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Forums > Contributor Zone > Challange IV: Results

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Author: Felix_Arabia
Posted: February 07, 2009 (01:02 PM)
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TEmP v1

EmP -- Big Bang Mini

Felix: Some of the descriptions were vivid, such as ďa triangle sitting alone against the neon backdrop of Hong Kong.Ē Others werenít as smooth, like the entire sentence about the penguins clad in pirate hats. That sentence, and other phrases in the review, were too heavy, and there were moments where the sentence structure was too jam-packed with denser synonyms of clearer adjectives. The images assist in providing a clearer picture in regards to what Big Bang Mini looks like, but the writing left me unaware at times as to what I should have been picturing in my head. The game sounds very interesting and colorful, yes, and there seems to be some great amount of variety in what you see/do throughout the course of its duration. Yet this is a shooter, as you clearly alluded to several times. Besides colorful imagery and DS gimmicks that allow you to draw short-lived shields and such, how does it compare to other shooters on the handheld? Or other shooters in general? Going back to the penguins clad in pirate hats, one could think that they are a unique staple to Big Bang Mini, but arenít they also in Parodius? Which shooter doesnít employ DOOM in some way or another? In other words, to someone who has played a lot of shooters, your argument stemmed around areas you thought were unique, or at least nominally special, to BBG. But to me it didnít seem as refreshing since so many other shooters employ the same, or similar, kinds of imagery/events/assaults/et cetera that this game does. For a shooter review to be really good, as Iíve been told, you have to give the reader a deeper sense of empathy of what itís like to play the game, and thatís really hard to do. Score: 78/100

Janus: Any review that makes a DS puzzle game sound as compulsively addictive and energetic as this has to deserve high marks. This is a review with some vivid imagery (pandas lobbing firecrackers, etc.), yet it succeeds in explaining clearly how Big Bang Mini works. I like how you build a picture of the game gradually so we aren't bombarded with everything straight away but are instead introduced to different aspects of the game over the course of the review. My only complaint is that the writing sometimes loses itself in a stream of words. Here's an example: "Eyepatch-wearing penguins in pirate hats ride giant snowballs like space hoppers lob globes of snow while cones of ice surge from the bottom of the screen to try and catch you unawares." This would be grammatically correct if you add an "and", but it would still be a very wordy sentence. This is not a critical problem because you're generally very good at weaving together descriptive images and wordy sentences, and this review contains plenty of neat examples. It's just that sometimes an awkwardly placed word detracts from the overall effect. E.G: "Rapidly blind fire at the top screen, and expect the prettiest bullet hell you'll ever see as your own misaimed attempts descend, spiralling and spinning, coating Hong Kong's neon skyline in purple, pink and blue." This is a fantastic description that makes the game sound exciting, but "rapidly blind fire" is awkward. "Rapidly fire blindly" would be a better way to express what you mean. Nevertheless, this was an excellent review. Straighten out these stumbling blocks and it would score in the 90s. Score: 89/100

Masters: Good review from Gary, but a trifle overwritten, and the odd subject matter doesn't help things, as the thick prose and game's inherent weirdness make for a read that is occasionally hard to follow. Now had the fool used something more like his Halo 3... Score: 83/100

Dragoon of Infinity -- Sonic Unleashed

Felix: You say that some of the werehog levels at times resemble those in God of War. Other times they resemble those in Prince of Persia. How? You say the boss fights are fun, but you donít provide any elaboration. There really isnít a clear sense of what kinds of things Sonic does until the third to last paragraph when you briefly detail his jaunts over the sides of buildings, across bodies of water, and over whales. I would have liked to read more in-depth descriptions over the sights and sounds of the game. Whatís presented in this economical review is more of a generalization of what goes on in Sonic Unleashed. Most of the analysis is a little dry, and it doesnít really provide any clear picture as to what really goes on in the game. Yeah, the average reader is smart enough to know that Sonic levels are fast. But what makes them stand out, positively or negatively, from the previous renditionsí stages? And, since the werehog gimmick is new, how does that element work into the game? I know you touch upon the werehogís combos and allude to platforming segments. But some noteworthy examples would have been wonderful to read about. Instead, I have to refer to the images to the right of the review to get a greater sense as to how this game looks and plays. This review contains all the basic information, but it provides very little beyond that. Score: 72/100

Janus: I disagree slightly with the intro. If you actually go back to the original Sonic titles they're not just about running really fast. There's a whole lot of waiting around too. Having said that, this is a great review! I think the way it's structured is spot on. The danger with bipolar Sonic games is that if you break them down to their individual parts your review can lose coherence and feel like an assessment of individual parts. That's not the case with this effort, though. I like how you address the werehog stages first, arguing that actually, although they have their flaws, they aren't what ruins the game. This allows you to delve into the specific aspects that DO spoil the adventure. But then you bring it back around with a fantastic analysis of the Sonic sections. The observation that it's the kind of speed that makes you lean closer to the screen is spot on and, as an old Sonic fan, the line about this being proof that the hedgehog isn't dead made me smile. So yeah, this is a great example of how to successfully review a 3D Sonic game. Score: 88/100

Masters: Solid effort from DoI that starts well enough, finishes very strong (the running paragraph is exceptional), but gets bogged down in the middle by strange word choices and analogies and a few bad cliches ("mixed bag"). Score: 76/100

Dark Eternal -- Relentless: Twinsenís Adventure

Felix: You do an OK job of explaining some of the quirky elements to a game like Twinsen or, as you call it, Little Big Adventure. I had a difficult time imagining what you were describing to me though. The pictures helped immensely, but as Iíve said in other critiques for this contest, the writing should convey whatís going on just as well as any image. There are some awkwardly written lines in this review, like that one sentence where you describe Quetches and Grobbos drinking beer together. The gameís intro, as you describe it, also felt segregated from the rest of the review. Lines like, ďAnd hereís where things get interesting . . . ď leave me to wonder if you truly mean that all I read before wasnít, or if itís just a colloquialism that youíre employing because you fear that the reader wouldnít find the gameís intro to be interesting. I know you like the game because you scored it high and outlined how it allowed for a great amount of freedom back in its day. But you really only describe the actual game, as opposed to its intro, for about 5 or 6 paragraphs, and I didnít feel that was enough to convince me that this is the great game you say that it is. I feel you could have done more with it. Score 67/100

