Well, I guess five years is long enough a break in the lifetime of this blog to bring back its most interesting series for a one-off. If you don't remember what the Unique Games series was all about, the idea still continues to be, for the duration of this one more bonus chapter, to list a bunch of games that were not only at least a little bit unique in their presentation or style of gameplay, but also completely exclusive for the platform it was released on. Some mistakes were made in the course of the original 11 parts of the series, so I'm not exactly expecting this list to be completely accurate, since internet sources are too numerous and often contradicting in their information to have a 100% chance at getting everything correct here. But anyway, with this second encore entry of Unique Games!, I bid you another happy Christmas and a better next year!One more thing, though: because I wanted to make this into the longest and most comprehensive entry in the series so far, the number of games for each machine is not restricted to any specific number. So, while you might see some platforms only featuring 3 games on the list, other platforms might have as many as five games featured this time. I'm hoping this will prove enough to make Part 12 the proper finale for the series.
MATTEL INTELLIVISION & AQUARIUS
And we're already starting on not so solid ground, with the need for including Mattel's short-lived computer, Aquarius, within a list of games for their more commonly known Intellivision.
1. Utopia (Mattel, 1981/82) - INTV + Aquarius
We start with what's generally considered the grandparent of all Civilization and other empire building strategy games. For its time, Utopia was amazingly complex. First, you set up the number of rounds you are willing to play, as well as the time (in seconds) used for each round. Then, you spend the rest of the game on a single screen consisting of two islands surrounded by water. But it's not as simple as it looks - not even nearly. It is strictly a two-player game, so there is no real sense in playing it alone, particularly since unlike Civilization, Utopia is a real-time strategy game, instead of turn-based. Considering the possibilities given by the phone dial-styled game pad of Intellivision, you definitely need to read the manual, or at least have the overlay so you don't have to blindly guess what's going on.
|Mattel Intellivision: Utopia (1981)|
|Mattel Aquarius: Utopia (1982)|
2. Shark! Shark! (Mattel, 1983)
On the more arcadey side of Intellivision games, there are much more brilliant titles to choose from, Mattel's own Shark! Shark! being one of my all-time favourite ones. It's not the most unique game of all time, as it resembles another fish-eat-fish game from Commodore 64 called Chomp!, but Shark! Shark! was made 6 years prior to that.
|Mattel Intellivision: Shark! Shark! (1983)|
With the fish behaviour being as unpredictable as it is, Shark! Shark! is one of the most addicting games available for the Intellivision, and it is an exclusive one, too.
3. Thin Ice (INTV Corp, 1986)
By it's full title, Duncan's Thin Ice is one of those games that have a more interesting development story than the game itself. As a game, it's not all that much more than a Qix variant - to be more precise, it's a straight clone of a Data East arcade game called Disco No.1, which was thought to be outdated for its theme and sexism, so Thin Ice started being developed as such in May, 1982, now featuring the cutest protagonist Intellivision had seen yet.
|Mattel Intellivision: Duncan's Thin Ice (1983)|
There is a more in-depth development history to be read at Blue Sky Rangers' website, but the real point of interest here is, that the game was also being altered to feature the official 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics mascot, Vučko, as the main character. The game was to be released as Voochko on Ice in 1984, but due to Mattel Electronics' collapse, it never happened. Instead, INTV Corporation released the original Duncan's Thin Ice as late as 1986, with Voochko on Ice featured as an easter egg in the ROM. An interesting piece of game history, to be sure, and a Mattel exclusive, at least in this form. Doesn't hurt that it's a very nice game, either.
4. King of the Mountain (Mattel, 1982)
One of the most surprising games I have ever come across on the Intellivision is this early example of a survival game. I'm still a bit confused as to how to actually play King of the Mountain, but it starts off with a shopping screen, in which you can buy and sell equipment for conquering the mountain you're about to hike. You need to pack up some food and other survival items in order to get through certain elements, but having too much things in your backpack will slow you down.
|Mattel Intellivision: King of the Mountain (1982)|
Your journey to the top is laden with charging bulls, falling and rolling boulders, rain and other natural hazards. With enough experimentation, you should be able to get started eventually, and find out that each mountain features outposts where you can sell the bulls you have killed on your way and purchase more useful items for further hikes. The main thing about King of the Mountain is really just to find the balance of items you need for each play, although you also need a bit of luck not to get rammed down by boulders. There's nothing to do but walk to the top and try to avoid hazards, but finding the right balance is what makes King of the Mountain a truly addicting game.
Of course, it's an Intellivision exclusive, so it does have that going for it, but it has proven to be more popular in the recent years than it perhaps ever was. A homebrew publisher called IntelligentVision has created upgraded versions of King of the Mountain, featuring better sounds and additional graphical content, with the most recent version having been released in 2021. Highly recommended - even in its original form.
