The Labyrinth at Nishimori (西森の迷路)
1990, Nintendo Famicom

A graphic adventure horror game for Famicom. A group of friends become separated during a week-long hiking trip through a great forest called Nishimori. As one of the unlucky teens, you find that you’re more than lost—the forest itself has turned against you! When your friends begin to come back from the darkness of the labyrinth, you’ll wish they had stayed lost.

Gameplay takes place over five in-game days—wander aimlessly and you’ll run out of time. Can you solve Nishimori’s riddles and escape, or will you join your friends in the forest forever?


Scenes from the attract mode of Mouja, a 1996 dropping puzzle game from Etona with a couple of twists. First and foremost, you’re not trying to match colors or symbols here as in so many other games, but denominations of currency, which must be added up in order to create higher currencies. Five 1-value coins, for example, will transform into a single 5-value coin, two of which can be combined into a 10-value coin, and so on, until you work your way up to two 500-value coins that disappear entirely when added together. Combos, when they can be worked out, are extremely satisfying, but require intense mathmetical foresight and quick thinking to achieve.

The second twist is that you’re playing with cats and not people. Among your varied enemies are a wizened old man, a drunkard, a computer whiz, a mother of three, and other unusual concept. These cats, for whatever reason, really like converting money. In fact, it appears as though the main objective of your playable character (not pictured here) is to become some sort of prodigious cat banker. Now there’s a movie someone should consider making.

Funnily enough, while Mouja is almost entirely unknown outside of Japan, it deserves mention here because it’s the first (to my knowledge) puzzle dropping game of this type. The following year, Face would completely copy the mechanics of this game in order to put Money Puzzle Exchanger on the Neo Geo.

This game is hard. Like, really, exceptionally hard. This is partly owed to the AI of the computer, which can do math faster than any mortal human and somehow seems to plan several moves in a row. I’m a reasonably sharp guy who juggles numbers every day at work, but this is just ridiculous. The computer’s prowess is compounded by the fact that, unlike most “obstacle” blocks you drop in a competitive puzzle game such as this, the debris you drop on an opponent in Mouja is permanent and unbreakable. One seemingly lucky attack by your opponent could lay down an impenetrable row of blocks under which you can never again touch your coins. This makes the game far more frustrating than Face’s version. First to the gate isn’t always best.