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Forums > Contributor Zone > Alpha Olympics 2009-10 RESULTS

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Author: aschultz
Posted: January 10, 2010 (06:15 PM)
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So, here are the results for the 2009/2010 Alphabetolympics. No matter which year you actually wrote them in, thanks for contributing to the 60%+ turnout. Those disappointed they didn't allot enough time, maybe make a late new year's resolution not to procrastinate next time--no matter what site, or contest, or group of people you're writing for, or even if you have non-writing goals. All three of us judges know the pressure of review writing for a tourney, and this is the biggest 1-review tourney I've seen in my (brief) time here, with some tough letters covered. Some people already expressed disappointment/worry about their work, but every review had enough for a good serious look.

And a playful "boo" to the folks who traded letters and then neither posted a review.

ASchultz broke the score into 2 parts--technical then aesthetic. Or, head and heart.


FELIX: Thanks for satisfying my curiosity. This was a short, straightforward review for a blah game. So it doesn’t help you since there seems to be a lack of noteworthy things to talk about. However, the writing is very easy to follow and I get what you’re saying. Sometimes too much to talk about a game’s content can make a review read awkwardly, so clearly you gave this write-up the right approach. It’s an interesting game just because of its subject material it tries to copy from other mediums, and you did a sweet job capturing screens. Too bad the game just wasn’t as interesting as the material it tried to ape. 65/100

ASCHULTZ: Two things I noticed right away: the four paragraphs look very lumpy. The intro has a problem, too. Akira fans will know the summary. Non-fans may be more interested in what sort of game it is, with details later. These usually can be eyeballed right away when a review is posted. I know I've tried to focus on that. They are not, however, structural problems.

This is a good review of a so-so game with only so much to be said about it. That limits its scope without something spectacular in the writing style, and you don't seem to have the material to work with--or the offhand natural humor--that makes your Ys III and Wild Arms 4 reviews click. Also while I have a good idea about plot control etc. I'm also wondering how critical a game-over mistake is. Are there save points? This technical stuff can get in the way of imagination if thrown out, but a sentence has to be there. Maybe that would be a good place to add a throwaway joke.

I know my saying "needs character/needs to take risks" may be hot hot pot-kettle action, but I think you're a good enough writer to learn from getting zapped. At any rate, I don't blame the translators for ditching the translation, especially since they have to dumb down the text to fit it in the patched cart. 35+31=66

RANDXIAN: Good job of describing a manga/anime I have heard of, but knew little about. You make it perfectly clear that the interactive sequences are lame and just seem thrown in for the sake of having some semblance of interaction. With that said, the opening line is both disorientating and unnecessary. You adequately describe why the sequences in question are simply not fun and add nothing to the core game play, so why add the succesive year argument?

Basically, I feel this is a review with a lot of useful informative, but it lacks pizazz. The intro provides good info, but the opening line is terrible and nothing in the intro really grab's the reader's attention. There is also no real conclusion; the review just stops. This almost resembles a last minute report written for school.

Score: 65

Radicaldreamer/B/Baten Katios

FELIX: Loved the last line in your review. This really brought back memories from my experience with the game, as I remember being in awe over how awesome the game looked in contrast to how woeful the voice acting was. I enjoyed the game, though, I seemed to have stopped shortly after . . . the big plot twist you alluded to. Anyway, I think this review, like you said in your blog or wherever could have benefited from a little bit of refinement. You tackle many different subjects regarding the game, as there are indeed many elements that define its uneven nature. Yet in doing so, some parts of the review felt less interesting to me than others. I felt some bits really did a lot to bring out the game’s nature in a show, not tell sort of way while other parts, like the part where you bring up the voice acting, were just stating facts and leaving it as that. So the writing, while good, probably would have been better if you would have started earlier and rewritten/combined some ideas through editing. 80/100

ASCHULTZ: Your blog entry was right. There's a lot that could be chopped down here. "Such creativity and originality of world design can only reach its full potential if it is occupied by compelling actors engaged in captivating adventures." is one of your weaker generalizations, and after two very engaging paragraphs, things start to slide.

The best bits later are discussing the RPG characters, and "layered badness." Even that gets beaten down with a bit too much on voice acting. Then throwaway phrases start popping up. "It is probably is not a good sign that..." This is intelligent writing. Unfortunately it veers toward the sort that I have to reread, as opposed to what I'd like to reread. Cleanup's no fun.

I'm glad you found the time to get this review. I know you'll find the time to fix it into something better. You're one person who can get away with long, descriptive reviews. Long, descriptive and time-pressured? That too. 33+43=76

RANDXIAN: Nice job of using subtle wit to poke fun at the poorly written story and cliched characters. Way to intergrate info with lively writing. I almost get the sense you are trying to point out this game rips off FF7 in some ways.
My problem is you give the game a 7/10, which would indicate this is a solid game, yet more than half of the review is trashing the story, characters, and the voice acting. While these are important elements, I feel the bit about voice acting could've been more concise. By this time, you've beaten the game to a bloody pulp, so now convince me why this is a reasonably good game. Unfortunately, I was never convinced this game is worth even a rental.

However, I do appreciate the part about how you explain why dungeons being short is actually a good thing. Obviously, you worked to integrate all the important details into this review, but it fails to convince me it's worth even checking out after you completely blast it for several paragraphs.

Score: 80


FELIX: This is a great review. What I like about it is that you are able to compare and contrast this game’s qualities and shortcomings without doing the “but it’s not all bad!” or “not all is good!” routine. You don’t talk about good stuff for half the review and then bad stuff for half, or vice versa. I thought you were going to do that when I read the first sentence, which was my least favorite part of the review (I hate that kind of opening line, though I’m sure I’ve used something like it before). But when it came to actually discussing the game’s elements, you did a great job balancing what made the game tick while simultaneously explaining how its shortcomings are a result of the game’s designers’ ambitions. I could have swore HG had like 37 Crackdown reviews, but I can’t remember what the other ones say so this turned out to be a pretty good learning experience and enjoyable read for me. 95/100

ASCHULTZ: Foreshadowing your own review is something I'm not crazy about--and it's not necessary in such a coherent engaging review. Sometimes it's a bit too conversational for my tastes, ("grinds to a screeching halt," a few too many italics,) but I ran out of complaints after that. This isn't your first what-is-a-game discussion that I think is generally interesting, and there's the lateral knowledge of other games that never feels forced. The frustration is relatively eloquent, and I think we've all had a game like this. I'm particularly intrigued by how quickly a game like this can/should get pareto-dominated, and why, and this review does that well.