I have to admit, I'm not that familiar with the CD-i, but if I had to choose between having a 3DO or CD-i from the two similar machines, the latter would be my choice due to some indirect nostalgia. The problem with CD-i, though, is that it's not particularly well represented by emulators, so I can only give you some preliminary commentary. Of these three games that I managed to find as both unique and exclusive for the CD-i, I had played two prior to writing this entry.
1. Hotel Mario (Philips, 1994)
This was one of them. There aren't that many Mario games, which were not released on a Nintendo console, so any such game will automatically raise some interest. Again, Hotel Mario is one of those games, of which the story of conception is perhaps more interesting than the game itself, since this involves a deal with Sony to make an add-on CD-player for the Super Nintendo, which didn't go well, so a deal was struck with Philips instead. Instead of a CD-ROM add-on for the SNES, we got a few sub-par games with Nintendo characters for Philips' CD-i console, the least horrid of them being Hotel Mario, developed by Fantasy Factory.
|Philips CD-i: Hotel Mario (1994)|
2. The Apprentice (Philips, 1994)
Considered as one of the best titles for the CD-i, we have a vertical platformer called The Apprentice (no relation to the more recent reality TV-show), developed by The Vision Factory. For me, this game has recently become of more particular interest, because I found out that one of the designers of this game is Stefan Posthuma, whose games on the C64 I always found highly enjoyable, despite them being a bit cheap and practically impossible to find as fully working versions.
The idea is to control the old wizard's apprentice through a series of towers, picking up all sorts of items and dealing with all kinds of hazards by jumping and using your magic wand to blast some sort of a magical thing at your enemies. It's a fairly good platformer, which heavily reminds me of some of the more mediocre but pretty platformers on Commodore Amiga, but for a CD-i game, it's surprisingly good.
|Philips CD-i: The Apprentice (1994)|
3. Wacky World of Miniature Golf (Philips, 1993)
My most vivid memories of seeing the CD-i in action, if not exactly on the spot, was a TV game show called Game Over, starring a rubber-masked man called Vito, whose voice became better known on a Finnish radio channel later on. In this show, there would be Finnish celebrities coming to get interviewed and play a round or two of whatever games the show had decided to display that time, and then they would be put against callers who would play the game using dials on their telephones. Sounds awkward, doesn't it? Well, it was, but it was revolutionary, as well. The game I remember the show's guests and callers playing the most is Wacky World of Miniature Golf, although it took me years to actually find out its full title - if I recall correctly, it was only referred to as "mini golf" in the TV show.
Unlike most other miniature golf games for every other platform, Wacky World lets you choose your golfer from a large group of all sorts of misfit characters, and then play each of the game's 18 holes for as long as you wish to, even if the limit of 9 strikes is reached. Although it is certainly an exclusive title for the CD-i, the "wacky" bit about Wacky World is also what makes this game quite unique, and that is the way the game is played.
|Philips CD-i: The Wacky World of Miniature Golf (1993)|
Because of the way Wacky World of Miniature Golf is designed to be played, it is easy to consider it as one of the worst mini-golf games ever. And of course, I would agree with that, but it is an entertaining game, and unique in its own strange way. Perhaps not that much worth playing, but worth a look. It's definitely one of the games that defined the CD-i for me.
Since acquiring my very own CPC 464, I have become considerably more interested in exclusive Amstrad games, which didn't grab my interest 5 or more years ago nearly as much. So, because this is the absolute final time I'm doing Unique Games, let's go with 5 games for the CPC, regardless of whether they're properly unique or not.
1. Icon Jon (Mirrorsoft, 1986)
By no means a unique game in any important way, Icon Jon is a joystick-operated adventure game that takes place inside a computer. Okay, perhaps the setting is a bit unusual. You play as a droid-looking thing, that's actually Icon Jon himself - a program due to be wiped from memory - and your job is to prevent this from happening by any possible means within the given 30 minutes.
|Amstrad CPC: Icon Jon (1986)|
2. Billy la Banlieue 1+2 (Loriciels, 1986/87)
Early on in the CPC's lifespan, France had become the promised land for exclusive Amstrad games, and most of the really good Amstrad games were developed there. One of the most prolific game developers from the latter half of the 80's was Jean-Philippe Biscay, whose games have been featured earlier on in Unique Games. This time, we feature three of his games, starting with the two Billy la Banlieue games, which are apparently considered some kind of classics in French gaming lore.
|Amstrad CPC: Billy La Banlieue (1986)|
|Amstrad CPC: Billy La Banlieue 2 (1987)|
3. Atomic Driver (Loriciels, 1988)
Another Jean-Philippe Biscay title for this list is Atomic Driver from 1988, which is a fairly simple maze shooter that takes place in a city environment. One might consider this another source of inspiration for the GTA series, but that would be a bit stretching it. What it reminds me of more is the driving map thing in Sierra's first Police Quest.
|Amstrad CPC: Atomic Driver (1988)|
4. Contamination (Ere Informatique/PSS, 1985)
For a 1985 game, Contamination was perhaps unnecessarily ahead of its time. This strategy game makes you try to fight a globally spreading virus, which you must first try to contain within the located areas, then work on an anti-virus, and then try to get the decreasing population to halt their decreasing.
|Amstrad CPC: Contamination (1985)|
For some odd reason, Contamination was only ever released for the Amstrad CPC, even though it's definitely a game that would have had its share of fans on all the other 8-bit computers. I can't think of any other virus-fighting game of this sort, so I'm assuming this is actually a properly unique game, too.