Janus: The third sentence completely lost me. I've read it about ten times but I still don't get it. Also, what does a smug elephant who has everything in life look like?! Anyway, I enjoyed this review. You explain the unique mechanic at the heart of this game very well. I like the way you demonstrate how you must use the different modes and not simply rely on the aggressive mode. The bit about your encounter with the elephant was both amusing and interesting because it illustrates the complexity of the gameplay. My first impression on seeing the cover art was OK, this game looks goofy, but this review succeeds in make Twinsen's Adventure seem better than that. There were a couple of grammatical errors that hindered the review slightly (misplaced commas mainly), but overall this was a very good review. Score: 85/100

Masters: This is an okay review, hampered by some mistakes that some more proofreading would surely catch ("Dr. Funfrock, residential mad genius" -- I think you mean "resident"). Also, while I get that you don't want to give away the story developments, I couldn't help but feel lost as to the point of the game. Does Twinsen just run around... doing random things? To what end? Score: 70/100

Turducken -- Operation Darkness

Felix: The intro was a little confusing until I understood how Operation Darkness presents its subject matter. Once we get into the meat of the review, you present the reader with some rather interesting, clear descriptions. This game sounds ridiculous in places, but in a good way. Some of your observations, such as the game looking archaic, as well as the option to name your avatar whatever you desire, were not only somewhat comical, but they were also very smart. Youíre right! Why, in an age with full-game voice acting, are games still asking you to name your avatar something beyond the character default? I also liked the nicely timed inclusions of sarcasm scattered across the review. ďI was also pleased to see this game remained fairly true to the real events of WWII. You take part in many historical battles, and destroy a good deal of zombies, skeletons, and Nazi vampires.Ē Good stuff. Your descriptions on the gameís mechanics are adequate, if not particularly exciting. A good example or two could have perhaps presented things in a more interesting manner. The conclusion also felt flat. But with all that said, you were able to inject some personality into the review. I got a clear understanding behind how the game works. And you also made it sound interesting in the best parts. Score: 80/100

Janus: I found that opening paragraph really funny. This review is decent enough, but the writing needs a lot of tidying up. It's very choppy in places which makes it awkward to read and there are also a few notable errors. Here's an example: "A major deterrent in the war between the Wolf Packís cast of healthy, hearty heroes and the same half-dozen kinds of German troops. Yeah, sad to say enemy variety and characterization arenít the gameís strong points." I think a word is missing here, or something. The review uses a lot of very short or very long sentences, long bracketed remarks and exclamation marks. The effect is that the writing becomes disjointed and hard to follow because it's jumping about all over the place. You make some good points about the game's failings, so it's not like the content's not there, but you need to tighten up the writing. Also, who are the literary and historical figures who join the party? I don't think you need to keep this a secret (and I actually wanted to know!). By the way, what's up with all the anti-British humour?! Score: 69/100

Masters: At sentence level, Tur puts together some conversational phrases that are easily digestible and infused with personality. The problem lies in the string of sentences together -- the piece reads disjointedly, lacking the organization, flow and focus that some of the better pieces in this competition boast. Score: 69/100

Team Wolfqueen

Wolfqueen001 -- God of War

Felix: I didnít like the intro. If God of War reminds you of The Odyssey, yet you clearly state that comparing the two is a stretch, whatís the point in beginning your review with a comparison that doesnít fit? You could say to contrast, I suppose, but The Odyssey really has nothing to do with the game in question. And starting your review out with a superfluous comparison feels unnecessary. You could have just began it by saying, ďKratos is no hero,Ē and that would have trimmed this lengthy review down a little. Thankfully, the conclusion, where you yet again bring up The Odyssey, had more purpose. Contrasting between Kratosí primeval instincts borne out of the virtues and values of ancient Greek culture was a pretty nice way to wrap things up. You could have made the same conclusion without that same intro, I feel. The actual review was also very nice for the most part. You employed a lot of clear, good descriptions to help formulate how the game looks and plays. Though Iíve beaten God of War, and therefore know what itís like, someone who hasnít should have a very good understanding on this game after having read this review. Even though itís lengthy, itís not needlessly lengthy, except for the first paragraph and the second to last paragraph. The second to last paragraph felt like a tack-on, and I donít think youíd lose anything if you omitted it, because you had already talked about traversing hazards and spiked traps in other places in the review. Assuming you agree with my suggestions and follow my advice, I think this would be a really great review. As it is now, itís merely pretty good. Score: 85/100

Janus: This is a good, well-written review for an over-covered game. But we'll come to that in a bit. First the good stuff: it's obvious wolfqueen has put a lot of effort into the sort of "action snapshots" (to quote Drella) that can make a game seem fun and exciting. The writing is impeccable and the descriptions are clear and apt. This is evident in the paragraph that emphasises how gory the game is. The description of how you can create a blood geyser by shoving a sword down a minotaur's throat is a great way of illustrating this. The intro is a bit awkward (being a man on a mission makes Kratos similar to almost every videogame hero!), but otherwise this is a polished review. However, the problem I have is that I've heard it all before. This is not wolfqueen's fault, but the danger of reviewing an over-covered game is that unless you approach the game from a completely different perspective you're only ever going to reiterate what's already been said. This review is well-executed, but its effect is diminished by the fact that I've already read similarly gory descriptions of the action from Zig, Jihad, True and Disco in the past. I would love to see wolfqueen apply this sort of stylish, descriptive writing to a game no one has written about. In this case, however, it's impact is lessened by the fact that it repeats the same sort of points and images I was reading about four years ago. Score 80/100

Masters: This is one of the best WQ reviews I have read. She lends her considerable writing skills to review a game which is inherently competition-friendly. The review bandies about impressive imagery and boasts an effortless flow. It loses a bit of steam in the third quarter, but ends strong. Score: 87/100

