Murder By Numbers

When I picked up Murder By Numbers, I thought the title was referring to the fact that it’s got Picross-style gameplay mixed with a visual novel. It didn’t expect the name would refer to the plot, too! Murder By Numbers chases the quirkiness of the Phoenix Wright games, but never quite lands with its characters and jokes. Plot points and tropes become all too predictable, slowly turning a game into a chore. The Picross puzzles are alright and never too challenging to bar progress, but a couple of UI missteps can make puzzles more frustrating than they need to be.

Sonic The Hedgehog (2006)

The 2006 reboot of Sonic the Hedgehog is, in one word, awful. People wanted Sonic Adventure 3 and instead got an endlessly-loading, finicky to play mess of a game. Sonic actually managed to go too fast, and many times players would send the blue blur hurtling to his death. Silver’s gameplay is slow, finicky, and just not fun. Shadow was thankfully a bit slower and easier to play as than Sonic, but I’d be lying if I said I remembered anything else about his path. Asides from the… questionable human love interest (yikes), there’s nothing worth remembering about Sonic ’06.

Tails Adventure

Tails Adventure is practically the anti-thesis of a Sonic title. Slow, clunky, and a bit obtuse, Tails Adventure is a Metroid-style adventure game for the Game Gear that isn’t all that well-known today. Tails have never been as fast as his hero, but the fox moves at a snail’s pace here, and it makes the backtracking common to the genre a little painful. That’s not to say Tails Adventure is a bad game, as it’s charming in its own right. Just make sure to play it with a walkthrough in hand, so that you don’t get too lost and confused.

Sonic R

Sonic R’s soundtrack is great. Even though it’s pre-Crush 40, the songs sung by Teresa Jane Davis had the same silly energy. It’s not the butt-rock that we’ve come to know from the series, but the catchy lyrics persist even to this day. I can still sing most of the tracks–

Oh, I’m sorry. What’s that? Do you wanna know about the game itself? God, Sonic R is terrible. Your racer will slip around the stage as if it’s all made of ice, and your opponents will employ extreme rubberbanding to frustrate you. There’s no sunshine to be felt here.

Sonic Chaos

The Game Gear Sonic titles weren’t the best, but I still have fond memories of Sonic Chaos. It was a bit on the easy side, as the developers accounted for playing on the tiny screen, but having a portable Sonic title that wasn’t poorly made was great. The game distilled the essence of Sonic into a portable format, which is an impressive feat, especially on the Game Gear. Sonic Chaos hasn’t aged terribly, but it hasn’t aged well either. Honestly, Sonic Chaos is an average game, which says a lot in a series with such high highs and low lows.

Sarawak

Sarawak is a short narrative adventure that stars a young woman as she tries to clear her mother’s after being accused of murder. This is a concise game, you can complete it in just a couple of hours. Length isn’t everything, though, and Sarawak is a compelling title that never has a chance to grow long in the tooth. You’ll have some light puzzles and some narrative choices to make so you aren’t just reading, but nothing’s ever hard enough to stop your progress. Sarawak is a perfect weekend game–something to play through in an afternoon, enjoy, and reflect upon.

Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt

A cute little free indie, Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt is worth spending an hour on. Cure the woes of the land by shooting the pain away… with healing magic! The combat is simple, yet strategic, and proper use of bombs and dodging will be what wins the day. Progress is simple–heal enough people (or things) to advance to the next area. The art style is minimalist and cute, too. Aside from a cheap trick that will likely have you missing 100% in your first playthrough, the first Princess Remedy title is a short, sweet, and enjoyable adventure.

Hades

Supergiant has always made great games, but they’ve outdone themselves with Hades. I’ve never been one for rogue-likes, but Hades makes sure that you’re always progressing and learning in its randomized take of Tartarus. If you run into a wall, you can also turn on God Mode, which makes you more powerful with every death and helps you to see the fascinating story’s conclusion. You want to see this story to the end as well, with incredibly well-written characters and a plot that goes beyond the often restrictive norms of Greek mythology. You owe it to yourself to play Hades.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

I’ve never played a game more gratifying to untangle the plot of than 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. Each character’s stories slowly reveal more about what has led to the apocalyptic disaster of the present. Even if you think you know what’s happening, you don’t, and finally learning the truth is incredibly satisfying. The stories of the past are juxtaposed against increasingly difficult battles against a powerful for as you try and save the world you’re learning more about. But, it’s one to talk about 13 Sentinels and another to experience it, and I highly recommend you experience it for yourself.

Genital Jousting

There is nothing that won’t be funny about floppy, floopy phalluses. Genital Jousting’s colorful nature is not erotic at all, though you still don’t want to play it in front of the kids. The game’s Story Mode is downright ridiculous, starring a down on his luck penis that wants to find love. It, ironically, says a lot about toxic masculinity in a humorous way… and the penis puns are hilarious. The controls can get a bit cumbersome at times sometimes getting between me and the next cutscene. I guess it’s a bit hard to control a floppy, floopy phallus, though.