5. Robin (Amsoft, 1985)
Paco Suarez, creator of some of the most infamous Amstrad games from the early Indescomp days, is such a well-known name in the Amstrad world, that hearing his name awakens a feeling of mixed horror and hilarity. Robin was another one of his games, but since it was only ever released in Spain, and on disk, it's a relatively unknown game, which is a shame, because for me, it's Paco Suarez's finest moment.
|Amstrad CPC: Robin (1985)|
Of course, Robin is not exactly a unique game, but I can't think of anything exactly like it on any other machine. At least it's an Amstrad-exclusive, which is enough.
For some reason, NEC's most famous console had not been featured in any of the previous Unique Games articles, much like CD-i hadn't, so since this is the final opportunity to fix this problem, it shall be done with four games. Most of these games were released under a different title in Japan and America, but we start with a game that was only ever released in Japan.
1. Gomola Speed (UPL, 1990)
I never thought I would be saying these words in the Unique Games series, but the first game we have for the PC Engine section is a worm game. Fear not, though, Gomola Speed is nothing less than unique, particularly when it comes to worm games. Actually, Gomola Speed is closer to lesser known arcade games such as Motos and Quantum, both of which have been dealt with here at FRGCB at some point, and perhaps even Gauntlet, to some extent.
|PC-Engine: Gomola Speed (1990)|
2. Mesopotamia / Somer Assault (Atlus, 1991/1992)
To my knowledge, games that have Slinky as the protagonist can be counted with less than one hand's fingers. Prior to Mesopotamia, I only knew of a Q*Bert clone called Slinky, written by Paul Norman, released by Cosmi for the C64 in 1984, but Atlus' entry into the world of Slinky-based games is a completely different kettle of fish. Naturally, the thing you control isn't actually called Slinky in the game, but it does look unmistakably like it was designed after the famous toy.
|PC-Engine: Mesopotamia / Somer Assault (1991/92)|
I have to say, Mesopotamia (or Somer Assault) is one of the most unique action games that I have come across lately, and it's exactly this kind of uniqueness that makes the PC Engine (or TurboGrafx-16) a worthy machine to be sought for any retrogamer's collection.
3. Kattobi! Takuhai-kun (Tonkin House, 1990)
I cannot honestly say this is a unique game as such, since Kattobi! Takuhai-kun is basically a top-down driving game in a maze similar to Grand Theft Auto and many games before that, but it was a Japan-only release, and exclusive for the PC Engine. In this game, which commonly translates to "Fury! Delivery Boy", you deliver various kinds of goods around the town, and apparently even out of town, on a bicycle, a moped or a motorcycle, depending on how well you're doing.
|PC-Engine: Kattobi! Takuhai-kun (1990)|
4. Chew-Man-Fu / Be Ball (Hudson Soft, 1990)
Then, we have a Hudson Soft game that could have easily been a classic on other systems, but there were a couple of things that acted against it. First, the fact that it was released first and foremost on the PC Engine (or TurboGrafx-16, if you will) - it would later get re-released on Wii's Virtual Console service and mobile phones, among other things; and second, the American name didn't give much of a hint as to what the game is all about, seeing as it only reversed the name of a supervillain created by the novellist Sax Rohmer in 1912. Speaking of which, the title of this game must be the only one of its kind, when the American title is basically an Asian name, and the Japanese title is two English words. Well, even if it isn't, it sure is an odd coincidence.
|PC-Engine: Chew-Man-Fu / Be Ball (1990)|
Chew-Man-Fu/Be Ball is one of the games also featured in the PC Engine Mini consoles that were released in North America and Europe in 2020, and is definitely one of the more interesting titles on the console. Highly recommended!
Now we're getting to my comfort zone again, and although I have only chosen five games for the C64, there would be a good deal more which would fit the bill. With these five, I'm trying to give a wide range of games from almost 10 years of the machine's original run.
1. Microdot (Commodore Disk User, 1989)
We start with a maze-platformer that I didn't find out about until emulation came along, as it was originally released on a foreign magazine cover disk. That alone makes it easily a C64-exclusive, but it's also quite a quirky little thing to play. Although Microdot could be considered outdated when it was released, at least in terms of graphics, it made up for the lack of cosmetics with the joy of exploration and sheer playability.
|Commodore 64: Microdot (1989)|
2. Dream House (CBS, 1984)
Here's something that can't exactly be even called a game, but it is a curious piece of software that you don't see often on any old machine. Dream House is basically a house designer, in which you can design the exteriors and interiors as far as you would ever wish to on a Commodore 64, and easily beyond.
|Commodore 64: Dream House (1984)|
It's not exactly something you would expect to see on a C64, much less on any other 8-bit computer, but I have to say, even without having much of aptitude for visual designs, Dream House is a nice, low threshold designer, which can keep you entertained for hours. As far as I know, it's another C64-exclusive, and a pretty unique piece of software. At least it was, until The Sims appeared.