Will the Great -- Space Quest 1

Felix: Just so I understand, you gave this game a 10/10 largely because of its creative death sequences? Okay. So . . . how is the actual game? Are these death sequences brought forth because the puzzles (Iím assuming there are puzzles here) are difficult/illogical, or is the death purposely built into the gameplay? Iím guessing the answer is no for the latter, since you clearly advise the reader to save early and often. I just donít see why I would want to play a game thatís going to kill me every couple seconds, even if those deaths are silly, or as you put them, ďwtfĒ moments. I donít understand how that makes a game fun. Your descriptions of some of the areas youíll visit were interesting, and I noticed you made brief mention of Rogerís ability to sniff or taste things. But how is all of that successfully incorporated into the game to make it really worth playing when it sounds like such a frustrating title thanks to all the deaths? As for the images included in the review, just because theyíre there doesnít mean that theyíll automatically improve the writing. Score: 68/100

Janus: This was a quirky review of a quirky game. I can't say I'm entirely convinced, but your argument/defence of the severe challenge makes this an interesting review to read. Personally, I think games resort to the sort of hand-holding or rail-roading that you criticise just because it's easier. It's easy to say Save early and save often, but in practice this doesn't always happen, because it's an inconvenience to save every five minutes and it can be hard to predict when the next major challenge is coming (speaking from my experience with Oblivion, Mass Effect, etc.). But you obviously feel otherwise and you support your argument with charming, succinct writing and well selected screenshots. I admit that some of those death messages did make me smile (especially the don't drink the water one). My other issue is that although you describe how the game works well enough, it doesn't sound all that fun. For example, you say you have to click on everything to figure out what to do. This does not sound enjoyable on its own. I wanted to hear more about the warped logic and silly outcomes of the puzzles to bring these ordinary gameplay mechanics to life. As entertaining as the death messages are, I'm not going to play a game purely for them. So this is a good review of what seems like a neat, if murderously difficult, adventure, but I need more to convince me that it's a 10/10. Score: 79/100

Masters: He's the problem I have with Will's review. It's the best writing I've seen from him, and it showed great promise, initially blowing me away with how smoothly it read, how it rolled up informative and entertaining so neatly. And then I got to the score. A 10. I didn't see it coming. I really don't have much of an idea as to why the score would seem to indicate that Will not only likes the game, but *loves* it and thinks we will love it too. To that, I say, why? The review should have answered this question. Score: 72/100

Dagoss -- Mortal Kombat: Deception

Felix: I donít want to imagine someone screaming in pain due to your ďimmeasurable girth.Ē Dagoss, you have presented Mortal Kombat in a way that I never thought I would see. You have placed Freudian concepts into a game that, interestingly enough, is built upon such ideas. This is an educated manís review, or maybe I should say an educated manís editorial. The actual review is given second importance as you spend the first half of the piece trying to back up your point that this game caters to our inner, dark instincts. This is probably the smartest review Iíll read throughout the whole contest, and itís certainly the most intelligent one Iíve read up until this point in Challange IV. At the same time, though, youíre submitting this as a review. Chances are, if Iím a reader coming into this piece, I want to know more about Mortal Kombat: Deception, the game, rather than Mortal Kombat: Deception, the Freudian concept. What information you divulge in your review is what I would expect to see, that the game is trashy, that it is gory, and that it contains several modes, none of which sound to exciting to a guy like me. If you could have perhaps based your argument around this MK title in particular as opposed to, say, the franchise in general, you could have more easily killed two birds with one stone. As it is, I think you killed half of one bird, and the second bird is too busy feeling your immeasurable girth. Score: 83/100

Janus: I'm not sure what score to attach to this review to be honest. As a review, it's not that great. It doesn't tell me anything about Mortal Kombat that I don't already know. After reading it I have no idea what makes Deception different from the thousand other MK titles. But then do I really care about this? Dagoss doesn't make this judgement (perhaps the review would benefit if he did), but I suspect there really isn't anything unique about Deception. This same can't be said for this review. As a piece of writing I could easily give this 100 purely on entertainment value. Not only does Dagoss make a strong argument, he makes it with hilarious, unflinching and often quite graphic writing. The opening paragraph was funny, disturbing and unbelievably manly all at once. Aside from the paragraph on beating up your partner, which I didn't quite get (you hit your partner by accident but wanted to rip his spine out?), this was a great read. I can't tell if Dagoss is being sarcastic or not, but the fact that he revels in the violence gives the review a punch that a more restrained editorial would lack. In fact, this makes the brainless simplicity of MK actually sound fun in a way that a conventional review could never match. I think that deserves a 90. I'm going to stop typing now before I change my mind again. Score: 90/100

Masters: I'm lazy and I think I said everything I wanted to say in my RotW, but for those who missed the topic (90% of you), I'll quote myself: This is a notable work by Dagoss. It's a great essay on fighting games and human depravity, though it's a stretch to make the argument made here so slickly, exclusive to the MK series. The other issue is that we're afforded no MK context with which to rate this particular MK game; no one-on-one fighting game context at all. So while MK: Deception exists in a fighting game vacuum for the purposes of making the theme of the review work, the theme is so well expressed here, the review is still a must-read." Unfortunately, while RotW mentions *notable* writing, this contest has to recognize how well these things work as reviews. Hence my score. :( . . . Score: 65/100

Lewis -- Resident Evil

Felix: This is a really good review, from the viewpoint of someone who agrees with you. I donít care for the survival-horror genre either because it has always felt broken (at least in the Resident Evil franchise; for others, I canít say), even when it was at its apogee. To someone who loves the genre, though, itís easy to understand why they wouldnít care for how you present your opinion. Itís incredulous Ė they could say Ė or it lacks objectivity! But then you do something that a lot of reviewers donít when reviewing a franchise as beloved as RE. You tell it like it is, but you also do it by providing examples to back up your stance. One exception to that is where you lambaste the gameís script. Hasnít Resident Evil always been about scares popping around corners and really, really stupid writing? Used to be you couldnít read a review for the game without seeing someone laud the ďmaster of unlockingĒ lineís corny delivery. Does it fit in the game? I think so, because I always took RE to be more of an homage to B-horror films than . . . smarter horror films. Anyway, I like what you say for the majority of the review. You deliver the coup de grace when you make that comparison with System Shock 2. Now I fully remember how Resident Evilís play control hurt me more than any zombie ever did. Score: 84/100

