PlayStation - 8 Hidden Gems
Updated: Mar 27
When Sony recently announced it was joining the retro console market with its PlayStation
Mini, speculation as to which twenty games would be included was rife. The eventual score of titles inevitably thrilled some and disappointed many, with heavy-hitters such as Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII rubbing shoulders with less impressive names Jumping Flash and Battle Arena Toshinden.
But while it’s fun to make our own dream lists of what could have appeared, licensing issues no doubt dominated Sony’s approach as it sought to bring the console out promptly for this Christmas, and make a substantial profit. While it remains lovely to see such retro love in this day and age, Antstream Arcade can’t help but think it’s a missed opportunity for Sony to revisit some of obscurer PlayStation games that didn’t get the attention they deserved upon initial release. So here are our eight hidden PS gems which, in an ideal world, should be starring in the PlayStation Mini Two this time next year…
Developer: Boss Studios
Publisher: BMG Interactive
When a game’s developer logo involves a guillotine’s bloody hole forming the ‘o’ of its name, you know you’re in for an experience slightly different from the norm. Yet despite its original concept (playing as a spider, albeit a cybernetic one), Spider is actually a 2D-esque platform game at its beating arachnid heart, similar to the earlier PlayStation hit, Pandemonium. This cybernetic incarnation possesses all the natural skills of a real spider, giving the player the ability to climb walls and ceilings, and use silk to negotiate obstacles and enemies. In addition, the robotic creature can also upgrade its defensive and offensive capabilities with artificial attachments, helpfully strewn about the game’s levels. Are you fed up playing a human with spider powers? Well, why not try the real thing?
Publisher: Studio 3/Bandai
It’s hard to imagine Silent Bomber getting released to little fanfare in the post-9/11 world. Yet two years prior to the events of New York in September 2001, this Japanese PlayStation game appeared in stores, its protagonist modifying and dropping bombs around a gargantuan space cruiser that is threatening his planet. Accentuating the line-treading tone of the game further is the background of the player’s character. A genetically-modified soldier, trained by the government to kill and destroy, Jutah Fate is branded a war criminal when the incumbent warlords are ousted from power. Unwanted by the new regime who see him as nothing but a threat, the actions of Jutah are easily comparable to those of a terrorist, despite his noble intentions of freeing his planet from totalitarian control. One man’s freedom fighter and all that, but politics aside, Silent Bomber is an engaging and unusual game that’s well worth checking out.
When Resident Evil was released for the PlayStation it quickly became a deserved killer app for the Sony console, and a bestseller. Similar games were inevitable, but few tried the trick in first-person as Atlus did with this odd survival horror game that somehow escaped release in the United States. The Hellnight plot rehashes several themes from the Capcom classic including a dodgy research facility, a deadly organism and mysterious underground locations; there’s even a secret black ops team akin to STARS that turns out to be even more useless than Raccoon City’s finest. With its lack of combat (the player’s only option is to run to escape the monster) and puzzle-based gameplay, Hellnight is a long way from the likes of Doom – but a novel and engaging experience for those looking for something a little different.
In The Hunt
Publisher: Kokopeli Digital Studios
The PlayStation was far from awash with arcade conversions, mainly because the home technology had finally caught up with its coin-operated cousins while also opening up the breadth of gameplay to a level of depth far superior to the arcades. In The Hunt, adapted by Irem from its own original, bucks this trend and presents a joyously chaotic shoot-‘em-up firmly in the mould of the Metal Slug games – only underwater. There are masses of strange enemies and bulbous bosses to tackle, plus power-ups for your dinky and antiquated little submarine. In The Hunt is not the most complex of games but it’s immense fun for anyone fancying a break from raiding tombs or hiding in a cardboard box.
Developer: Polyphony Digital
As a console’s life nears its end, developers always seem to be able to squeeze every last drop out of it, improving graphics and game play well beyond its early games, and the PlayStation was no exception as Omega Boost proves. Essentially a 3D on-rails shoot-‘em-up – albeit an extremely attractive one – this Sony-produced game evokes The Terminator with its Skynet-esque AI rebellion and time-travel plot. To counter the mechanical threat, the humans have come up with a robot of their own, the titular Omega Boost of which the player takes control of in an effort to defeat the AlphaCore intelligence. Enhanced levels of movement and some fast shooting action make this a must-play for fans of the genre, and a beautiful experience for any video game fan in general.
Developer: Illusions Gameplay Company
Publisher: Crystal Dynamics
Based on an equally-obscure cartoon from Canada, Blazing Dragons is a point and click adventure released during the dying throes of the genre. Similar in tone to the PlayStation’s Discworld games, it stars Squire Flicker as the anthropomorphic dragon who must complete a series of tasks and adventures in order to win promotion to Knighthood. Of course there’s a role-reversal going on here with humans taking on the role of bad guys and there are enough amusing asides and jokes to keep the player entertained, with even the lack of mouse input bypassed satisfactorily with an on-screen icon that cycles through the various options available. Blazing Dragons was far from a roaring success, which is quite a surprise considering the wealth of voice talent on show, including Monty Python’s Terry Jones (who also created the cartoon), Cheech Marin and Harry Shearer.
With apparent influences such as the famous trap-setting game Spy Vs Spy and the multiplayer maze chaos of Bomberman, Trap Gunner is certainly a novel experience with few, if any, peers during the Nineties. The player takes control of one of six characters each of whom has the ability to set a variety of sensor and remote-triggered traps which are invisible to their opponents. In addition, there’s a range of melee and ranged combat weapons for those who prefer a more direct approach to target elimination. Yet the traps is where the fun is in Trap Gunner, and there are some spectacular effects and much satisfaction to be had from witnessing an enemy stroll over a force panel, compelling them towards a deviously-placed mine. A solid 18-carat hidden gem, and one that boasts a superb soundtrack as well.
Developer: Attention To Detail
As a homage to The Running Man coupled with Lionel Richie’s Dancing On A Ceiling, and a pre-cursor to the successful Portal games of the last generation, Blast Chamber is a sometimes bemusing and often frustrating puzzle game of which there is little rival to compare on the PlayStation. Each of the 40 levels is presented in a side-on, semi 3D view, with your character aiming to collect a crystal within each screen. But there’s a snag – your avatar has a bomb strapped to their back, and should they fail to acquire the crystal and then hightail it to the score zone in time then…well, the clue is in the title, and a wealth of devious traps stand in your way.