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Forums > Submission Feedback > aschultz's Airball review

This thread is in response to a review for Airball on the NES. You are encouraged to view the review in a new window before reading this thread.

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Author: zippdementia
Posted: June 24, 2009 (07:56 AM)
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Sorry to say this, but this is my least favourite Aschultz review, though bear in mind that comes from a guy who thinks Aschultz is the second coming... of Zig.

In any case, I think you attempted to fix some of the issues people have been commenting on in your past reviews. Namely, you tried to be casual with this one. However, being casual in a review takes just as much work and planning as being technical and stiff, probably more, in fact. For whatever the reasons, this review just comes off as sloppy.

That's not very helpful, though, so let me point out a few things. First of all, you should give a much better overview of how this game actually plays. Airball tends to make me think of pinball, but I can see from the screenshots and from your description of the game as a puzzle game that this isn't the case. So I'm totally lost as to what this game actually emulates, or what the play is like. You mention too many side points, like the wizard giving you less continues, and something about tiger heads, without giving us the frame of reference to appreciate these points.

Secondly, this review has lost your usual insight. Remember how I praised you for being able to find the deeper meaning and purpose behind any game, even if it was Leisure Suit Larry? With a game that sounds as screwed up as Airball, I was eagerly awaiting your philosophical interpretation. That's become a big part of your style, don't lose it. Don't stretch to find it, or make shit up you don't believe in, but that part of you that looked past the game a bit was very entertaining.

It's good to see you mix up your style a bit, even if this particular path led you to a dead end. The perfect Aschultz review lies somewhere in between technical and casual, with a dash of philosophy thrown in for flavour. I eagerly await the fast approaching day where I see such a review.

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

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Author: aschultz
Posted: June 24, 2009 (08:45 AM)
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Thanks for the criticism and the compliments! I agree that I didn't put in a good explanation of how to move the ball, or what it can do. But you can't prove it, or at least I hope you can't with my new revision.

I had a hard time fitting some stuff in the review and consciously wanted to keep it at or around 6 KB. Changes were made--not huge, but I think they are important. I am also not sure this review would have been good with too much technical info because, let's face it, 3-d games are hard enough. This is one time where I thought a FAQ with editorial commentary would work best for describing the intricacies of the puzzles.

I've recently tried putting screenshots in with reviews, but on the other hand, I can't let the screenshots do the talking. I deliberately did want to avoid trying to sound too FAQ-y too soon and I'm glad that effort was noticed, and more importantly, questioned. Because new problems pop up when you try something new, even with proofreading.

As for a bigger meaning, yeah, it's hard for puzzle-for-puzzle's-sake games to HAVE that meaning. I generally look for: did it have something that fooled you and shouldn't have and made you laugh afterwards? (Yes, the flask "where's" Waldo puzzle.) Did it have something new? (Yes, dying to pick up the two items.) Did the graphics offer anything? (Yes, graphics obscured solutions fairly, and sound let you know something exploded.) What other hooks did it have? What puzzle games are more than just grinding the logic out? What puzzles did I generally feel unusually pleased about solving, and why?

In this case, having to go back to easy mode to map out medium and hard and prepare yourself was a key, as in most puzzle games you just walk through level by level, and either levels are retreads of previous ones done several more times, or they are ones where you need "a-ha" moments. Either approach can work. The game's also legitimately 3-in-1, given the positions of the items you need to pick up in easy/medium/hard.

You're right that there's no great philosophical tie-up at the end but I think I was searching for more along the lines of: well, it's a puzzle game. It's too abstract on the PC. It's staggering how a few simpler examples make it a game for everyone. I've had times where I've raved about puzzle games that are great when you know how to get through them. And I think my conclusion mentions that there are a lot of games less challenging throughout that do not give you a payout at the end, because they start too easy and jump too much and throw a tough level at you. Where most people either get stuck, or they find it not so tough.

The wizard is a bit of a crank, a puzzles-for-puzzles-sake type of guy. And I think it's generally amusing he says "this is your last chance" when it isn't. You'd expect him to be a hard-ass from the puzzles he gave, and because I was emulating the game, I usually reloaded before dying and didn't find this out until I left the game running for a "YOU HAVE DIED" screenshot. A bug in the prototype maybe? At any rate, it is one more case in a puzzle game where you need to try everything.

Him not turning you into a person until you're back on the boat gives a general sense of distance you don't see in puzzle games--as if he's saying, I want you to see my huge puzzle garden, but don't you dare snoop around my humble house!

The other problem I had is that in my drafts I was reusing words I don't like to use--learning curve(and Airball has a good one) and so forth. I make a conscious effort to avoid overuse of certain words and in fact have a text file of red-flag words I want to make sure I do not abuse. PERL filters them out. Maybe I need to approach this better.

As for Airball = Pinball, I think you let a misnomer guide you. To me, they seem the opposite(ball full of air vs ball full of metal) and Airball makes me think of a basketball--I think/hope I mentioned the inflation bit early enough. I think that by mentioning it was isometric and that you could jump up stairs, it should be visualizable (eegh, bad neologism) as a 3-d sort of game.

Now, I think I worked some of this into the review, but I want to do that while avoiding what I saw was a recurring pattern of overloading the first two paragraphs with too much technical information. Maybe it will take a few iterations. At any rate, short term, I hope anyone reading your critique who hasn't read my review yet will wonder what your biggest questions are about. If not, I haven't done my job!

My principal said, 'Emo, Emo, Emo.'
I said 'I'm the one in the middle, you lousy drunk!'
-- Emo Phillips

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