Games I Played in February 2024


Horror stories have a long history of paralleling raw, painful human experiences, and Silent Hill: The Short Message, the latest release in a franchise known for exploring the dark depths of the human soul, leans heavily into such subject matter. Co-developed by Konami Digital Entertainment and HexaDrive and released for free on PS5 at the end of January, The Short Message explores potentially triggering subjects, such as suicide, depression, bullying, and child abuse and neglect.

Upon the starting the game, Anita wakes up in an abandoned building in Kettenstadt, Germany. She immediately receives a text from her friend Maya, an internet-famous graffiti artist, who asks Anita to come and find her somewhere in the building. Much of the gameplay is akin to a walking simulator, in that it involves exploration through the grimy, trash strewn hallways with their graffitied walls, chained up doorways, and abandoned rooms — along with some maze-chase sequences that I found more frustrating than frightening.

More of my in-depth thoughts on the game can be found at Once Upon the Weird.

Good Bones. (screenshot by me)

Good Bones (RETCON Games) is a charming visual novel/point-and-click game with cozy horror themes. Avi brings her daughter Bianca to a new home in the hopes of leaving the grief of loosing her wife behind — but the house holds more than just the belongings of the previous owners.

The point and click element of the game allows for various puzzles, with the player having to return to rooms several times in order find and collect the items needed to progress through the game. In addition, dialog choices allow Avi to either connect with her daughter or remain sheltered in her own grief, which has an impact on how the game ultimately pans out. Good Bones a short and fun experience.

If you’d like to learn a bit about the development process for Good Bones, check out my interview with Jes Negrón, founder of RETCON Games, on SUPERJUMP.

Oxenfree II: Lost Signals. (screenshot by me)

I dipped briefly into Oxenfree II: Lost Signals (Night School Studio) while I was on my flight to Denver. When the game opens, Riley is caught in a storm and radio voice cut through the noise, as if reminding her she can’t escape. Suddenly, she finds a light that connects her briefly to the past, before waking up on a dock on the Camena Coast. She has come home to help study radio anomalies by erecting transmitters a specific points on the coast. I’ve made it far enough to connect with another intern — and then the combination of sleepiness and noise on the flight made it hard for me to focus. So, I’ll have to finish the game up later.

While hanging out with my youngest brother, he brought out a number board games — with my favorite being Carcassonne (Frima Studio). The game involves putting tiles of a map down and claiming farmland, monasteries, cities, or roads in order to gather points. It’s pretty easy to pick up (with the most complicated bit being totally points at the end) and has fairly quick gameplay. It was possible to play a couple of times in a night, if we wanted to, while still having time to jump into other games.

Another lovely game is Wingspan (Stonemaier Games), which features gorgeous art and interesting, complex gameplay. However, it takes a bit longer to set up and understand the gameplay and also takes longer to play. Loosely speaking, the game involves building a population of birds on the board, which can be placed on water, forrest, or grasslands. Basic actions involve placing a bird, drawing a card, laying eggs, or collecting food. Many other aspects of the game come into play, as the game has a layered economy and system. Once you understand the various elements, though, it’s easy to pick up the flow of play and have a great time.

We also played two fast-paced, funny themed card games — Bears vs. Babies (created by Elan Lee and Matthew Inman), which involves building bizarre monsters to defeat the baby hordes, and Taco vs. Burrito (created by 7-year-old Alex Butler), which involves building the ultimate lunch. Quick to learn, fun to play.

If you’d like to know about the rest of recent culture I consumed, including books and TV, you can check out my Culture Consumption for February.