D, O, or B and then must be downloaded to raise your level. Many of the mini-games are rhythm-based though not as conventional in the approach (one level has you changing tile colors each associated with an individual sound to complete a row before a steamroller runs you down.) Then there is a sound mixer that allows you to warp songs from the game (it usually unlocks after you download so many Bits).
#9: Moujya (PS)
Moujya is a standard matching puzzle game. The objective is to help your kitten win each round by matching the yen coins to keep your stacks from growing too large. The twist is that it does use currency instead of specially colored spheres or blocks and the way to match is by having enough of the same coins to transform them into the next coin. It takes 5 one yen coins to make a five yen, but only 2 five yen to make a ten, etc.
Moujya features a few special drops like a fortune cat that removes all the same coins as the coin it lands on. And should you manage to clear a row, then a burglar raccoon's face will appear and transform into an animated thief to steal some of your opponent's earned cash. Coins drop in pairs and the game tells you what the next pair will be. Each opponent is a different cat with different normal, attacking, and damaged animations that play in the background. It is a cutesy semi-educational game with a steep difficulty curve and likely to appeal to the genre fan.
Shaker and Tambourine is a music rhythm game complete with songs by the Japanese pop idol sub-group Minimoni. The group's main concept was that all the members are under 4' 11" tall and they covered a wide range of musical styles. This game can be played using a special tambourine controller made by Sammy, but what is really interesting is that the game itself was made by Sega. It features fully vocalized songs by the group and 3D representations of the four members that are closer to cartoon than reality.
The game play focuses on entering the correct directional motion (following the green arrow) when shaking the tambourine and hitting the tambourine after selecting it as the ball goes through the middle of its icon on-screen. It takes some real coordination to do, especially with a standard controller as well as a sense of timing. The game then grades the timing of each input and slowly your rank goes up. While all this is happening, the group's 3D representations are dancing on various backgrounds as effects and psychedelia go off to distract your eyes. There are several variations on the basic game play across a few modes, but the most fun may be the 2-player versus.
Beat Planet Music is simple and features a deep song editor. You name your character (Pilot by default) and then another guy shows you the ropes. The idea is that there are cities around the planet that you are trying to connect together through music. You must successfully complete the stages with a high enough "rate." The rate goes down every time you miss a note and when your timing is poor (Green is good, yellow is okay, and orange is bad).
Beat Planet Music presents its play area similar to a race game as you hurtle forward inside a half-pipe. While most rhythm games show the notes move along a 2D area with you trying to hit the corresponding button at the right time, BPM places you inside that area moving left and right to get into the correct "lane" and pressing O at the right time to collect the notes (called packets in the game). The song editor allows you to change the samples from the game and edit them to make your own tracks, save them to a memory card, and then play them in the Trial Mode. Players could even use music from their own CDs. Those who do not care much for techno (as it is the musical focus) may still enjoy the game play and the neon wire-frame style graphics.
#6: Engacho! (PS)
A puzzle game all about the "gross" emissions of distinct human anatomy. For those familiar with Tekken, Engacho has a similar beginning. Whereas, Heihachi Mishima threw his son Kazuya from a cliff to make him stronger, Sunzuki's father throws him into a dark pit full of disgusting monsters so he will overcome his fears. Each of the four monsters represents a different "gross" thing as one has a large tongue dripping with saliva, one has a big nose full of mucus, one has very smelly and hairy armpits, and the fourth is a pimpled (or rashed) backside with wings.
There are over three hundred stages set up as tiles on a grid and each one has a different shape. You are generally limited in number of steps you take, and as you take one step at a time, the monsters move as well. The monsters each have a pattern. Some move the same direction as you and others move in mirror and so on. The goal is to reach the exit without being touched by any monster. Should you be nabbed, a horribly smelly or disturbing animation will play of what that monster did to you. The initial hundred stages are divided among five worlds and end in a boss fight against Sunzuki's dad. Try to move the monsters so they grab him. The rest of the levels are a combination of these battles, AI battles, and stages against another person in versus. There is one more bit of randomness and that is the fifth monster. It is a bag that appears when two monsters collide; it may destroy them, send them onto your tile, or spawn two new monsters. Luckily, if you can get a monster to go into a dark area then it will sleep rendering it harmless for a time.
Clow Card Magic and Finger Flashing are almost the same, but there is more of a difference than the license that made me choose Card Captor Sakura. For those not familiar, Card Captor Sakura is a manga and anime created by CLAMP. The premise is that ten-year-old Sakura is to collect several cards crafted by a great magician named Clow Reed (each card has a special power and a design similar to Tarot cards) and seal away its power so that she can ultimately save the world. Syaoran Li (the second playable character in this game) comes from Hong Kong to capture the cards himself. This game condenses much of the plot into gaining five cards from each stage by filling one of four color-coded meters and gaining a bonus card.
There are two main modes of play: Normal in which any button's "shot" will work on any color card and Hard where x works on blue, triangle works on green, circle is red, and square is yellow. Singly shooting a card will not fill the meters very much and so you must try to make chains. Chains only work if there is an adjacent vertical or horizontal card and if those cards are in the right order relative to the one shot. This adds challenge as the game is on rails (the player can move left and right, but shots will only travel in a straight line down that column) and constantly scrolls forward. Then there are the walls and mirrors. Hitting a wall costs you some health and shooting a mirror (up to twice as the third time breaks it) will generate a card. Card generation is essential to chains and on Hard, shooting a card with the wrong button will generate a card as well. Quick thinking can turn the generated cards into a significant chain or a broken cluster of cards into a chain making filling the meters easier. The only real advantage you have is the select button as pressing it will unleash a card power that makes chaining easier. It's a bright, deceptively challenging game (on Hard anyway) and likely a great time for fans of Sakura and puzzling alike.