This is well imagined and proofread, and if it isn't everything you hoped it is, you deserve credit for not trying to do too much--and still doing a lot. It takes a good look at a subgenre of games and if it's not as expansive as the NEXT review, it doesn't spill over. I never felt like I was Grading A Review here. I was busy seeing if I agreed with what was said and finding examples to agree/disagree with it. 44+44=88

RANDXIAN: As usual, you do a good job of hooking the reader with interesting facts and nuggets about the game. For the most part, I feel you do a good job of pointing out all the relevant pros and cons to the game. I found it amusing that you were so baffled by the "ending" that you had to double check a FAQ to make sure you did finish the game. Nice touch.

However, I'm a bit confused about your stance on the open-ended aspect. In the intro, you seem to praise the game for letting the player run free. Later on, you reprimand the game for being too open-ended. If the sporadic difficulty is such a big deal, does that mean you would rather the game be more linear? I'm really confused.

Maybe it's just me, but I could do without having all the words in italics. Yes, I know the point is to add emphasis, but I personally don't care for it.

Score: 75

Lewis/E/Eternal Darkness

FELIX: Your ejaculatory ED “review” really brings up some interesting points and angles. It’s just . . . well, it’s quite a free-flowing piece of writing, which actually makes your argument feel all the more sincere, at least for a little bit. The first tangent was interesting and I think it served to back up your argument on survival horror and ED. The second tangent about your dreams did nothing for me. The third one about Red Faction just made me lose interest in the piece entirely. Come on man, you used like 3 words to write a pretty good little blurb for Brevity or Bust and then you write one of the lengthiest pieces for this tourney and it’s all over the place with your dreams and games that start with “R.” And the whole “your sanity meter is dropping!!!” thing just felt corny, though I understand why you tried to incorporate it, as the idea is you’re losing your marbles like the characters in ED. Sorry, Lewis. I usually dig your work but this one was just too much for me, though I do appreciate your attempt to transcend traditional review writing standards by offering something different. 40/100

ASCHULTZ: Oh boy. Lewis brings the mustard in this one. And the garlic and the Denby's Secret Super Sauce. The result is the essay version of Mike Leach drawing up a fumblerooski.

Whether or not you like this review you're probably saying you wish you had the guts to pull something like this in a contest. Without a paid editor, there's a very real risk of a review like this flaming out. However, it largely works. It got positive AND negative curses from me.

It brings up a Big Question first, then some humor ("retarded bus") and just as it really seems to work, the self-referentiality left me annoyed, and the brief tangent seemed unnecessary. It got too self-indulgent. You have the right, and tangents if done right feel great. The timing's off, though. You slip in a bit too much that sounds neat. It's so fun to write when you have a quirky idea, but it's rough to proofread--I know--and worse, it's tough for others to read. Yes, it's a fourth wall essay about a fourth wall game. Still with moments of hedging like "if you see what I mean" you're hedging on your audacity.

Still the way you throw out new survival horror games works for someone who is completely oblivious to the genre, and that's a good thing. Your admission the Red Faction tangent was used elsewhere cost a couple points but even before that, I think it soups things up in the way it says Silent Hill etc. cheat. It takes too long to maneuver around the damn essay, and that pumps up the surface erudition. It's fun to read, but you just know it can be cut down to the bare experience, comparing Red Faction to Eternal Darkness, and why a bad game helps prove why a good game works. The "Point is" bit also swerves once too often--it talks down to the reader a bit, and while it's spontaneous, so is peeing on a cop. Plus I was cross about being linked to another review of yours--I mean, I see what you're doing beyond just showing another review. That was too cute.

You probably knew that people would suggest it needs work. I hope my suggestions are constructive. But yours holds up pretty well. 34+43=77

RANDXIAN: Didn't care for the opening paragraphc, but chuckled out loud at the following sentence in the second "But it means that, when something like the survival horror genre comes along, those two little words say a lot. You survive, and it's horrible, presumably." Good stuff here.

While I appreciate the personality and entertainment value, at times the review is completely obnoxious. First you slam on the brakes and talk about a developer's conference. What that has to do with the reivew of Eternal Darkness, I'm not sure. Then you stop again to talk about Red Faction. Again, what that has to do with Eternal Darkness, I'm not sure. Last, but not least, you plug a completely different review.

It's a shame. I think if you would've stuck to the task at hand, you would have a really good review. Sure, I was entertained and engaged, but only when you bothered to actually discuss the game that's supposed to be reviewed. You had a good rhythm going until your first tangent. Why screw that up?

Score: 60


FELIX: Oh you had to focus on the controls! So why would anyone want to put himself through this kind of experience? Let’s not focus on the controls for a sec. The game, it has something to it, m’right? I was more interested, obviously, in the part of the review you didn’t focus on. You take pictures of ghosts. Tell me more. 60/100

ASCHULTZ: This review doesn't mess around and still gets some good shots in. It's more compact than the other reviews, but it maybe sacrifices some potential examples. I can't expect you to parrot other reviews--in fact it's good not to--but my overall reaction was "Wait, this review was low on X, Y and Z" which other reviews seemed to be able to incorporate. I also see a big contradiction: 1) your role is to stand still in a corner 2) the controls to run/power walk down a hallway are awful

There's also some goalpost shifting. Controls are frightening, then "I’m not being cute here, I literally mean" and then "fear turns to frustration." Yes, frustration is a form of fear. The transition seems awkward. This is the sort of flourish that adds little to the review & also reminded me of the golf bit at the beginning, which really went overboard with needless profanity that doesn't really add to the emotion. Crapping one's pants to describe fear has been done before.

You've also got "Real story or no, that breaks immersion. Anyway," which is the sort of red flag that said you couldn't find a better transition. The points are valid. They can go together better. Your conclusion seems to be the strongest part, especially the final line. By then I was a bit frustrated.

Also reading other reviews it seems some was left out about this: power ups, what ghosts look like, cheap tricks ghosts use like teleporting, and if there are stories behind the ghosts. Other reviews seem to hint at these things, and while you can't expect to span them all, a lot of questions I had after reading this review were answered in different ways in the others. What are the ghosts' stories? Your review seems control-heavy in its discussion and I am curious about the "good bits." Also, you've done the controls bit before, with Warhawk--I don't believe this affected my tourney score, but it's one of those things where you may hit a rut and not know it. 35+31=66

RANDXIAN: Fantastic job. The review is an almost perfect blend of wit, analysis, and info, which is presented efficiently and without dallying. I see you also edited the bit about the controls so it's more clear why it's such a weak point. I really liked this review when I judged ROTW and now it's even better with the edits. I don't see any glaring weaknesses in the review. This review is like a steak dinner without so much as an ounce fat on the steak. Oh, and with cherry cheesecake for dessert.

