Obludia is a fitting name for the game that it describes. Much like arcade classics such as Zaxxon, Sinistar, and Galaga, it’s a striking one word title that also belongs to an eventual end boss named Lord Obludia who can only be conquered by players who spend hours mastering the game’s controls. It’s the kind of title that makes me glad we don’t live in an age of quarter munching cabinets, as practice really makes perfect in this fantasy themed Smash TV-esque twin stick action game. Of course, the more recent release also means that the game trades in a retro art style for more Flash based graphics and chiptune music for a downright hokey soundscape. Still, what it lacks in presentation it makes up for gameplay, and Obludia should be on your radar if you ever spent an hour in a dimly lit room waggling a joystick.
This is an arcade game we’re talking about, so there isn’t much story to speak of. You play as a spelunker going through the square rooms of Lord Obludia’s dungeons, and you’re eventually joined by a canine companion once you purchase him from the shop. You are armed with a sword that you can swiftly swing around in a circle and various firearms and crossbows to unload on the ever-growing swarms of opposition. Eventually, the dungeon also fills with your standard assortment of fireball spitters, enemy spawning cocoons, and other various hazards to look out for. Later still, the standard dungeon backgrounds give way to more varied areas, including snowy encampments and futuristic alien spaceships featuring cameos by Krang monsters. The gameplay is very fast paced, and there is plenty of variety throughout the levels to keep you coming back for more.
Developer/Publisher: FobTi Interactive
Release Date: July 18th 2014
One thing that puts Obludia apart from its arcade brethren is its inclusion of a save system. You can only save progress at stores, but you can continue permanently from that spot once you purchase the floppy diskette that represents each checkpoint. This preserves the challenge while also allowing players to progress in a reasonable time frame, and keeps things optional just in case the player is one of those crazy people who play Diablo on Hardcore Mode. There is some randomization from playthrough to playthrough, but the bosses and new enemies tend to be introduced in a set pattern. However, even for people using save points to get through the levels, the challenge does ramp in an enjoyable manner, and it’s very satisfying to hit the next shop after fighting back hordes of zombies or skeletal creatures.
I’m not sure exactly how to properly describe Obludia‘s overall presentation. The characters have a certain look to them, with bulging eyes and a papercraft level of movement. The soundtrack is filled with halfway decent tunes mixed with sound effects that could have come from a cheap Halloween sound effects CD that I bought from an Eckard pharmacy ten years ago. The gameplay has a bit of loveable jank to it, with a shopkeeper that doesn’t mind you destroying his wares and walls to the side of the arenas that double as boost pads that jettison you to the bottom of the stage. It makes a horrible first impression, but all its quirks eventually won me over and strung me along until I reached the game’s inner depth. It all reminded me of stumbling onto an arcade cabinet that I’ve never heard of before and dedicating a wad of singles to it in hopes that I would learn all its secrets.
Obludia is simplistic in its ambitions, but it achieves the goals it sets out for itself well. It seems a shame that there is only a PC version out now, as this is the type of title I’d like to take with me on the 3DS or Vita. It’s quick, pick up and play score attack gameplay with enough charm to get you through until you die. It’s definitely not perfect, but the small budget for the title clearly went towards adding more gameplay variety, which makes all the difference in an arcade title. It joins retro wannabes like Castle Crashers, Double Dragon Neon and the output of Puppy Games in the virtual arcades of today. Stripped of that fancy cabinet art and competing with big budget extravaganzas, they stand no chance in the eyes of the general public. But if you’re like me, and you miss the dank and cavernous dens lit only by CRT monitors and enhanced by the smell of greasy food, then releases like Obludia are definitely games to watch out for.