Janus: I'm not quite sure how to evaluate this review. It's a provocative assessment of Resident Evil, albeit one that's very intelligent and persuasive. However, it's clearly using the GameCube version of Resident Evil to represent the genre as a whole and as such you could probably submit this review for a dozen other games without changing the content much. But then maybe that's the point. I don't learn much about this remake as a distinct title after reading the review, but by criticising core elements of the genre the review suggests that title-specific issues are mostly irrelevant. To put it simply: who cares about the puzzles if the camera sucks? In fact, delving into the aspects of this specific game would probably weaken the review. So I guess what I'm saying is: good review. Your dislike of early Resident Evil/survival horror games is articulated with typically engaging, critical writing and the arguments are well substantiated. It hard to argue with the paragraph on the inept camera, or any of the others for that matter (but then I haven't played any Resident Evil other than 4). This review is thought-provoking, well argued and comes at an ages old game/genre from a relatively fresh angle. Score: 90/100

Masters: I admire Lewis's adventurous spirit -- it worked rather well for me with his review of Half-Life 2. Here though, his review comes off as a blog entry rant about what's wrong with the old guard of survival horror at large. I won't get into the issue of 'should non-fans review niche games' here; suffice to say that I think as a detractor of these types of games, his review could still be more useful if he made more acknowledgment of what it was that gave RE a fan base in the first place. As it is, the greatest utility the review offers is to fans who will read it and say "oh, he hates X and Y? Ah, right then -- I'll discount his opinion and pick up what sounds like a great game." Score: 67/100

Team Boo

Overdrive -- Emerald Dragoon

Felix: This review presents its facts, but it doesnít have the eloquence that that ďotherĒ Emerald Dragon review had. Luckily, for you, OD, I donít judge competition pieces against non-competition pieces. It sounds like this game is in the same boat as another wonky RPG, Basted. I enjoyed Basted because itís stupid, even though itís one the easiest Turbo CD games ever. SNES Emerald Dragon is also easy, but itís touching, as you say. Your examples added light to why you believed this RPG had more going for it story-wise than your typical 16-bit offering. Your entire offering was presented very smoothly, too. I donít think it took me that long to read this review, which is always nice. I could see why you enjoyed this (inferior) port. I probably would too, and you convinced a skeptic who, at the start of the review, thought he was going to have to say that this version looks basic compared to the Turbo version. My only major complaint is that, while the review does a pretty good job analyzing the game, I felt that the writing was a little flat in places. Maybe thatís largely because there arenít any dynamic anime cutscenes mentioned (do they even exist in this port?), and that the story elements are presented over the course of the review in a more general way, rather than in a manner that would be indicative of their spellbinding emotion. Or whatever. Score: 82/100

Janus: I went back and read Zigfried's Emerald Dragon review before this one. This actually makes a nice companion piece to that review, emphasising the specific aspects that makes this SFC port unique while reiterating the strength of the plot. This review isn't quite as eloquent as Zig's, but you still make the story sound impressive. I particularly liked the emphasis on the side characters in this review as it demonstrates the depth of the plot and brought out an aspect that I didn't hear about too much in Zig's review. Reading about Elm made the battles sound interesting, too. Your analysis of the RPG mechanics is typically insightful and your points are well explained and argued. This is a good review, although I do agree with Zipp that the combat sounds pretty broken. At the moment you cover this critical flaw then cut to a fairly abrupt ending that leaves me with a negative impression of the adventure. Perhaps returning to the quality of the story with a bit more detail in the conclusion would help outweigh this issue. Score 87/100

Masters: OD is the consummate reviewing professional. His reviews are always virtually error free, with smooth transitions, and well reasoned arguments that arrive at the ideal score: he makes it look easy. That he's one of the best reviewers around is not a question. This review is no exception. The work's only weaknesses are the rather dry opening, and the un-compelling subject matter. Score: 88/100

HMD -- Call of Duty: World at War

Felix: This critique may seem harsh, but I want you to know that Iím sure you are a decent person, HMD, and that you meant well when you wrote this. You are convinced that you have a reason to tell of the woes of World at War. And that is your right. However, I donít like how you delivered a single point. Please donít say that the game employs racism, and then state that the only victim is Infinity Ward. It looks ridiculous when you decry that kind of vulgarity only to spew the f-word all throughout your writing. Just because Treyarch develops the game doesnít make it a 1/10. You fail to give any credible evidence, and the evidence you do give (the racism thing) is so out of context that youíre fooling people who havenít played the game into believing that what is there is far worse than it actually is. You even admit not playing past the third level, and you state that you donít even care to do so. This is a war game meant to be historical in its perception. It briefly shows real footage of innocent people being killed, not to try to give people hard-ons, but because thatís the kind of cruelty that went on in the war. You should find it repulsive, but not as a slight to your character. Also, donít make stupid jokes about Big Red One, or tell me that this game is like a virgin wandering into an area replete with rapists. Thatís crap writing, and it tells me nothing about the game. Provide credible evidence to try and back up your point. Donít come preaching the evils of this game, and then resort to chicanery and exaggeration. Your argument doesnít hold any water. Score: 10/100

Janus: OK, I agree with pickhut that if you find a game's opening scenes morally reprehensible then you aren't likely to stick around to experience the rest of the adventure. And I think reviews are as a good a place as any to raise this as a concern. Watching documentary footage of civilians being executed is no one's idea of entertainment. However, the point about racism is less convincing. I generally assume that most war games are going to feature moderate to excessive racism and glorification of The Good Guys (i.e. the USA) at the expense of all other nations. In CoD II it's ridiculous to hear Russian soldiers speaking perfect English and throwing potatoes because real grenades are worth more than Soviet lives (OK, we get it, Stalin was ruthless). War games have always dealt in stereotypes. Nailing Treyarch on this point seems slightly unfair considering Call of Duty has never been especially liberal when it comes to portraying other nationalities. I'm not saying this approach is right, but it's inaccurate to suggest that Infinity Ward have never dabbled in racism (count the number of times "kraut" is used in CoD II). This review definitely has shock value and it's unlike anything I've ever read before, but I was hoping you'd go further than the racism thing. World at War probably is a shameless insult to Infinity Ward's genius. Maybe if you ever finish the game (and your blog suggests that you're still playing it) you can tell me why. Score 55/100