Score: 100

YamiShuryou/G/Gabriel Knight

FELIX: Yami freaking Shuryou, you wrote a pretty good review, at least in comparison to what some of these yahoos crapped out. Here’s what I liked about the review: it tells me what I want to know, it has some captivating though not necessarily mind-blowing writing, and it covers a rather interesting game that I knew nothing about. The fact that you actual seem to cover the most important and interesting elements in the game is good enough for me. Like I said, this isn’t some review I’d want to read for pleasure while sitting on the toilet, but it should definitely appeal to people interested in the game and for those who enjoy judging review competitions. 80/100

ASCHULTZ: I hadn't read much of your work and want to fix that after reading this. This was an easy read of a game I'd always wanted to look at, and I know that the back-and-forth about point-and-click adventure games can really heat up in the critique topics. The straightforward storytelling works through the description of gameplay well, and maybe there's a more succinct way to describe the all-star cast, but I don't see it. I'm very caught up in the story, and if the flaws paragraph might be pushed back two, or the graphics section could be a bit shorter. So be it. I never felt lost in this review, and it's got some good understated descriptions of dark emotion. This review is above-average engaging and does nothing stupid. That's a lot harder than it sounds. 38+45=83

RANDXIAN: Good job of managing to explain all the important elements without spoiling too much. I think you injected just the right amout of information in this review; you whet the reader's appetite, but you don't seem to spoil any of the puzzles or any major plot point. Given this is a mystery/puzzle game, that's quite a feat, one you pull off masterfully.

However, at times it reads almost like a sectioned review. I also don't like the opening statement in the second paragraph. Really, how can one tell it will be good? Because of the development team? Even the best companies bomb once in awhile. Because of the star studded cast? There are probably tons of games with good voice acting, graphics, music, etc. that have terrible game mechanics. It's like you are forcing your reader to accept this game as a gem before you elaborate on why it's so good. It's your job to prove it to us first. Just cut that line out.

Outside of that, it's a solid read with good analysis and enough detail.

Score: 85

DarkEternal/I/Indigo Prophecy

FELIX: Pretty good writing that made me interested in playing the game. The first half of the game. This is an angle that I know at least one of the 23,723,203 other Indigo Prophecy reviews used, but who really cares. Thanks for not arguing that the game’s PAL title is superior to the NTSC title. Again, who really cares. What is important is that you establish why the first half of the game is so compelling and why it is so depressing when the developers decided to go a totally different route. I’ve never played the game and even I was disappointed as I noticed the thrill the writing had in describing the good parts give way to a more matter-of-factly tone when you were segueing to the disappointing parts. I can go for that. 85/100

ASCHULTZ: The swerve in the 3rd paragraph really made me laugh--though you may have nailed things too far into the ground. "Immediately after said stabbing" is overdoing things--there's enough there for tension, mentioning the police officer, etc. There's a lot of good dark-humor in here, though, and if I'm slightly peeved at the paragraph spacing--one sentence about Tyler--the Chris Rock line is good. Anything that tripped my hyper-grammar-perfectionist-judge-sensor was part of something interesting, and good, and thoughtful.

Until, like the game, it takes a downward bend. Not big, but noticeable, from the vague "probably tighten this up" to hot-button mistakes. "It's literally a..." and so forth, and I didn't know games had relations with people--I thought it was the other way around. You mentioned good gameplay, and while this review does well not to focus on it--how do you do things? Is it standard point-and-click? Does it show good variety for keyboard/multiple choice? Is the game replayable, if you block out certain parts of what Tyler, Lucas and Carla do? Are there alternate endings? It sounds like you only wanted to play through the game once, but here's where researching with FAQs could help. 38+40=78

RANDXIAN: For the most part, this is a solid read. There are enough examples to illustrate how the game works and most of the review is presented in a way to keep the reader engaged. At times, it reads a bit awkwardly, but it's not a major problem. I found the following particularly amusing - "Hell, if you want to play it ice cold, you can return to the restaurant and finish the dinner you never remembered ordering, because murderin' is hard work. Pay the check, drop a polite nod to the police officer, and stroll casually into the snowy night considering your next moves."

Your review begins to fall apart when you get into the negative aspects of the game. I'm not 100% sure I understand all your issues with the game. I was a bit confused by the following statement - " Suddenly from Twin Peaks we go to Matrix meets Hellblazer meets WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING?!." What exactly is this supposed to mean? It looks like you basically spend about three sentences that all say the same thing - the game takes a turn for the worse. Instead of reiterating your point over and over, provide some more vivid examples on why this game fails in some aspects.

Score: 75

Pickhut/K/Kengo Legend of the 9

FELIX: Eh, you chose a boring game. As a result, I think you were content just to get in and get out with this review. You explain why the game doesn’t work succinctly, but the writing didn’t really hold my interest. These half-assed samurai games seem to be a dime a dozen. That’s not really your fault though. You did what you could. 65/100

ASCHULTZ: Realism 5x in the first paragraph. I sensed a theme, til you said "realism my ass." I have to admit I beat you to saying that. The review gets its point across but my hyperactive red pen sees stuff like "one annoying aspect makes its presence known right away" and I think, cut--I like how you contrast the alleged simplicity with horrific controls, and that's an important point to make, along with the horrendous assumptions the game makes trying to help you. I'd also abbreviate Legend of the 9 further to Lo9 or something, but that's me.

Third paragraph overuses "lock on" and too much jargon gets in the way of reeling off the points you make successfully. It's just abstract language, and something like "When opponents stand in a group, it's tough to challenge the tough enemy you need to kill first" would seem to work better. The other paragraphs have a lot of small style glitches which add up--fix this sentence here, or that there. I'm left with a good feeling for the mistakes--but with what you could've tightened up, you could maybe describe some of the non-bosses or the detail, etc. I'd like to hear about the "neat counter system"--what is being counted? The review seems low on specifics except when it focuses a bit too much on the controller--and when we play games we usually don't like to do that. 27+27=54

RANDXIAN: "Realism my ass." Heh, heh. Good intro. Really like the snarky tone used throughout the review. This game indeed sounds like the pits and certainly doesn't sound realistic. Like the use of the anecdote with you fighting the boss to illustrate how this game falls apart.

Couple of small issues. One is "and that's where things go soar." I'm assuming you mean "sour"? Also, I could've done without reading about Bushido Blade in the third paragraph. I can understand referencing it in the intro since it builds up to your main point that the realism argument is a bunch of hogwash, but here it just strings out the controls paragraph. That paragraph is long enough without that addition.

But those are minor gripes. I feel this is a solid review and your personality shines through naturally. Well done.