3. Arctic Shipwreck (Commodore, 1983)
One of the most peculiar early games released by Commodore is this little forgotten gem, which was actually written by a bunch of Hungarian developers who went collectively by the name F°451, and went on to create few more interesting little games, such as Quark IX and Save Me Brave Knight for Commodore, and Spitfire '40 for Mirrorsoft.
|Commodore 64: Arctic Shipwreck (1983)|
Although the entire game is viewed on a single screen, it is one of the most impressive games from that time period for the C64, thanks to its advanced programming tricks. It also manages to be funny and properly unique, and as a C64-exclusive title, it could be counted as one of the most important C64 games of its time. Hooray for Hungary!
4. Rags to Riches (Melody Hall Publishing Corp., 1985)
This one here is one of the earliest survival games I know of, unless you count Rogue and its like as survival games. In Rags to Riches, you play as a hobo, and you need to keep yourself out of hunger, well-rested and drenched in alcohol, but in order to do so, you also must earn some money. The ultimate goal is to earn a million dollars, and there is a certain process you go through in the game to reach that ultimate goal.
|Commodore 64: Rags to Riches (1985)|
5. Slicks (Codemasters, 1992)
This last inclusion is a bit questionable, since it has been documented, that Slicks was also released on the ZX Spectrum, but it seems to have only been released on a compilation - Supersports Challenge - that hasn't been properly digitized and archived still to this day. Because I love this game so much on the C64, I'm going to include it regardless of the possibility of another version existing, until such time occurs that it is presented as an actuality.
Slicks is basically to the C64 what Micro Machines is to the Amiga, although quite interestingly, Slicks was released later than the first Micro Machines. It's a top-down Formula One racing game, in which you can play a simultaneous two-player game. When compared to a similar racing game, in terms of sheer speed and playability, it easily beats Gremlin's Super Cars, although Slicks focuses entirely on racing, rather than purchasing all sorts of upgrades for your car. Instead, you are practically forced to gamble your car against a selected opponent's car in every other race. Winning the gambled race will either let you keep your current car, or progress to a better one, and losing the gamble will, at worst, drop you to a lower performing car.
|Commodore 64: Slicks (1992)|
Although the two-player mode is a nice gimmick, similar to those in Rally Speedway and Micro Machines, Slicks reaches its full potential in the championship mode. The game is so fast to play, that you need to memorize each track fully with each of the Formula One cars, so you won't crash and end your run prematurely. Taken that into consideration, it is perhaps a good thing there are only six tracks in the game. And still, Slicks is one of Codemasters' only multi-loading games, and presents the company's point of focus from 1991 onwards rather spectacularly. If it turns out that Slicks is, in fact, a C64 exclusive, the Commodorists should be immensely proud of having this game for themselves.
SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM
Oddly enough, finding five unique - or at the very least exclusive games for the C64's main competitor turned out to be more challenging than I expected. It seems like most of the properly unique games have already been featured in this series, but there certainly are some exclusive titles for the ZX Spectrum to fill this space.
1. Astroclone (Hewson, 1985)
The first game for the Spectrum list this time is the last of the Seiddab-quadrilogy, and shares the honour of being Spectrum-exclusive with the first game in the series, 3D Space-Wars. Astroclone differs from the other three games quite significantly, as it is an action-adventure game that is played in two very different genres, while the other three games are strictly first-person space-shooters.
When you start the game, you control a man in a space suit within a pseudo-3D environment of what I assume is your space ship. This bit is similar to Steve Turner, the game's designer's more adventure-based games on the Spectrum, namely Avalon and Dragontorc. You need to take off from the current planet and start conquering sectors, which are played in a side-viewed shoot'em-up style, almost but not quite similar to Defender and such games. In fact, most of the game is played in this 2D space shooting mode, which I suspect the game title comes from. The neat thing about Astroclone, however, is the way your ship shoots according to your steering, so the only way to master the game is to learn to control your ship and its way of shooting.
|Sinclair ZX Spectrum: Astroclone (1985)|
2. Harlequin (Mr. Micro, 1984)
Game designers never seem to run out of ideas for puzzle games. Harlequin is basically a board game played on a chess-like board, where your goal is to reach the other side of the board. The problem is, you can only move your pieces to a colour which is also directly in front of any of your opponent's four pieces.
|Sinclair ZX Spectrum: Harlequin (1984)|
3. Volcanic Planet (Thorn EMI Video, 1983)
Definitely not one of the games I would have chosen, had I known any better, and had I had the time to do some more research, but Volcanic Planet is a fairly interesting title, particularly considering it is a 16k game, and of course, a Spectrum-exclusive, while at it.