Masters: I'm not entirely sure what to make of this review. It opens dubiously, with off-handed references that don't wash and a terrible bit which tries to make sending your franchise to a bad developer analogous to sending your daughter to a neighborhood fraught with rapists. Huh? I understand the outrage at what is perceived as racial insensitivity in the game. But even without exploring that issue -- this fails as a review because I don't know how the game plays, which is especially paramount once the 1/10 score is attached. 56/100

Timrod -- I-Fluid

Felix: You chose a game with some great subject matter, and then you wrote the review in a generic fashion. Thereís nothing wrong with presenting the facts straight up, but even though this game had a few major issues (like the climbing dry surfaces glitch), it still sounded like a really cool idea. The review could have been more interesting, but it suffers from flat writing in parts, and from really bad transitions in others. The intro was really generic. Some of the technical information also went over my head. However, that stuff probably has relevance to someone who will come into the review, wanting to know that kind of information. You canít really make spec-info interesting, but you can do that when describing the stuff that occurs in the game. Score: 65/100

Janus: This is a good review: it explains a bizarre concept well and provides the sort of technical information that would be vital to a potential buyer. The paragraphs on the FPS issues and physics engine didn't mean much to me, but I can appreciate their relevance in the grand scheme of things. The review doesn't exactly seize on the absurd hilarity of guiding a water drop around a house, but it does mention plenty of in-game examples to demonstrate just how unique the experience is. I don't really have a lot else to say. I like how you took a fairly ordinary opening (the "went into the shop and came out with this game" scenario) but used it to emphasise how obscure I-Fluid is. I also thought it was good that you picked out the ability to climb dry surfaces as a potential flaw. Using "The last comment I am going to make is..." as a transition wasn't quite as impressive, but overall there isn't much to dislike here. It's a decent, concise review of a weird game. Score: 75/100

Masters: This is a very good review from Timrod, of a very strange game. He makes it a compelling read though, by virtue of clear description and cogent analysis. The only weaknesses are parts like "The last comment I'm going to make..." -- but missteps like these are few and far between. A strong effort. Score: 80/100

Team Name

Honestgamer -- Castlevania: Judgment

Felix: Typical Venter. Itís a nice, solid review. Parts of it are interesting. Parts of it just make you want to groan, such as when you poke fun at your own writing and say that your intro should have been epic. Hell, any opening line that begins the way yours did is sure to be anything but epic, unless weíre talking about B-movie epic. But enough about that. I found the review to be convincing, and it makes several good points in its argument. Here we have a fighting game based off the Castlevania franchise, and it still manages to come off feeling a little underwhelming. But, uh, did you proofread this thing? Did you read this sentence Ė ďWhy would someone bother mastering the art of knocking someone into the air, canceling out of a ground-based combo to follow-up with an air attack and then come down with a crushing to finish things off when just waving the Wii Remote around in circles while holding the 'B' button proves equally effectiveĒ? How about this one Ė ďShe racks up combos like a jock collects hickeysĒ? Should I name this tactic of using silly metaphors ďVenteritis?Ē The argument is good. Just be cognizant that some of your sentences arenít. Score: 78/100

Janus: I don't understand the moron caught in a revolving door joke. Surely, if Dracula was caught in a revolving door he would keep on coming and going? Or is that the joke? I'm confused. I don't know if you've edited this review since I read it originally or if I just glossed over it before, but there are several cringe-worthy phrases: "fight, fight, fight", "gazelle with sugar rush", "combos like a jock collects hickeys" (actually, I do remember that one). These flourishes are slightly distracting because your writing doesn't really need them. Despite this complaint, this is still a good review. I think your ability to take a Castlevania Wii game seriously and not just ridicule it with anti-Nintendo hostility pays off here. I know you criticise the game, but you do so with specific points about the gameplay, such as the observation that mastering the art of combat is a waste of time when you can just swing the Wii Remote around. This sort of relevant, sensible criticism is also present when you expose the limitations of the different modes. You demonstrate convincingly that Judgement is lacking the magic present in older Castlevania titles, yet you also succeed in placing the game firmly within the series. The introduction was a clever way of doing this, as were the references to clock towers and Dracula's castle. Score: 87/100

Masters: I consider this one of Venter's finest. The opening is the best in the competition and he's seen fit to address the most common Jason review complaint: the lack of personality. The only issue I had was with how long it took to dissect precisely what you were leading up to for several paragraphs prior (you even hint at this yourself, with the "finally we get to that in concrete terms" line). Also, you win the prize for having the third review I've read thus far with the term "mixed bag" in it. The prize is a set of steak knives. Score: 89/100

Zigfried -- Dragon Knight

Felix: Well, Zig, you certainly put a lot of swagger and panache into this one. Sometimes this is a good of way of saying ďmy review really sucks, so please look at the shiny pictures!Ē But thankfully that wasnít the case here. This went from being a decent review to a really good one by the time you began giving the history lesson, and it stayed very interesting all the way to the end. I found your anecdote on being unable to finish the game very well placed. If it isnít true, I wouldnít even have known better. As someone who has beaten Dragon Knight II on the Duo, I definitely can understand how such a simple little game like Dragon Knight can be intriguing. You reviewed an intriguing game, but you also gave us intriguing information that didnít deal with how the game works or plays, and thatís what made this into a great review. All those aesthetics were nice frosting, too. Score: 90/100

Janus: Zigfried has this knack of making old adventures on ancient systems seem deep and involving by selecting the perfect examples to convey their emotional depth. He does this here with the section just before the screenshot about rescuing girls from the clutches of evil monsters. Being able to make these sort of observations is vital when you're dealing with simple gameplay. Not only does Zig select the right examples, his obvious enthusiasm for the game comes across in the review. It's almost as if the enjoyment he felt while playing the game has been translated straight into the writing, which makes it a very engaging read. Plus it's always interesting when Zigfried writes about the history of games, companies and even systems that I've never heard of. His knowledge is impressive, but he never drones on (the bit about Elf selling soap was a particularly amusing bit of trivia). The conclusion was strong, too. It was a clever way of emphasising the fact that Zig's opinion of Dragon Knight is not purely nostalgic. The game still holds up today. So yeah, excellent review. Score: 94/100