Score: 90

Zigfried/L/Lunar: the Silver Star

FELIX: I guess when you play a game that epitomizes one genre’s redemption coupled with the fact that it contains antagonists driving town-crushing tanks, has streams of heartfelt (if hokey to me) dialogue, and instruction manuals labored in love, you probably are going to do well in a competition because the fact that the game you chose is interesting makes (gasp!) the writing interesting! Wow, what a concept! Good work, Zig. 90/100

ASCHULTZ: I'm always interested in history of games I'll never get around to play and the first paragraph starts well. I like how the review pins down that the game knows what it wants. I do have to question "I was a child myself" knowing we were the same age back in December '93--perhaps you still wanted a kidlike game? I like nostalgia, too, but a little lie for effect can snowball. I am agnostic on liberal quoting of game text, italics, etc. I'm cranky about that. These are stylistic differences, though, and you don't OVER-overuse them. More seriously, it jerks a bit between the soundtrack and what fairytales should be, but the payoff is there.

I'm definitely being cranky there, though. It's a nice review to get wrapped up in and if attention flags for a bit, it always comes back. But I have to disagree with the organization. The discussion of the instruction manual goes on a bit long, and yes, it's a funny story--more or less worth going out of your way for--and it's great when an instruction manual is FUNNY--but again, hack a bit down. Still, I can't blame you for getting caught up in a review/game like this. This review showed me some gaming nostalgia I wasn't aware of, and that's no small feat. 42+47=89

RANDXIAN: Didn't care for the intro. It took you a while to get going with the actual review, but once you got going, you were like a Dodge Viper zipping along the autobahn at 180 MPH.

Once again, you drew me in with lively writing and vivid examples to help illustrate your point. I also like the angle you took that the game is great because it lacks all the politcal agendas/factions/sympathetic bad guy bullcrap and is simply a game designed to entertain kids. You certainly make your arguement convincingly and made me want to give this game a shot. Well done. This is definitely a GABOON!

Score: 95

Sportsman/N/New Super Mario Brothers

FELIX: This was a pretty straightforward review that highlights, in your opinion, the notion that NSMB does not take the series, at least from a 2D perspective, forward. After reading the review, I wanted to know more about why you felt that giving original SMB what sounds to be a huge refurbishment didn’t do anything for you. Basically I would have liked more support and fluid writing. There were a few instances where you use similar words in rapid succession, like “normally unreachable platforms with a normal jump.” 50/100

ASCHULTZ: Good review choice for having relatively little time. That said, the second sentence--one I agree with--is a bit flowery. Then you mentio NSMB is 2D twice. Comparing NSMB to SMB3/SMW is good but then used-before phrases like "Instead of taking the series to the next level, NSMB feels like one giant step back" can be cut from the review with no loss. You say NSMB is predictable, then you mention some neat new features. A lot of the review restates whatever it already did. You mentioned elsewhere this was a relatively late submission and sadly some of the padding phrases remind me of my own essays from college when I had a page limit. The examples that are there work, but unfortunately the good points made twice seem to be crowding out other points that might help. 34+26=60

RANDXIAN: For the most part, like the arguments presented here. I agree that the game deserves to be reprimanded for failing to at least include powerups comparable to SMB 3 and SMB World. Having played the game, I can say you gave it a fair assessment. I think your last line of the review also raises an interesting point. Would this game be succesful had it not starred our favorite Italian plumber?

However, a couple of minor issues. One, the start of the review is a bit disorienting. Your first two paragraphs seem to gear the reader toward a positive review and you mention how returning to good ol' 2D platforming is a breath of fresh air, then you pull a 180 and reprimand the game for being more of the same ol' same ol'. Also, I disagree with your assessment of the difficulty. Mario games are obviously intended for younger children. Okay, any age group can enjoy them, but the target audience is kids. With that said, why is a low difficulty such a bad thing?

Score: 80


FELIX: Very good work taking the initiative to tackle the evil “Q.” Too bad it was for a Qixx sequel. Eh, puzzle games in general are difficult to make sound lively. Shoulda reviewed Quantum of Solace on the Wii. I hear there’s a martini mixing mini-game where you have to shake the Wiimote to make the most bitter Vesper possible. I was dying to know if it was worth the price of admission. Anyway, this is one of several reviews that do a good job covering the game in question. They just don’t do it in a compelling way, at least for someone who doesn’t have any interest in purchasing/playing the game in question. But since you seemed to have made the most out of what you chose to go with, I guess that deserves a few pity points and a kick in the ass. 60/100

ASCHULTZ: I enjoyed this review, as I think it gets to the point pretty quickly, but recently I've nailed myself for stuff like the second paragraph where 2 sentences can be wrapped into one. Yes, it flows, but it goes on longer than it needs to. You could argue that the subject matter needs this embellishment, but you're taking a risk with that. Stuff like "It's interesting but definitely not for everybody" (also a bit generic) seems out of tune with your negative description in the paragraph. I like the concluding paragraph, and I like why online play doesn't work. But I think cutting down some of the needless quasi-detail and throwing in what the power-ups are would be helpful. Without much in the way of graphics, technical details seem to be a must.

The 99% seems outrageous from what I know about Qix (I get 88% so I know how it feels to get ~90,) and I suspect it's tied into the power-ups or, quite possibly, bugs (see: Qix Adventure GBC.) That is what this review seems to be missing--is there a double-points "slow draw" as in the original game? Does the Qix move as godawfully randomly as in the original? Is there a Qix splitter? Multiple Qix? Obviously answering all these questions is awkward, but a few may be relevant to the remake. You referenced that the game has a franchise history, and a quick Wikipedia trawl turns up some basic "What happens in the sequel" questions to fill in the technical details a line-based game like this needs.

You got a tough letter and chose a pretty good game for it. However, my puzzle-game spidey-sense thinks you may not have mastered it enough to describe the technical details--Qix has a strong quick-reasoning element to it. I think a good question to ask for another puzzle game would be, "what do I feel most frustrated about that I haven't learned yet" & see how to cover that. Eventually it leads to the "oh my god I overlooked THAT" that makes math problems/chess puzzles etc. so interesting. I often need to sleep on puzzle games to write reviews/FAQs. Unfortunately the payoff--creatively--isn't as much as for describing an RPG. 37+33=70

RANDXIAN: Very efficient review that briefly, yet adequately describes a classic game I've heard of but never played. I found the following worth a chuckle - "Competitive players must be busy with Modern Warfare 2 or something." Also enjoyed the lively writing describing the pros and cons of the multi-player aspect. This is a well written review that quickly covers all the bases without any major flaws. Excelleng job!

Score: 100


FELIX: Well, in spite of your predictions that you’d fail last, this judge begs to differ. Yeah, I guess it really is more of a first impressions write-up, or whatever. The info provided is pretty dull, but at least it explains how the game works. Some examples would have been nice, and I’m sure you saw at least SOMETHING in those first 5 hours that made you say “wow” or “gah.” Anyway, the whole explanation for why you kinda sorta didn’t show up “properly” for this comp was unnecessary for me – no explanations needed, I say – but thanks for feeling guilty. Hopefully you want to kill yourself now. Anyway, this “review” is sadly stronger than at least one of the other entries so I’ll just give you some points and tell you to finish this one up if you ever feel like it. 30/100

ASCHULTZ: First, good job pushing the review through despite delays. I know the feeling of not doing all you wanted. This review Gets Me Interested, even if it is spotty. However, a sentence I hate is "Let's be upfront." 1) up front 2) it implies dishonesty elsewhere 3) you already apologized sufficiently in the topic 4) you did it again at the end gngngn 5) with time at a premium, go for the interesting bits.

