Hidden Gems of Game Design Volume 24

Featuring RPG Time, Super Army War, and New Roots

Hidden Gems of Game Design Volume 24

There are plenty of amazing games that go unnoticed and are not played widely, for one reason or another. Maybe it's a diamond in the rough, or the marketing wasn't there, or it could be a game ahead of its time. For this monthly series, I've asked my fellow writers on SUPERJUMP to pick a game they think is deserving of a chance in the spotlight. Let us know your favorite hidden gems in the comments.

Josh Bycer

RPG Time (2023)

Source: Steam.

The difference between a good and great example of strong aesthetics in a game is how much that aesthetic translates into the gameplay itself, and RPG Time features one of the best examples of this I’ve seen to date. I am playing an adventure book by a child named Kenta who will be our narrator, dungeon master, and cheerleader, as I play through his game to save the land from evil.

The entire game’s look and feel is about the hand drawn, and hand made, aesthetic of the book. Enemies come to life as pencil sketches, and you’ll need to explore the pages looking for clues and items you need to win. If you’re hoping for a more traditional dungeon crawler or RPG, this is not that game. More often than not, solutions to battles and challenges are more adventure-like than they are RPG-like.

While the presentation of the book is fantastic, the presentation of the game itself was lacking. When I played it, there was no way to exit out of the game other than alt-F4. There is a lot of downtime waiting for animations or dialogue to finish, and while the entire game is played "diegetically" (i.e. you actually interact with the book itself), it would have been nice for page turning and other menu actions to be faster.

Source: Steam.

If you can look past that, you’ll find an amazingly entertaining game for fans of all ages, and just a gorgeous game to admire and play.

Antony Terence

Super Army War (2005)

That title might not inspire much confidence, but Neko Entertainment’s GBA game is packed with ideas you’d normally see on PC games. In fact, it’s heavily inspired by Wings of Fury (1987) from the Apple II. Nearly two decades later, it showed up on the Game Boy and here I am, talking about it after another 20 years. Super Army War blended real-time strategy elements with a hint of MOBA (massive online battle arena) flavor and put you in charge of a chopper or Hellcat plane.

In this side-scrolling war simulation, troops from two opposing camps would march toward each other, contesting outposts dotted between them. It’s eerily similar to how creeps in MOBA titles function, except that you can manage your army purchases and funding in Super Army War. Purchase troops, secure neutral/enemy camps, and provide air support across numerous levels. 

Super Army War online multiplayer - gba
Source: Dailymotion.

You take on a hero-like role with your helicopter/plane against land targets and enemy aircraft, a tense duel with several refueling breaks. You could pick up troops with the chopper to drop them closer to outposts and capture them first. Despite having to manage a simple economy, your direct attacks always felt like they had the most impact on missions. 

Super Army Wars’ neat visuals and smooth performance make it a reverent flagbearer of some well-executed ideas. While its military setting can feel generic, I had a great time competing against the game’s AI fighter planes as I herded my troops toward the enemy camp. With unique battlefields and a constant tussle against an AI opponent, Super Army War sets itself apart in a library of excellent titles.

Priya Sridhar

New Roots (2023)

Source: Steam.

New Roots may be short and lack a proper ending, but it is very feel-good and relaxing. And it promises hope that no matter what happens in our world, climate change and all, communities can survive the worst when coming together. 

Stick, a capybara in a world with anthropomorphic animals, is preparing for a festival in his town. Global warming has occurred, but it didn’t cause an apocalypse. Sure a few plants are extinct and tides can get high, but communities like Piertje rallied and adapted. Most of the energy sources now come from solar power, and they have been regrowing plants. Even mixtapes have returned! 

Source: Steam.

While Stick has no direction in life, he can follow instructions to do party prep for a day. That means he goes around town gathering the necessary ingredients for baked goods, pirates for motivation (it makes sense in context), and flowers for art decorations. And he can help others around town, if you choose. Stick will expostulate about different plants you can find, and explain how they help the planet. 

Gameplay is only an hour, but it is very feel-good. And it was nice to see a science-fiction future that shows the best-possible cases rather than the worst. 

Thanks for reading, come back next month for another entry and more great hidden gems to check out! You'll find all previous Hidden Gems stories here.


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