Masters: I'm not sure that this will come as a surprise to anyone: but Zig's is the best review in the contest. Sure, he rambles on at the start, giving us a history lesson that we don't really need, but he delivers it in such an easy breezy way, the way only the best writers can, such that we don't mind learning about these old dusty RPG's. And sure, he whines at the end about his broken computer and broken emulator experience -- blog fodder to be sure -- but it just colours an already rich review. I would like to have seen a bit more about why DK is a great game, as he states in the penultimate paragraph, but I'm just being picky. Lines like these:

The monster will look at you. The words "GO AWAY" will be written on its face, kind of like the time you walked in on your roommate having sex.

But you won't go away. The girl needs you. She doesn't want to be a human sushi tray. She doesn't want to work in Demon City's "soapland".

Lines like those had me entertained. Even as I learned about a hentai-tinged game on obscure operating systems. And I didn't even WANT to. Score: 96/100

Zippdementia -- Way of the Samurai

Felix: I had to start this review three or four times. Thatís not because I didnít understand what you were trying to convey, but rather that Iíd get distracted at around the same part of the review, and then have to go focus on that distraction, instead of continuing onward. This is a very captivating review. The first few short paragraphs seem kind of pointless, honestly, but things get interesting once you arrive at the part about how you created Menji, which, by the way, is a horrible name for an avatar. You keep things fresh and funny, detailing noteworthy moments as they unfolded over the course of the game. Towards the end, when you reveal how unmerciful the game is to you when you die, just devastated me. So even though Iíll never play this game, I feel like I have after reading this review. Score: 89/100

Janus: This is the most entertaining review I've read in ages. I can only echo what Masters said when awarding it Review of the Week -- it's a light and witty read but at the same time it delivers a razor-sharp analysis of the game's flaws. I particularly enjoyed the section describing the mechanics of combat. You explain the system with simple clarity, and then go on to describe exactly why it doesn't work. The detail is so precise, especially the observation about the inefficiency of throwing blocking enemies (and this leaving you off-balance and vulnerable), that I feel like I've played the game myself. I really don't think you could have worded this any better. Plus you found space for amusing comments such as the "awase" line. This contributes to the humorous tone that is established with the brilliant anecdote about character creation. This tone is skillfully continued throughout the review, which is why it's such a lively, entertaining read. The structure is spot-on, too. Instead of abandoning the almost narrative style, you maintain it right to the end which allows you to finish with the critical point about losing everything once you die. This is just a fantastic review. I could read it again and again and not get bored. Score: 98/100

Masters: This is a brilliant review. Everything came together for Zipp here, for the first time, as I see it. It's fun *and* evocative -- surely a difficult balance to achieve. It won my RotW, so the score should come as no surprise. Score: 91/100


Golden Vortex -- Super Fantasy Zone

Felix: Bless your heart, Vorty, for writing a review in Challange IV. Even though this review is pretty short, coming in at only 2KB, it still contains a good amount of information on Fantasy Zone in general. You give the reader a few allusions to other games in the series, such as when you briefly touch upon how this rendition isnít as seizure inducing as some of the Genesis/32X editions. Still, the review probably could have benefitted from being a little lengthier. These Fantasy Zone games are always really colorful, and I think you probably could have extracted some good examples from the game to make your review stronger. Also, for clarification, in one spot you say the boss fights are generally a walk in the park, and in another you described them as ďelongated.Ē Care to comment? Score: 70/100

Janus: You say that with a well stocked up arsenal of weaponry you can overwhelm most bosses without too much strain. But then you seem to suggest that bosses actually do take a long time because of the weakness of the primary weapons and the limited usefulness of secondary weapons. I'm not sure I really follow this argument. Aside from this issue, this is a neat little review that describes Super Fantasy Zone well enough. It's a little vague in a couple of places, though. This is partly because it's so short, but some of the points are unclear too. I wasn't sure what you meant by "sluggish removal of enemy pods" at first, but after rereading the gameplay paragraph I think this is a reference to the limitations of the primary weapons when it comes to killing enemies? Score: 68/100

Masters: Vorty has taken his self-assuredness and way with words to a higher level with this review. Regrettably, while his command of the language is impressive, he employs his skills in the 'short review zone' and doesn't quite manage to accomplish that most difficult of reviewing feats: to seem to delve, without actually delving. A good deal more carefully selected, colourful examples would breathe more life into this review. Score: 79/100

Genj -- Hotel Dusk: Room 215

Felix: I know you felt that this review wasnít up to snuff for a contest, but I actually feel that it is. These DS games always get on my nerves because thereís always gotta be a paragraph dedicated to how the stylus works, and then I also have to read somewhere how the stylus wasnít utilized to its full potential. While you do chronicle the stylusí importance to an extent, I didnít have to read any of that other nonsense. It gives me a reason to be optimistic. This is a good review. Itís not as wet as some of your reviews, but that didnít matter to me a whole lot by the time I got to the end of the piece. You still make your points convincingly, and the review is nicely written to the point that I never Mac-clocked this one. The game sounds kinda bad, and you declare it as so. How refreshing it is to read a final sentence that suggests the reader spend his money on a book rather than the game in question, or another game in its absence. I thought all video game players were fat and lazy and just liked staring at their computer screens and TV monitors all day. Score: 82/100

Janus: I admire this review's honesty, specifically the line about the game sounding like crap because that's exactly what I was thinking. You raise plenty of valid, interesting points in this review. The inanity of the touch screen dependent puzzles is exposed with several damning examples. This process is repeated with the observations on the linearity of the adventure and the frustrations of having to go through critical dialogue scenes twice. The story doesn't sound very interesting and overall I don't get the impression that this is even worth a 6, but then you do admit that the plot isn't exactly brilliant. Maybe some more info on the mysteries would have helped us understand why you stayed up late playing it. Score: 83/100