For your five hours you provide an interesting perspective on the game, though P1 is loaded with "was" and has "costed." There are a lot of filler phrases that say lack of proofreading and it's probably cruel of me to expect you to fit in proofreading after 6 hours. I'd have liked to read the plot first, or maybe even a fun excuse for not playing the game. I'm a sucker for apologies with humor.

You probably know this review is choppy, and it's a bit confusing, and it doesn't provide enough about the story. That's not to say I'm not intrigued. I'd be interested in reading the full review if you ever get it done. 20+25=45

RANDXIAN: When you admit up front that "this is not a review", then how do you expect the reader to take anything you have to say seriously? Okay, you do say later on to take your advice with a "pinch of salt", but this whole thing seems like a cheap cop out to me. I believe as a reviewer you need to take a stance and stick with it; here, you act like a fence straddler.

And it's too bad. You seem to cover, at least to some degree, all the important aspects. It seems like you are sandbagging and really know more about this game than you let on and you do indeed have your own opinion, so why hold back like this? The review comes off as a bit mechanical, but there is some useful information to be found here.

Once you play it some more and decide to take a more firm approach, this could blossom into a really good review. As it is now, the sandbag approach doesn't cut the mustard.

Score: 50


FELIX: True Baby, you need a line break in your review. Fundamentals, man! I was a little confused at the start of the review because I thought this was going to be a game about racing, but I guess it turned out to be a sandbox game starring an in the closet Irish mechanic turned building-climbing commando in Nazi occupied Europe. OK . . . This game sounds absolutely ludicrous. Not in the Modern Warfare 2 sense, but this is still high quality camp. Too bad the game plays like blah, which I think you do a nice job of detailing. I like how you write outside of the conventional style of reviewing. You’re not just telling me how the dumb game works in the driest way possible. You’re trying to instill some examples and some emotive stuff and I think that only helps this piece because after a while it gets rather boring to read about piss poor game mechanics. Be they of the Irish or game design variety. 80/100

ASCHULTZ: While this review is exciting, grammatical and logical errors make it less impressive on rereading. A lot of the stuff takes time as I say, I'm pretty sure he means X--which dents the pace the review needs. Tense shifts aren't well sorted. The one-sentence paragraphs are a bit your signature and they're usually good for effect if not overdone. However, in some places, you don't have a break between paragraphs, and some paragraphs are rather long. This is the sort of thing where a glance at the review is a good idea, especially since it posted 4 days early. Phrases like "garner confusion while the German badgers him with conjectures of conspiracies" also seem to be oversalting the soup.

This gets in the way of an interesting discussion of Nasty Vs Nazis, though maybe talking about Sean goes on for too long. And unfortunately the review falls prey to its very pertinent observation at the end--a lot of good observations that don't fit well together--though I do like the cross-game comparisons. A lot still needs to be tied up here. This is a review I liked, but I kept having to check off on what it probably meant. I know you've been busy with other writing where you've prioritized proofreading--writing that is ultimately more important for you--and it shows, both here and there. 31+41=72

RANDXIAN: Good writing. Like the quip at how the game jettison's your Nazi uniform and the puzzle metaphor at the end. Once you started talking about the game play, I was really engaged. I don't play many games like this, but your discussions of the controls paint a vivid picture of what playing this game must be like.

However, I think you spend too much time with the story and main character above. Yes, I realise that's important too, but I was wishing you'd hurry up and talk about the game play itself. I just thing that could either be summarized a bit better or you could somehow incorporate that in the bits about the controls and game play.

Score: 90

CoarseDragon/U/Ultima IV

FELIX: U is for Coarse Dragon – I hope you don’t mind if I call you CD for short. Let me know if that’s not kosher and I’ll cease in the future. I wasn’t expecting you to show for this contest simply because I am under the impression you have no written a review for HG before, so it’s nice to see fresh blood show up to the scene. I found the beginning of the review (the part where you indicate author and game release info) to be kinda pointless since most of that stuff is already indicated on the game/review page already. The portion of the review with what I would label as Old English also seemed campy to me, but then I suppose you were trying to set the tone. In spite of the review’s relatively short length, I gleamed some good info from it. I love reading shorter reviews and getting just as much good info out of them in place of reading longer reviews and gathering the same amount of detail. The writing never really got boring because it ends soon enough, and maybe even a little too soon. Or maybe not. I’ve clearly never played the game, and I’m not familiar enough with your writing to know if you’re the kind of guy who just ends things before revealing other noteworthy items or not. Anyway, I hope you write some more reviews because it seems like you have some pretty cool games to talk about at your disposal. Just make sure you watch out for grammatical and sentence structure errors (see the first sentence in the last full paragraph for an edit to make). 45/100

ASCHULTZ: First, it's brave to jump into a contest like this with established writers. I know that at first I wasn't sure what questions to ask, or what people would want to hear about a review. I want to say that a lot of what I saw to correct in your first review, happened with mine in the GameFAQs sitewide review contest in 1999. It's tough to know what to expect, or to try, or to do, your first time out. You may have tried to do too much. Organization is harder work than it appears, especially since the best reviews are imaginative enough you don't worry if they're organized. I may be harsh about details since I know the game so well, but I hope this helps you. I do, however, think you did a good job starting the meat of the review--discussing the virtues that make U4 unique. (But the starting bits that can be found elsewhere or read like the back of the box can go. I suspect you included it out of obligation.)

I also think you jump to the dungeons too quickly, and you swapped U4 and U5 twice. Runes are in towns. Stones are in dungeons. You said "word of power" (U5) and probably meant "mantra." The second paragraph has the right idea, but listing the reagents and virtues gets into FAQ style stuff (though you shouldn't be scared to read FAQs on GameFAQs for research.) FAQing the review is a problem of mine, too. A way around is maybe to explain that talking to townsmen may help you find special reagents beyond what you can buy. Battles are worth elaborating on, as are dungeons. I like the jokes internal to the game--shepherds are lousy. Maybe you could bend that back into the question about virtues (yeah, you can cheat a bit)--but they're sort of one offs. BTW, stealing from Lord British loses THREE eighths--justice, honor and honesty--but the crazy thing? If you do that a bunch, then overpay the lady selling reagents, you can fast-track VERY nicely to several virtues!