|Sinclair ZX Spectrum: Volcanic Planet (1983)|
4. Octopussy (Ultrasoft, 1992)
I would hazard a guess not many people know about the existence of this particular James Bond game. Granted, Octopussy for the ZX Spectrum is not an official Bond tie-in, so it isn't hard to understand the exclusivity. Besides, Octopussy was made by a Slovakian team called Bytepack, who got the game released in 1992, which was already well past the ZX Spectrum's commercial lifetime.
|Sinclair ZX Spectrum: Octopussy (1992)|
Unlike most other Bond-games so far, Octopussy, almost thankfully, is an icon-driven graphical adventure game, not unlike the 1990's Sierra adventures, but infinitely simpler. You only need to walk around an undisclosed town in India, where you will come across a few familiar scenes from the movie, and interact with objects in certain rooms. The game's plotline is basically the first quarter of the film, in which Bond goes to India, lures the evil prince Kamal Khan with a counterfeit Fabergé egg in a game of backgammon and defeats him with his own loaded dice. While your short quest here is not quite as easy as it is supposed to be, you can beat the game in less than 10 minutes, once you know what you're doing.
Octopussy cannot honestly be called a particularly unique game, but in the realm of Bond-movie tie-ins, it is one of a kind. Too bad it wasn't an official game, or released about three-four years earlier.
5. Molar Maul (Imagine, 1983)
With this last one, I was getting a bit desperate, since there are well-known dentistry games made for other machines, such as Tooth Invaders for the C64 and Plaque Attack for the Atari 2600. Molar Maul just happens to be one of Imagine's five exclusive titles for the ZX Spectrum, so it might as well go here.
If there's a rare gameplay feature in Molar Maul, it is that the only possible joystick that the game is compatible with is the Fuller joystick. Since I have never actually seen any other game that has this as the sole joystick option, I will have to consider it a unique feature, but please do correct me if I'm completely off there.
|Sinclair ZX Spectrum: Molar Maul (1983)|
The somewhat fidgety controls are what make Molar Maul a less than optimal experience, but it is different enough from the likes of Tooth Invaders and Plaque Attack to give Molar Maul a certain edge over the other two. As such, it could be considered unique, and as it is a Spectrum-exclusive, it's suitable enough to be included here.
From the two most obvious 16-bit home computers, the Amiga shall have to be the only representative, because the Atari ST simply doesn't have much of exclusive and unique games left to its catalogue. Even finding four unique/exclusive, and fully playable titles for the Amiga turned out to be an almost impossible task, although it did have more obvious choices to be picked.
1. Mind Walker (Synapse/Commodore, 1986)
My first choice for the Amiga is a unique and exclusive game in a couple of surprising ways. Firstly, it's a game developed by Synapse Software's Bill Williams, who wrote such classics for the Atari 8-bit computers as Alley Cat, Necromancer and Salmon Run, making this the only Synapse game that was only ever released on the Commodore Amiga. Second, it's the only Amiga game released by Commodore prior to their CD32 releases.
|Commodore Amiga: Mind Walker (1986)|
Mind Walker is played by using both mouse and joystick, and after the initial shock, it is surprisingly simple to play. It's only that getting started might prove a bit overwhelming. If you want to own a copy of Mind Walker, be warned that it's extremely rare, so your best bet is to download it and print the manual from Hall of Light. But it is a very recommendable game, and ticks all the boxes for this article.
2. Bob's Bad Day (Psygnosis, 1993)
Here's a lesser-known, practically hidden Amiga gem by one of the bigger publishers, which could well be considered a Cameltry clone, which wouldn't be all too far off. In a similar manner, you control a ball-like object by rolling the entire play area around. The single most major difference is, Bob's Bad Day has a more aggressive gravity and Bob's head's maneouverability than Cameltry or any of its direct ports ever had, so you roll Bob's head, and jump with it, more than float it around the mazes like you do in Cameltry.
|Commodore Amiga: Bob's Bad Day (1993)|
Bob's Bad Day cannot be called properly unique, but it certainly has its own thing going for it. Being an Amiga-exclusive, though, it arguably deserves a spot here.
3. Agony (Psygnosis, 1992)
Well, there can't be too many shoot'em-ups, in which you play as an owl, can there? Actually, you are a person called Alestes, who has been transformed into an owl, so there's that. Fans of Norwegian black metal will know of the connection to Dimmu Borgir, but we have to be getting a bit desperate to look for uniqueness in a game outside of the game's own merits. It even has the same cover art as Planet of Death on the ZX Spectrum.
|Commodore Amiga: Agony (1992)|
4. Cavitas (Nite Time Games, 1992)
The last one is actually a game I have so far failed to get to play, although it is somehow possible to. I just didn't have the time to fix all the issues needed to get the game to work on WinUAE, which I won't be getting into now. Long story short, Cavitas is one of the most difficult games to get to play, since it is one of the rarest games on the Amiga, and the cracked adf-images simply do not work at all, so some tinkering and further downloading is needed in order to get it working. That is, unless you happen to have a working original copy of it. So, my current observations are based on video footage.