#4: U.P.P. (PS)
U.P.P. is a really fun matching puzzle game similar to Super Pocket Fighter. It is presented as a fighting tournament but the "fights" are head-to-head puzzle battles. There are eight anime-styled characters each with their own special powers that play into special attack moves (ougi) during the puzzle. And there is a final boss character that they all have their own reasons for wanting to fight. U.P.P. includes on an on-disc manual that shows how to play, the controls, and character bios and special moves. Unfortunately this is all in Kanji, though the tutorial parts are very visual and self-explanatory. U.P.P. features single player story tournament, a CPU single and team battle, and a 2-player mode.
The game plays similar to the old, familiar formula of match three colored orbs in vertical, horizontal, or diagonal rows to destroy them and fill your opponent's area to win. The orbs in U.P.P. primarily appear in pairs or threes and the order they are in can be arranged with a button press, but they will always fall up rather than down and only in a vertical line. Destroying rows also fills a meter while chaining fills it faster to complete three small green orbs located in the top-left center (for your character) and top-right center (for the opponent) that allow for special attacks. Each attack uses one to all of these orbs and comes with a unique animation and effect. Some attacks create obstructions on your opponent's side and others benefit your side. There are also special orbs that sometimes appear to wreak havoc and each will require a different approach to deal with (for me, the worst of these are bubble orbs).
Addie receives a Loglock for her 9th birthday; this device contains all the letters of the English alphabet and can be used to form any combination of words by sliding, rotating, mirroring, or exchanging the letter pieces. As each option costs one move, the challenge comes in doing so within the moves allowed. Once you figure out how changing the perspective and direction of a letter changes it into another one, the possibilities really open up. While the adventure segments are filled with Kanji, a little of trial and error is all it takes to reach the next puzzle, and the puzzles are all in English.
The story goes that one of Addie's friends, Eliza, gives her the Locklog and its manual and then Addie's other friend Moze/Joka gives her a broken music box and Addie learns he will be moving away. Addie falls asleep and dreams she is in a town full of people who resemble her friends. In the dream, the Loglock can transform things into other things like magic when Addie enters the correct word. This can allow her to do something like change a cage into a bell or a wall into a door. The game's graphics are meant to look sort of like watercolors and the 3D character models look fairly decent though not overly detailed, but it is the 2D animated picture of Addie on the right side of the screen that adds charm and gives hints as to what to examine next. Addie can also run, think to herself about what to do next, and check the Locklog's manual at any time.
Not everyone will care for Perfect Performer's band "The Yellow Monkey" (a real band from 1989-2004) their music (J-Rock), or the 2D graphics but those who can dig it will find a cool game with 4-player support. (And those who research the band may see how ironic not liking them is considering what is behind their choice in name.) After picking which member to represent: vocals, guitar, drums, or bass you (and up to three more friends if you like) try to successfully play covering some better known tracks from the band's albums.
There are only three buttons to worry about pressing: X, Triangle, and O, but the individual band members all have different sequences from one another on every song. You can only miss so many notes before you fail and most songs average over 2 or 3 minutes. The crowd will let you know when you are bad as they will settle down and eventually start throwing things (like chickens) at you. Do well and you are treated to cheers, an intensifying light-show, and a special animation of your performer. There's also a free mode where each player can set their own difficulty and play songs they have completed in live mode. While it may not be the deepest, I think that once its clear that it was a promotional piece first and a game second, there's a lot to enjoy. And there's also the chance to break out the old PSX multitap.
Much like Umihara Kuwase, Lup Salad is a simple premise with a limited control scheme and move set use to make a path to the exit of super-cuddly levels. Lup Salad features a single player story, a single player block-matching puzzle game using the normal games mechanics, and a 2-player mode. Salad can unlock several new costumes beyond her starting snowsuit as the game progresses for a total of ten. The only thing that might be tricky is figuring out how to restart a level when you get stuck, just pause and select the second option.
Salad's parents take her traveling around the world and the exotic locales are filled with mind-bending puzzles. Salad can push a block left or right, jump, move a block by jumping into it, and jump to grab a ledge and pull herself up. If a block falls on top of Salad the level restarts. The point of this block moving is to stack them when needed to reach areas with the end objective being to push all the same colored blocks together so that they disappear. Once all the blocks are gone, the level is complete. If that alone doesn't sound challenging, the game also begins to lay out the backgrounds in devious ways making movement harder and then it throws in a number of new blocks. Some can't be moved, others float, and taped blocks are tied together and there are even more. Salad moves and jumps fairly quickly since the control is a bit loose, but this an addictive, deep, and difficult puzzle game hidden in a sugary coating.
If you are looking for a great PSX game that may be more well-known or even one that may not be so great but is more obscure then try any of these honorable mentions:
Guitar Freaks (series, uses the guitar controller and an extremely popular game series that released before Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but only in Japan)
Dokapon! Okori no Tetsuken
Le Concert PP and MM
Mushi no Idokaro (sort of like a Rubik's Cube with insects)
Rhythm n Face (extremely difficult timing and bonus for "artistry")
Pop'n Music (series)
Pacapaca Passion (series)
Tetris with Card Captor Sakura: Eternal Heart
Susume Taisen Pazuradama
Puyo Puyo Box (Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine was a Puyo Puyo game renamed, if you liked it try this one out)
SQ: Sound Qube (really simple and really boring, in my opinion)
List by Sohogojo (09/04/2014)
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