You make good, interesting observations about old games on the message boards. They're more relevant to reviews than you think. But I get the sense you haven't played into the old games as much as you want to. Hit up DosBox, AppleWin and Vice. Don't be ashamed to go medieval on the save states. You'll get to try all the things you wondered about. 18+20=38

RANDXIAN: I found the ye old English bits amusing. On one hand, I'm glad you are able to summarize the most important points, but on the other, I come away with the review not understanding why you "personally rate this game very high." Sure, you touch on all the elements, but you just barely scratch the surface. I think just a few more examples would help illustrate your points and explain why the reader should be interested in this game.

You've got a good foundation for a solid review; it just needs to be fleshed out a bit.

Score: 70


FELIX: Two things: 1) Stop over-writing your reviews. You don’t do it as much as you used to, but you still do it more than you should. 2) Stop dissing your writing all the time. Who are you, Vegita from GameFAQs? Are you going to start talking trash to yourself on the forums? Other than that, nice review, though I’m taking one one-thousandth of a point off due to the fact that you find talking dogs amusing. 69.999/100

ASCHULTZ: Another game with three letters and two rare consonants. Too bad someone didn't review Zuw or something for the hat trick. Someone needs to make a game like that! It needs to be semi-obscure with nothing written about it!

Some minor cliche to get the review going is worth it as I enjoy reading about the characters. Things do unravel slightly around the third paragraph: This is especially true when such goofiness covers plot advancement. Then stuff like "To be fair" implies you WEREN'T being fair or "Regardless of my mixed sentiments on the storytelling" says you don't need to be taken seriously. I like the examples, but they can be linked together better. I'm confused about you questioning the developers' motives, as well--isn't it good to have that sort of contrast, the trivially amusing, to balance the serious? The Wind Elemental example is interesting too but has misplaced subjects ("Orb of Wind. Virtually..."/"Once beaten, I heaved a sigh of relief,") Oh. And you use "seriousness" twice quickly in the conclusion. It's iffy to use once.

The teeter totter feel of this next-last paragraph gets in the way of some nice examples, and unfortunately the game mechanics are sacrificed for the story. What sort of skills help? The 3rd last paragraph reads well but borders on truism. It sounds like you're trying too hard to be fair and blending the good and bad points just wrong, til it feels like a teeter totter--and some parts like the "to be fair" paragraph hit a dead end (or at the very least, an awkward transition) and don't need ALL those words. Maybe contrast the unorthodox story with standard gameplay/character development?

You chose a good game for your writing style, but the good stuff in your review doesn't cohoere. The red pen Lewis talked about in the team tourney would be helpful. Lots there, but it jangles, which disrupts the intrigue. Your exuberance in reviews contrasts harshly with your opinion in them and I would suggest that the process you use to get good grades in college could be nicely tweaked for reviews--I mean, the studying comes first, but it's a way to look at it. P.S. I sentence you and Ben to a deathmatch where each insults the other review's until you get tired of the charade and just accept yourselves as good writers, even if writer's block HAPPENS. 30+41=71

RANDXIAN: Very solid review for the most part. Like how early in the review you point out some unique and interesting features found in this game to draw in your reader. Also liked the anecdote with the Wind Elemental to illustrate the difficulty.

However, one portion of the review confused me. I don't get the line " you never really feel restricted because of the ramped up difficulty in each new area." Wouldn't the high difficulty have the opposite effect, that is to make you feel restricted? Also, you mention how the ramped up enemies will slaughter you several times before your party is beefed up sufficiently. Is there some particular reason you can't raise levels against weaker enemies prior to meeting these stronger foes?

Score: 80

Overdrive/Y/Ys III

FELIX: Jeez, Roberto, now I can’t get an image of you staring at the ceiling while laying on a bed, your finger touching your pursed lips with a freaking message bubble displaying Adol and Dogi’s gayness protruding from your head. Apparently this game sucks, which is depressing, because Ys games shouldn’t be allowed to suck. Try the Turbo CD version of this. I understand that it’s a lot better than the one you reviewed. And finally getting the review, this was a nice, informative read. You use terms like “BFF” which may feel a little out of whack in some reviewers’ repertoires, but for some reason that and your quest to find answers regarding Chester’s stupidity seem to fit. You lay all the points you have to make on the table and explain how the game works by dissecting its mechanics and shortcomings and leave it at that. A very traditional style of review, but outside of the strange character screw-ups (blame Jason’s coding??) I found this to be a solid, good read. 75/100

ASCHULTZ: I like the first paragraph a lot. Establishing quickly what makes Ys unique is great, as is WTFing on Ys III's "innovation." "Adol and his BFF Dogi" made me laugh--brevity being the soul of wit and stuff. The consternation over useless townies is quite good too. I want to meet Chester. I also like the contrast of bad programming that works for/against you. It's an old joke, and complex, but it always has a payoff. All this is the good stuff, and more major than anything below.

I also must gleefully zing you back for FAQ-type stuff you've rightfully pointed out in my reviews. Discussing experience gains can and should be drastically chopped down. When this goes on a bit long, it exposes the other humorous bits--which is a delicate thing. Building up a joke is tricky and it doesn't just depend on the sentence. In general I think you start jokes out well but risk leaving them too long. This works in conversation but not so well in writing--at least to me. I favor laconic stuff--this is idea-sharing, not a sitcom. Serious parts of the review have needless too-soon repetitions. Like that two-line sentence to start off the conclusion? Chop it. The transition to paragraph 2, where I also disliked "The fact"x3? Too generic--I think I have seen this before in your reviews. There's more than enough to keep me interested, but often I feel there's a good chunk I could skip. It's still relatively succinct--just some soft phrases which, while agreeable, don't pull their weight.

This dilutes but hardly destroys the overall exasperated humor of the review. 34+41=75.

RANDXIAN: Like how the review is organized and how it flows. You manage to integrate character descriptions without too much dawdling and without detracting with explaining how the game works. I'm glad most of the review focuses on all the nuances in game play.

However, I'm not 100% sure from the first couple of paragraphs if this game is from an overhead perspective or if it's a side-scroller, or if the game alternates between the two depending on the situation. Beyond that little hiccup, this is a solid read that gives me a good idea of the pros and cons without ever having played this game.