|Commodore Amiga: Cavitas (1992)|
Cavitas is a cave-flying game of sorts. It feels like a mixture of the general sub-genre of 90's cave-flyers and those sometimes stupidly difficult underground shooters like Airwolf and Fort Apocalypse that originated on the 8-bit computers, but the difficulty level seems less harsh. The uniquely characteristic thing about Cavitas is, that your space ship has a headlight that constantly shines into your facing direction twice your ship's length. You need to navigate through six massive underground areas and exit to the next through a small warp space, and your way is aided by a variety of different weapon upgrades, energy boosters, keys and other such useful things.
For fans of Fort Apocalypse, Mr. Heli and Phantom of the Asteroid, Cavitas should make you feel right at home. When I have the chance to confirm my observations, this entry shall be updated accordingly, but I can honestly say it's singular enough to be included here, as well as an Amiga-exclusive.
SUPER NINTENDO / SUPER FAMICOM
Another machine, in which the most unique leftover games are next to impossible to get to play, mostly because the most unique games you're going to find for the SNES/SFC are Japanese.
1. Sanrio World Smashball! (Character Soft, 1993)
One thing I never expected to do was feature a game with Hello Kitty on the blog, but then I never really knew much about Hello Kitty in the first place, other than what the character looks like. Hello Kitty, in fact, is a character in the Sanrio franchise, and only acts as the referee here in the game's sporting event, which obviously is Smashball. And what, you might ask, is Smashball? Well, it's sort of a combination of Breakout, Tennis and Air Hockey, in which you hit the puck with a Sanrio character, of which there are four in the game: Kerokerokeroppi (frog), Tabo (human), Pokopon (raccoon) and Hangyodon (fish).
|Super Famicom: Sanrio World Smashball! (1993)|
2. Sutte Hakkun (Nintendo, 1997)
Another unique puzzle game for the Super Famicom is a late entry in the console's life, and was originally released for the Satellaview add-on, but was finally released as a regular ROM cartridge in June 1999. The closest point of comparison for Sutte Hakkun would probably be the likes of Lode Runner and Solomon's Key, but there are definitely elements of the Kirby series in here as well.
|Super Famicom: Sutte Hakkun (1997)|
Sutte Hakkun is the last in-house game Nintendo ever developed for the Super Famicom, and released as a cartridge, so for that reason alone, it's worth mentioning here. Happily, it's a very good and unique puzzler as well.
3. Wonder Project J: Kikai no Shonen Pino (Enix, 1994)
A short-lived Japanese video game developing company called Almanic Corporation (later Givro Co., Ltd.) was only around for about 9 years before their dissolution. During that time, though, they managed to put out such 16-bit classics as Fighting Masters, E.V.O.: Search for Eden and Super Mad Champ, but for the world outside of Japan, their arguably biggest hidden gem was this Super Famicom title, Wonder Project J, which would later get a sequel for Nintendo 64. So, while Wonder Project J isn't exactly a unique game, since it has a direct sequel, the series is Nintendo-exclusive, and the concept of this game is unique enough to be mentioned here.
|Super Famicom: Wonder Project J (1994)|
Getting started is unnecessarily slow, and you definitely need to go through a tutorial before you can get into real action, but once you get past all that, the game reveals itself to being a properly magical experience. Wonder Project J is definitely one of those games that you won't be able to play without either a full understanding of Japanese language or a fan translation patched version of the game ROM. Mind you, those aren't exactly legal. But for seekers of unique gaming experiences, Wonder Project J just might be worth the effort of finding either one.
4. Xardion (Asmik, 1992)
For the fourth and final SNES/SFC game, I have actually picked a game that is available outside of Japan. I found out about Xardion through a much bigger retrogaming site - Hardcore Gaming 101. Their Richard Pilbeam wrote a much more elaborate review of Xardion, but I'll try to cut the whole thing in the next two paragraphs, and not be quite as critical of it.
Xardion is a non-linear platforming action game that takes its most direct influences from Metroid and - dare I say it? - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, you play as three different mecha characters that you can practically switch between at any given time (see TMNT), although a fourth one will come along later in the game. In Xardion, your mechas have more distinguishable characteristics and abilities than any of the four turtles, so it's actually more necessary to switch between the mechas on a regular basis than in the other game. The platforming action itself is what reminds me so heavily of Metroid, and there is a similar sense of necessary grinding, backtracking and RPG-like progress, that it's difficult to not like Xardion at least a little bit.
|Super Famicom/SNES: Xardion (1992)|
NEC PC-88 & SHARP X-1
Because it's been such a long time since the previous Unique Games, it might be well worth repeating, that it's next to impossible to find any truly exclusive titles for either machine, since most of their games were released on both machines, even if they have some occasional differences. But since we are talking about Japanese computers, these games are still worth pointing out.