Masters: A pretty good review from Genj that gives us a mostly no-frills account of his experience with the game. While there's certainly no harm in that, given the generally unambitious nature of the piece (especially by the author's standards), what's actually there needs to be completely sound -- and unfortunately, there are a few very noticeable issues, like the close of the first paragraph which kicks off the first of three sentences all featuring the word "quickly". Or the gameplay paragraph, which is much too stop and start: "Sometimes... Othertimes.... Another time..." etc. Score: 74/100

True -- LittleBigPlanet

Felix: Iím glad you liked LBP. I liked this review. I think you do a good job at describing, to varying degrees, all that the game has to offer. You make it clear that character and level customization abounds, and that the main character is charming, and that this is a game that can really get stuck in your head. At the same time, though, I think you could have dedicated a little more on what actually goes on in the main game, as well as in the custom-made levels. There was a lot of telling, not a lot of showing. You give a brief montage of events, describing tidbits from levels like ďThe GardenĒ and ďThe Canyon,Ē but you didnít really shed light on what really made those levels special. Perhaps it was deliberate, but I would have loved to have read about Sheriff Jalapeno, those strange blue genies in the Indian level, freeing captured animals towards the end of the game, etc. I would have also to read something on finished customizable levels. I played one based off of ICO, one off of Shadow of the Colossus, one off of God of War, one off of Batman Ė you could have really given some sweet examples that would have perfectly paralleled what was already in the review. Also, there are a few typos scattered throughout the review. Just so weíre clear, I still enjoyed the review. But I also had played the game. If I hadnít, Iím sure I would have been more curious about the actual levels than their construction. Score: 78/100

Janus: My problem with this review is that it doesn't really focus on the game's obvious strength: custom stages. I know you explain the options available, but level editors are fairly mundane on their own. You need to describe the end results. I've seen YouTube videos of stages based on Silent Hill, Green Hill Zone, Lost, Super Mario Bros., etc. It would be nice to read about the kind of imaginative creations that other people have made, especially given that the level editor seems to be your main justification for the high score. I also found it difficult to visualise some of the editing features, namely the pre-rendered items. I'm not clear whether you mean they're pre-rendered in the sense that this is their default design and you can change it with the Material Changer or whether you have to have these items in your level. The comment that you can fill in any object makes me think that the latter is accurate. Outside of the online content, I just don't believe that this is all that innovative. You describe ordinary platform mechanics (admitting that the game is limited in this respect). I could see myself getting tired of the game pretty quickly. This leads onto my other issue: challenge. You mention that getting puzzles bubbles is the main motivation for progress. But I really want to know how challenging the custom-made levels generally are, otherwise this seems suspiciously like a nice but shallow novelty. This review opens well -- the intro sets up LBP as something different and you manage to make SackBoy seem interesting -- but ultimately I'm just not convinced. The review leaves too many questions unanswered and doesn't sell me on the concept of a platform stage editor. Score: 73/100

Masters: True reviewed a game he loved. With his Silent Hill: Homecoming review, he managed to take that love and focus it, so that the reader knew exactly what made the game so special. This review contains even more love, but far less focus, and reads a bit like, "And THIS is good about it... and also this! And another thing you'll love is this!" I found myself distracted by the effusive energy of the review, and some strange errors in the text further distracted me (eg: why is there an extra quotation mark in the first sentence, and why is the word 'epic' capitalized?) It's not a bad review, but I believe it could benefit from some fine tuning. Score: 76/100

Team Rankings:

01. Team Name: Zigfried/Zippdementia/Jason Ė 812/900
02. Team Wolfqueen: Wolfqueen001/Lewis/Dagoss/*Will - 731/900
03. TEmP v1: EmP/DoI/Dark Eternal/*Turducken - 708/900
04. Team BECAUSE I SAID SO!: Golden Vortex/Genj/True Ė 683/900
05. Team Boo: Overdrive/Timrod/HMD - 598/900

*Individuals' scores not counted into total team score.

Individual Rankings:

01. Zigfried Ė 280/300
02. Zippdementia Ė 278/300
03. Overdrive Ė 257/300
04. Honestgamer Ė 254/300
05. Wolfqueen001 Ė 252/300
06. EmPleh Ė 250/300
07. Lewis Ė 241/300
08. Genj Ė 239/300
09. Dagoss Ė 238/300
10. DoI Ė 236/300
11. True Ė 227/300
12. Dark Eternal Ė 222/300
13. Timrod Ė 220/300
14. Will Ė 219/300
15. Turducken Ė 218/300
16. Golden Vortex Ė 217/300
17. HMD Ė 121/300

If any numerical errors are noticed, please indicate so.

Congratulations to Team Name on netting the win and doing it with only three players. Lesser congrats to Zigfried, who managed to post the best individual aggregate score. Thanks to everyone who participated in CHALLANGE IV!

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Author: Suskie
Posted: February 07, 2009 (01:58 PM)
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Congrats to the winners, especially Zipp, because is it just me or has this guy's writing ability really skyrocketed in the little time he's been here?

You exist because we allow it. And you will end because we demand it.

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Author: wolfqueen001
Posted: February 07, 2009 (02:14 PM)
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Wow. Well, as always, I'm surprised (and pleased) to see our team do well. Second's pretty good, especially considering any team with Zig on it is virtually unbeatable to begin with.

Thanks to the judges for their time. I actually don't feel like explaining what I agree with and what I don't regarding the critiques this time around (my own, anyway; I'd rather not speak for my team), so I'll spare you that. But I am pleased to receive the highest praise from Masters I've ever received from him.

Congrats to the winner(s) and everyone else who participated as well.

As an aside... huh. I beat EmP.

[Eating EmP's brain] probably isn't a good idea. I mean... He's British, which means his brain's wired for PAL and your eyes are NTSC. - Will

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Author: Masters (Mod)
Posted: February 07, 2009 (02:20 PM)
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Congrats to Zig, who proves that he still has it, despite being a withered old man who's still using the same tricks he's used his whole career. =D

Incidentally, chalk my much shorter comments up to my being so incredibly precise and concise, rather than say, laziness.