Score: 90

Jiggs/Z/Zone of the Enders

FELIX: Hey, Jiggs. It’s nice to see a guy who’s been coming to this site longer than I have finally take his hand at writing reviews, though by now this is your 3rd or 4th. However, you have a really glaring fragment opening off your review. The next thing I want to point out is, despite Kojima not having much to do with the creation of this game per your review, you sure talk about him a lot instead of the “disciple” that actually was the brains behind it. Is this Shinkawa guy the man in charge behind ZoE or is he just a robot designer? The review is really short. It’s choppy due to its length. You reveal the protagonist right at the end of the review. If this were, say, a Zigfried or Drella review, that kind of conclusion would lead me to believe that the protagonist is irrelevant to the game and/or the game is awful. I’m not so sure that’s the case here because you seem to enjoy the title but I don’t think you’re giving the reader the full picture. I know you wanted to do more with this review because you said so yourself. I hope you take the time to refine this one a little because, without trying to sound condescending, it needs it big time. 20/100

ASCHULTZ: I have to say I'm confused as to what sort of game ZoE is. It seems to be about mechs. Do they fight each other? Sorry, but I'm a big retro game person and I think a first paragraph describing what ZoE does and your opinion on it would work better than discussing Kojima. Not that he's not important. I just think the first paragraph can be succinct-o-rayed into a sentence or two at the start of the second.

The third and fourth paragraphs do well, but they're swamped by generalization-speak on each side. With some background, they'd make the full sense they seem to deserve to. This review feels like I walked in in the middle of a conversation. I'd have liked to know more about Leo Stenbuck early on, instead of in the final sentence. 18+24=42

RANDXIAN: Okay, not sure why the entire intro is focused on who gets credit for developing this game. I could care less whether or not it is a Hideo Kojima game. Maybe some people do, but the entire intro shouldn't be about that subject.

What's worse, very little of the review discusses how the game plays. About all I come away with is the controls are fast and effortless. That's not enough to give me a picture of what this game is really like, how it really plays, all the subtle nuances people should know, and whether or not I should play it.

This review is way too esoteric and the only people who would really give a crap are people who know who this Kojima charcter is. For the average layperson who have no idea who he is and don't care, this review accomplishes nothing.

Score: 10

And that's the raw data! Number crunching up next. Like, after I hit "back" and cut and paste.

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

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Author: aschultz
Posted: January 10, 2010 (06:15 PM)
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"What does it all mean, Basil?"

(apologies for the lower casing. It doesn't mean I think less of you as people.)

1. Zigfried (l): 90 + 89 + 95 = 274
2. Suskie (c): 95 + 88 + 75 = 258
3. Yamishuryou (g): 80 + 83 + 85 = 248
4. True (s): 80 + 72 + 90 = 242
5. Overdrive (y): 75 + 75 + 90 = 240
6. Darketernal (i): 85 + 78 + 75 = 238
7. Radicaldreamer (b): 80 + 76 + 80 = 236
8. Jason (q): 60 + 68 + 100 = 228
9. Zippdementia (f): 60 + 66 + 100 = 226
10. Wolfqueen (v): 69.999 + 71 + 80 = 220.999
11. Pickhut (k): 65 + 54 + 90 = 209
12. Genj (a): 65 + 66 + 65 = 196
13. Sportsman (n): 50 + 60 + 80 = 190
14. Lewis (e): 40 + 77 + 60 = 177
15. CoarseDragon: 45 + 38 + 70 = 153
16. Ben (r): 30 + 45 + 50 = 125
17. Jiggs (z): 20 + 42 + 10 = 72

And now for some useless stats...

Average scores:
Felix 64.12 ASchultz 67.52 Randxian 76.18 Total 207.82

Standard deviation of scores:
Felix 20.67 ASchultz 14.86 Randxian 21.25 Total 50.32

Judges disagreed most on: Jason/Zipp then Lewis then Pickhut (range=40, 37, 36.) Or was it Lewis, with no judge within 17 of the other?

Judges agreed most on: Genj

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

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Author: aschultz
Posted: January 10, 2010 (06:16 PM)
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(My) editorial epilogue:

I know I mentioned negative stuff even in the reviews I like--here I'm assuming that even in contests, people may be looking for some way to make their best even better and hopefully to avoid the criticisms they wanted to fix before. I know I do. With my own non-review writing I've come to have fun with it, and I hope my mini-critiques provide something like that, or open that sort of idea.

A quote of CS Lewis's comes to mind, that God is easily pleased but hard to satisfy. We don't have to have a God complex to 1) pleased when we, or our friends, write something we'd wanted to, yet still 2) be aware/alert that there may be something to slip in or pare down. I'm aware I don't always take some of the advice I'm giving, but instead of feeling hypocritical I say, this is something I'll try to avoid being hypocritical about in the future. I think the same holds true for non-contest critiques. Seeing someone else do something and realizing you do it too kind of hurts. But it can be the quickest way to improve.

More generally, the intersections/clashes between judges were interesting. There was some stuff I wasn't sure if I should say, but my colleagues corroborated. Others, I could see how/what they saw things differently. Hope everyone here with the ambition can integrate all three of our views for the future.

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

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Author: zigfried (Mod)
Posted: January 10, 2010 (06:24 PM)
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Interesting comment about the child bit, Mr Schultz. Whenever I think back on playing the game, I always remember "being a child". I didn't stop to do the math when writing, but at least I was still a couple years away from college!

EDIT: and now it's fixed


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Author: Felix_Arabia
Posted: January 10, 2010 (06:24 PM)
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Thanks Schultz and Rand for co-judging this inglorious competition alongside yours truly. Thanks, Schultz, for spending the better half of the day compiling these results.

Congrats to Zig, Suskie, and Yami freaking Shuryou for not sucking. Lesser congrats to everyone else who took the time to write something up for our hallowed judging panel. Thank you. You're all champions in my eyes.

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

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Author: -
Posted: January 10, 2010 (06:27 PM)
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Thanks for properly scoring and critiquing my entry, even though it wasn't a review. It was a rush effort, as you guys picked up, with the choppiness, lame wording, and frequent lack of cohesion. When I read it back after the deadline had passed, I was cringing at plenty of places.

I found it interesting how ASchultz and Randxian both commented on how I downplayed my credibility. I never really looked at it that way, but looking back, it does make sense. I wasn't sure how to write a "first impressions" piece for a reviewing competition. I had only experienced five hours of a 30-something hour RPG, so it was hard to write with absolute conviction. At the time, I was just writing whatever came to my mind with no real plan.

I didn't want to sell it as a review, but at the same time I shouldn't have shied away from voicing my opinion based on those five hours. Citing a specific highlight or two, as Felix suggested, would have certainly helped.

And I agree that I shouldn't have gone OTT on the whole 'I suck I suck' spiel.

Nice job with judging the rest of the reviews, too. Oh, and thanks for not placing me at the bottom! Congrats to Zig for winning and everyone else who took part and submitted something.


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Author: zigfried (Mod)
Posted: January 10, 2010 (06:46 PM)
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I've now finished reading the entire critiques for all reviews... there's definitely some good advice in there, well worth reading. Thank you judges!


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Author: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: January 10, 2010 (07:26 PM)
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Thanks for the comments, judges. I scored in the top 50% with this, which was basically the most that I had hoped to do since I didn't have a lot of options or time for games. I just wanted to show up with a decent effort, and I felt that I did. Judge commentary seems to indicate that I did, as well.