1. Dokuron no Yakata (Enix, 1984)
Just seeing the name Enix as the publisher would most logically point towards a game being a Japanese RPG of practically any given sub-genre. Well, Dokuron no Yakata pulls that rug neatly from under your feet, and gives you an interesting arcade-action game, in which you play a snail-looking creature whose mission is to clear houses from all sorts of undead creatures. In order to catch the undead, you must first reach the top of the house and pick up an item that lets out a number of red crosses around the house. These red crosses sort of work like the hammer in Donkey Kong, in that they are only active for a short time, and you cannot go up or down while holding one.
|NEC PC-8801: Dokuron no Yakata (1984)|
2. Coron (ASCII, 1984)
Ever since getting an SD-card reader for my MSX, ASCII has become much more familiar to me as a game publisher. They did a few pretty impressive arcade-style games that have become some of my recent favourites, but Coron, one of their best arcade-style games, was only ever released on NEC's PC-8801 computer.
On first look, Coron looks suspiciously like Pac-Man, but the way the mazes are structured in this game is very different. The mazes are built of two types of surfaces: solid ground paths, all of which have consumable apples to pick up, and the other kinds of paths are basically bridges, which are more fragile. The mazes are surrounded by water, and you can cross certain parts with boats floating here and there.
|NEC PC-8801: Coron (1984)|
Coron has become one of my absolute favourite PC-88 games of all time, which isn't saying much, but it does make the machine more appealing to dig deeper into.
3. Produce (dB-SOFT, 1987)
If I have understood this correctly, Produce puts you in the shoes of an evil dungeon master, whose job it is to stop a small group of heroes-to-be from escaping your maze. The way to do this is to drop monsters into the maze, which should at least make the heroes less able to escape without a scratch. Well, actually, there's a more elaborate plot to this game, which the horror story more interesting, but hardly necessary. But as the plot goes, one of the four friends, Toshio, gets lured in by an entity that can communicate telepathically, and makes an offer that he cannot refuse.
|NEC PC-8801: Produce (1987)|
Because the Xroar emulator is supposedly able to play both Dragon and TRS-80 games, I was considering having some TRS-80 games in here as well, but due to self-inflicted time constraints, I decided to go with only three Dragon games.
1. Back Track (Incentive, 1984)
Incentive software is more widely known for their first-person 3D adventure games, such as Driller, Castle Master and Total Eclipse, on more capable machines, as well as Splat! and the home conversion of Moon Cresta, but they also created some of their most interesting games strictly for the Dragon 32/64 computers; actually two of them. Back Track was the first of them, released in 1984.
|Dragon 32/64: Back Track (1984)|
2. Eddie Steady Go (Incentive, 1985)
The second Incentive game is no less a variation of other famous games that the last one, but Eddie Steady Go is such a unique combination of Hunchback and BC's Quest For Tires that it also deserves a mention here. It takes Hunchback's single screen approach with Quest For Tires' odd series of obstacles to get through, but adds a little of its own flavour into the sauce.
|Dragon 32/64: Eddie Steady Go (1985)|
3. And All Because... [The Lady Loves Milky Chocs] (B&H Software, 1983)
In a series of long and strange game titles that would fit more easily with the Spectrum catalogue of games, we have (And) All Because The Lady Loves Milky Chocs, which is written in two different ways on the cover art and the game title screen. The game itself is a pretty curious one, too, as it features nine different levels, which must be some sort of a record for a Dragon game.
|Dragon 32/64: And All Because The Lady Loves Milky Chocs (1983)|
This marathon of Unique Games and exclusive, but not that unique games ends with two Atari consoles, the first of which is best known for its awkward, yet comparatively modern controller. If my research proves correct, these three are the ONLY exclusive games ever made for the Atari 5200, and as you would expect, their uniqueness is questionable at best.
1. Sport Goofy (Atari, 1983)
One of my all time favourite Disney short animations was Goofy Gymnastics (1949), and finding a video game written around Goofy's sporting endeavours was an unexpected discovery. Even more unexpected was, that the game really has very little to do with actual sports that Goofy ever had anything to do with. But perhaps it's enough to have the character represented, since I have always thought Goofy as a criminally underused Disney character in video game history.
Sport Goofy features only two events: Marathon Dive and Pogo Pop, both of which take elements from other fairly well-known games from that time. Marathon Dive most notably combines Jumping Jack and other ladder-based platformers with some sort of a parachuting game, the name of which escapes my mind at the moment. For the first half of the event, you climb ladders and jump over holes in the structure - and in later levels, enemies. For the second half, you jump from the platform at the top and you glide down with your parachute and try to hit the moving platform in the water by steering left and right.
|Atari 5200: Sport Goofy (1983)|
Despite not being exactly a sport game as such, it is an interesting use of the often overlooked Disney character, and the game can sort of be called unique, thanks to its strange combination of elements. Perhaps not worth the bother if you're looking for exclusive Atari 5200 games, but it is one of the very few.