Also, this just in: Felix and Janus are ramblers. Yeah, that's it. ^_^

I don't have to prove I'm refined - that's what makes me refined!

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Author: overdrive (Mod)
Posted: February 07, 2009 (02:24 PM)
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Thanks, as always for the comments, judges. I also have to congratulate myself for being the only person good enough to prevent Team Name from taking a monopoly on the top three spots and for beating every single person on any team with EmP affiliation, including EmP.

As for a couple of specific points.....

Felix, no real anime cutscenes. There were occasional moments where you'd have a still anime shot of a character (think I have a couple of them in my screenshots for the game) that oftentimes would be accompanied by a little digitalized attempt to replicate a parrot imitating a human talking. As you might expect from a SNES game, the quality of such "conversation" wasn't particularly high.

Janus, yeah....I could have concluded things a bit better and I see what you mean by how it did kinda abruptly go from complaining about the combat system to "oh well, that's that! C-YA!".

Overall, I'm happy. I said somewhere...possibly last week's firestorm of an RotW...that I wanted to take a few more chances with my writing and try some different things. So I figured that there wouldn't be a much better way to start than by entering the first contest of the year with a review that instantly would get people to think about one of the most praised reviews that I can remember seeing since I started writing......just to see how mine would be received. Good fun.

I'm not afraid to die because I am invincible
Viva la muerte, that's my goddamn principle

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Author: Felix_Arabia
Posted: February 07, 2009 (02:26 PM)
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We're ramblers who write quickly. You . . . just take your sweet time!

I don't have to boost my review resume because I have a real resume.

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Author: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: February 07, 2009 (02:41 PM)
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Congruatulations to all who participated, but especially to my teammates. We won! I knew that we would, but to have the victory be this decisive was especially nice. Good going!

Thanks also to the judges for taking the time to read through all of these reviews and leave such excellent commentary. Much appreciated!

"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy on reality

"What if everything you see is more than what you see--the person next to you is a warrior and the space that appears empty is a secret door to another world? What if something appears that shouldn't? You either dismiss it, or you accept that there is much more to the world than you think. Perhaps it really is a doorway, and if you choose to go inside, you'll find many unexpected things." - Shigeru Miyamoto on secret doors to another world

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Author: EmP (Mod)
Posted: February 07, 2009 (02:44 PM)
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Good tourney; thanks to the judges for their time an efforts and congrats to everyone who turned up.

For us. For them. For you.

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Author: Genj
Posted: February 07, 2009 (03:17 PM)
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"The story doesn't sound very interesting and overall I don't get the impression that this is even worth a 6, but then you do admit that the plot isn't exactly brilliant. Maybe some more info on the mysteries would have helped us understand why you stayed up late playing it."

Heh I was pretty much thinking this exactly when I was done and then just shrugged it off as a warm up. I'm surprised that I placed in the upper half individually with that. Thanks to the judges for taking the time to read and comment on all the reviews, and congrats to everyone.


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Author: Lewis
Posted: February 07, 2009 (03:44 PM)
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Genuinely surprised to see my piece didn't completely bomb. Apologies for giving the judges a toughie to analyse yet again. Who knows - maybe one day I'll enter a proper review into one of these competitions.

Congrats to everyone involved. Literally every single piece entered formed some sort of talking point, which is more than can be said for most writing in professional magazines.

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Author: zigfried (Mod)
Posted: February 07, 2009 (03:51 PM)
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As an unbiased observer, I would like to congratulate "team name" on their victory. Congratulations to the judges for their astute judgements. Congratulations to Zipp for doing awesomely with his awesome review. Congratulations to Venter for forming a team and then capitalizing on that daring move with a daring victory. And congratulations to me for placing first in another of EmP's Challanges. I'll do it again next year ;)

PS - the bits about my computer exploding and the emulators crashing is true.


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Author: zippdementia
Posted: February 07, 2009 (04:19 PM)
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I'm glad I was able to hold up my end of the bargain for team-name. Only two points less than Zig? I'm honored.

Congrats to Jason for writing a great Castlevania review. I wouldn't have wanted to have to write that one, it seemed a tough game to pick, but you did brilliantly with it.

And Zig... I'm so glad you went with this review instead of your original choice. It really is one of your best works.

Thanks to the judges for taking the time to write such detailed comments. I'm glad I was able to make you laugh.

Note to gamers: when someone shoots you in the face, they aren't "gay." They are "psychopathic."

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Author: turducken
Posted: February 07, 2009 (07:12 PM)
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Third from last. Blegh.

Couple points I wanted to address, though.

"I don't think you need to keep this a secret (and I actually wanted to know!)."

I felt I should keep it secret, because they're characters you get a ways in or are revealed to be people you had. I didn't want to spoil storyline stuff like that.

"By the way, what's up with all the anti-British humour?!"

Oh, there wasn't that much! Just some friendly jabs at my pals across the pond. And to give Gary a taste of his own meds.

"My father, the Emperor, had many powers of the Dark Side. But without three eyes he could never achieve perfection." - Trioculus

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Author: True
Posted: February 07, 2009 (07:46 PM)
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Well, it happens...

And as much as I could be upset about my recent hiccup after such a strong showing the past few tournaments I've done, I can't be. The judges, as usual, were spot-on and nailed every flaw with my review that I had myself. It was just a bad choice and a lack of focus.

I thank you guys for taking the time out to give so much feedback. Your opinions are very much appreciated. I thank Vorty and Genj for teaming up with me as well. It was fun.

If I Offended You, You Needed It.

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Author: goldenvortex
Posted: February 07, 2009 (08:01 PM)
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Thanks for all comments.

It was fun. i wish I'd planned my review out a bit instead of writing something last minute. Maybe next time.

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Author: zippdementia
Posted: February 08, 2009 (12:33 AM)
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I just noticed I got the highest individual score of anyone. 98/100 from Janus! Thanks, Janus!

Note to gamers: when someone shoots you in the face, they aren't "gay." They are "psychopathic."

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Author: darketernal
Posted: February 08, 2009 (08:47 AM)
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Thanks for judging.

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