Realistically, I don’t think Cacoma Knight is going to blow anyone’s socks off. It’s a solid iteration on Qix with a fair amount going on mechanically and a juicy flavor to appreciate, but once the novelty wears off, I have to imagine the endless replayability and challenge of Qix will always win out in the end with diehard fans. Even so, I find Cacoma Knight to be one endearing game. I love the way it looks and I really appreciate how it takes a puzzle game formula and expands on it in such a way to make it feel like a proper adventure. Its increased emphasis on storytelling and cooperative play definitely give it a distinct identity, and even though people don't exactly play Qix for the story, the effort is absolutely appreciated nonetheless.
Effacer: Hangman from the 25th Century
Beyond the core loop of Hangman and a multiplayer mode, that’s really all there is to Effacer. It’s an undeniably slim package and even though it boasts a whopping 40,000 words, I can’t imagine most people will get anywhere near seeing all of those words. Still, there’s a lot to like about the general vibe of Effacer, both on its own merits as a bizarre twist on Hangman and as a representation of the curious world of the CD-i. There’s really nothing else like it and playing Hangman normally isn’t exactly going to be the same thing unless you create your own alien backstories and role play them or something!
Otenba Becky no Daibouken
The idea of a maze game or having to deal with pursuers using indirect attacks wasn’t new at this point, obviously, but the way that Becky is intentionally dis-empowered in most cases and only given true control in the most ideal of circumstances is genuinely creative and unusual to see. The randomized levels and variable speeds of the aliens can create a lot of problems that aren’t the player’s fault, but doing your best to work with what you’ve got can be engaging in its own way. Because of the constant disadvantage that the player faces, achieving victory becomes all the sweeter and it’s easy to gain an appreciation of every aspect of the mechanics because of how much thought has to go into every action. This isn’t a game you can save state or mash through, this is a game that demands you not give up and keep tackling it head on to eventually find a way further in.
It's easy to dismiss Pit Pot's particular kind of design as unfair or bad nowadays, but to do so would be a mistake. I always appreciate when a game is bold enough to ask you to really understand it to succeed and I think there's still a lot of value in that approach. Because of how intricate and mysterious Pit Pot is despite its conceptually simple mechanics and one button control scheme, I can easily see myself going back to it and continuing to poke at its many curious corners.
Dig Dug: Digging Strike
Some retro revivals around the DS era really didn’t work out well, so I was very pleasantly surprised by Digging Strike. The new mechanics and successful merging of the first two Dig Dug games works really well in creating a game that’s more complex while retaining the feel of the original game. I sure didn’t expect the story to be such a joy either, so much so that I wish there was more of it! I also wish that the unlockable item system was handled better and that Taizo moved faster by default, but even with those issues, it’s such a breezy experience that it’s hard to get too mad at it for those things.
Peke to Poko no Daruman Busters
Daruman Busters is a long, frequently agonizing experience. The game is so challenging and so unforgiving that it feels impossible to get into a groove with it. Sometimes you'll think you're improving when you happen to clear levels quickly, but inevitably, the game will knock the confidence out of you and force you to toil in a single level for what feels like forever. Some of the starting block arrangements are downright sadistic and with how the level itself is constantly getting in your way, how unpredictable the Daruman behavior is, and how hard it is to actually figure out how this game wants you to play it, I found myself increasingly exasperated with it. It was so taxing to get through that it soured my mood for an entire weekend!
Honestly, I didn't expect much from this game before I turned it on. I’d never heard of it, its box art is pretty ugly, and the developer didn’t exactly have the strongest of careers. But I gotta say, Rat Attack! is a solid game! It takes a simple, tried but true concept and throws so many wrinkles and wrenches into it that it becomes a chaotic yet considered cacophony of hazards, ideas, challenges, and triumphs. Qix is the kind of concept that’s hard to add onto, but I think this game does a really good job of expanding on the idea. Having to juggle dozens of rats while keeping hazards, power-ups, and pad locations in mind makes for a surprisingly tense and exhilarating experience.
Numblast represents the merits of Japan Studio's approach during the PS3 era while also contrasting with the direction gaming was going in. It's a creative and charming game, but there just isn't much to it. It'll take a good amount of time to become skilled at it, but there are few ways to show off and test your skill in ways that reward such mastery, so for most, it'll probably feel like you're grinding for nothing unless you truly adore the game. There's the glimmer of an entertaining narrative with a great sense of humor, but it isn't given enough time to truly shine. It feels like it would have been perfect for the mobile market, but it failed to make waves there too. For whatever reason, Numblast just didn't stick.
Tokyo Crash Mobs
Tokyo Crash Mobs is the kind of game that’s emblematic of Nintendo’s digital download services. It’s a small, bizarre, yet charming experiment that you rarely find elsewhere nowadays, especially from a company as safe as Nintendo is. It clearly wasn’t a high budget production and it suffers from steep difficulty and unreliable controls, but it’s the kind of game that ends up being greater than the sum of its parts. I was honestly kind of fed up with its gameplay even before the end and that bug I kept encountering only made things worse, but because of how it all comes together, I find that it remains steadfast in my memory.