2. Xari Arena (Atari, 1983)
Although I haven't actually played much of these few Atari 5200 exclusive games, I can easily say that Xari Arena has quickly become my favourite of the three. The best way to describe it would perhaps be "anti-breakout", but I'm sure there's another way the developers called it.
|Atari 5200: Xari Arena (1983)|
It truly is one of the most unique twists to the breakout genre that I have ever come across, and I'm amazed it took me this long to find it. Highly recommended!
3. Meebzork (Atari, 1983) - prototype
The final one of the three possible unique/exclusive games for the Atari 5200 was never actually finished, and the only way to play the game is as a prototype. Meebzork is probably the most potentially interesting game the A5200 ever would have had, had it been finished, but apparently, the game never passed the test phase due to a bug that prevented test players from getting past the first level.
|Atari 5200: Meebzork (1983, prototype)|
Unfortunately, Meebzork has so many bugs in its prototype form, that it's practically unplayable. It is an interesting relic, though, and something that's pretty easy to get to try out.
Because neither Atari 5200 or 7800 had been featured in the Unique Games series before, I thought it only appropriate to end the series properly with the two consoles. The A7800 catalogue is even less well documented online than the previous, but here are three exclusive games for it, some of them even somewhat unique.
1. Ninja Golf (Atari, 1990)
Probably the best-known Atari 7800 exclusive is Ninja Golf, which is also probably the strangest combination of real-life ideas Atari ever came up with, at least on the 8-bits. It's exactly - well, sort of - what it sounds like: golf combined with martial arts. Of course, when making an idea of this complexity into an 8-bit game, you have to drop some expectations of realism, but then you would expect at least some cheapness if there are ninjas involved.
|Atari 7800: Ninja Golf (1990)|
Ninja Golf is fairly easy to get through on Easy level, since I did that on my first attempt, but there are four difficulty levels, so there's bound to be plenty of challenge for the more hardcore ninja golfers out there. Definitely a unique game, and as exclusive for the A7800 as you can get. As a final sidenote, there's actually a Japanese garden-style 27-hole mini-golf course called Ninja Golf in Indiana, US; I wonder if they took their inspiration from this game?
2. Water Ski (Froggo Games, 1988)
Another sport game here, which actually qualifies as more of a sport than a mutant, we have Water Ski from some other company than Atari. Froggo Games only ever made two games for the A7800 and a few more for the A2600, but they had a reputation for producing games of extremely low quality. Of course, this was what immediately raised my interest, so I chose the one that felt less obviously a clone of something recognizable.
|Atari 7800: Water Ski (1988)|
Oddly enough, Water Ski is a fairly playable game, and considering this is a sport that hasn't really been done too often for any computer or console, it's good to have one, even if the quality might not be up to scratch. I have played a Taito arcade game by the same name, but Froggo's Water Ski plays completely differently. First of all, you control both the boat driver and the skier, so unlike in the Taito game, you can actually tell where you're going all of the time. Secondly, you can control the speed of the boat, so you have more time to react to all the obstacles the river throws at you. Third, the game is viewed somewhat from a slightly behind the usual bird's view, so the graphics have some depth to them. Finally, and most unfortunately, each time you fall, the game starts from the beginning.
So, yes, there is a clear lapse in quality control here, but there are enough good things about Froggo's Water Ski to make it worth a try. If for no other reason, then to compare it to Taito's game and see what improvements could be made to either one.
3. Midnight Mutants (Atari, 1990)
Along with Ninja Golf, Midnight Mutants was one of the last games ever produced for the A7800, but the late entry for the console does mean a more evolved game. If anything, I should have included this already in my Unique Horror Games list back too many years ago, but it escaped my notice then. There's enough of ghosts, bats, werewolfs and zombies to go around in this game to be a horror game, but it is also an action-adventure game that makes it feel less horrific than actiony.
|Atari 7800: Midnight Mutants (1990)|
Regarding the general gameplay, Midnight Mutants feels awfully close to Ultimate Play The Game's C64 games starring Sir Arthur Pendragon. It it similarly viewed from a pseudo-isometric point of view, with no real 3D effect, but the isometric movement isn't quite as skillfully crafted. However, the progression of the game makes Midnight Mutants feel more RPG'ish than the Pendragon games, and Grampa's information makes Midnight Mutants a much more player-friendly experience altogether. Of course, this makes Midnight Mutants less unique than merely exclusive, but it is a game worth having a go at, if you want something a bit different.
Okay, it's time to wrap up the absolute final Unique Games entry - at least in its usual form. Perhaps some special themed entries might turn up later on, but there are no plans for such currently. Thanks for reading my ramblings about games I know less about than perhaps I should, yet more than I did before starting writing about them.
Next year will bring some more comparisons and videos, but I will take a small break before resuming. Whenever that may be, resume I shall, and until then, I wish you all a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Stay safe, and as usual, keep on retrogaming!
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