ASchultz, I actually did play the game fairly extensively prior to reviewing it--given the genre--and did get most of the achievements. I think I missed two or three, but at least one or two of those couldn't be completed anyway because of the pitiful online scene. So I was pretty happy with my performance and with the chance that I gave the game to grab me before I wrote about it. I actually did enjoy it more than previous versions of Qix and Gals Panic that I've played, so I wasn't a total newcomer to the thing and had a few strategies developed that did serve me well.

"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: Suskie
Posted: January 10, 2010 (07:50 PM)
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Thanks to the judges for your extremely varied and insightful comments. Thanks as well for finally giving me an excuse to review this game! Congrats to Zig for pulling in a win, as well.

Randxian: The conflict you noticed in my review was me trying to differentiate the game world versus the game itself, i.e., I liked that Crackdown encourages players to break out and explore, but I wish the actual campaign had more structure to it. My apologies for not explaining that clearly enough.

Edit: Really, Schultz? Standard deviation?

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

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Author: True
Posted: January 10, 2010 (07:55 PM)
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Felix, Rand and A-Man: Aside from the TT, this is one of the biggest tournaments we do around here and it takes a lot of time to organize and judge it, and you guys did an outstanding job--especially since the deadline fell right after a holiday weekend. So thank you, both for the critique and setting this whole thing up and making it fun.

And to A-Man directly: I know you've been busy with other writing where you've prioritized proofreading--writing that is ultimately more important for you--and it shows, both here and there.

I think this is your way of telling me you've started reading Darkness and in my dellusional mind, that you like it. So, again, thank you.

I hope all three of you have some time in the upcoming weeks to take part in my Pro-Rookie tournament. Rand and A-Man are two of the main reasons I've opted to do it this year.

True Baby Out.

If I Offended You, You Needed It.

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Author: randxian
Posted: January 10, 2010 (08:22 PM)
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I just hope people find my commentary useful. To be perfectly honest, I didn't take as much time as I would have liked to provide feedback due to time constraints.

Anyway, I feel Felix, Aschultz and I made a pretty darn good team and we seemed to be at least relatively close except for about three cases. I just say that because I don't want to be labeled as the "oddball judge" here. :P

Last but certainly not least, participants should give themselves a pat on the back for putting so much effort in a contest with such strict limitations.


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Author: pickhut
Posted: January 10, 2010 (08:32 PM)
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Yeah, I cut out a lot of details of the game in favor of going in depth about its problems. I just didn't feel it was necessary to go into detail about the other aspects like the counter system when the flaws overshadow them so much.

As for mentioning Bushido Blade so much, I was going to do a "plot twist" at the end of the review revealing all three games were developed by the same development team, and how they managed to screw up an interesting concept over the years. However, after doing a bit more research, I discovered the team left the company a few months before Kengo 9 was released. So, I wasn't 100% sure if they made the game before leaving or not. It didn't help that there are no development credits in both the game's instruction manual or ending credits... When I ran into this problem, the review was basically done, so I left the later Bushido Blade mentions in instead of editing.

Anyway, thanks for the comments on the review. I tried working with the game, but it just wasn't giving me anything great to write about. And congrats to Zig for winning his... well, I lost count.

I head spaceshit noises.

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Author: Lewis
Posted: January 11, 2010 (03:30 AM)
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Some interesting results. Thanks to the judges for taking the time to critique.

I do want to address Randaxian's comments, though, as they rubbed me up the wrong way a little, and I feel I'd be better politely discussing them rather than just moaning, or saying nothing at all and pretending I was okay with everything you said, Rand.


I'm not sure if you're aware, but historically I've always used these contests as an excuse to flex my writing muscles, head out into uncharted territory and try something completely different. When I write here in freelance capacity, I'm on an assignment, and have a duty to make sure it's a solid and informative review that fits in with the site's aesthetic. I very rarely sub user reviews here, since I'm often far too busy with other writing assignments to just write for my own pleasure (except for on my One A Day blog, natch). So when these contests come along, that's my chance, my time, my space to experiment with new ways of approaching writing about videogames.

So when you ask me "why screw that up?" -- well, that's why. Because if I'd carried on with the more traditional format, it would not have fulfilled what I set out to do in all of these contests. Whether it was successful or not is a different matter, but I almost get the impression your angle is "you shouldn't have tried this in the first place". Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how your comments come across.

Of course, it's entirely your perogative to take that stance. That wasn't really what rubbed me up the wrong way -- I only mention it to give the piece a bit of context. What really made me raise an eyebrow was your claim that the piece is "completely obnoxious."

This is one of those buzz words that always irritates me, because it says absolutely nothing of the quality of a piece of work while saying everything about your assumptions of the producer of that work. In no way can a piece of writing be obnoxious as of itself. It's like calling an art game "pretentious", or saying a film "tries too hard to be clever". When you call a piece of writing I've produced "obnoxious", you are suggesting - whether intentionally or not - that I wrote it with a deliberate attempt to be difficult or unpleasant. Which obviously I did nothing of the sort. The tangents were all revelant through their irrelevance. The point was to have each one get increasingly bizarre to mimic the sanity meter effects of the game, which was my central point about how the game worked. The Red Faction review and HL2 review linking were sly references to the other experimental reviews I've entered into these contests. They weren't "plugs" - again, you're here implying that I went into this with questionable motives. And that's a little cutting, y'know?

Call that experiment unsuccessful. Say you hated every word of it. Say my writing is weak, say my messages are confused, say my arguments don't hold together. Say it's the worst review you've ever read. But when you start implying I went into it with some sort of purpose other than to write an entertaining and thought-provoking piece - that I was being obnoxious, or pretentious, or self-affirming, or whatever else one might want to go with - you're saying something about me, not about my entry.

Does that make sense? I don't want to be a dick, because I appreciate judging these things is really difficult, and I know how I almost exploded in a fit of rage when one person HG-mailed me twice to complain about my comments on his review in the Team Tournament. So I do apologise for having this mini-rant. I just thought I'd... y'know, do it anyway.

(Sorry. Love you really.)

Congrats to everyone. We're all brilliant.

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Author: randxian
Posted: January 11, 2010 (06:00 AM)
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Lewis - I may have been willing to let the interruptions slide, but the straw that broke the camel's back was plugging a different review at the end.

At that point, it looked like you were trying to build a shrine to your greatness, not write a review for Eternal Darkness.

Perhaps I did misinterpret your intentions. I still think you have a well written review, but the gimmick simply didn't work for me. It simply didn't make sense to use said gimmick when the review is perfectly fine without it.

I simply don't understand the mentality around here that standard review = bad. Sometimes that can be a good thing. Sometimes less is more.


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Author: Lewis
Posted: January 11, 2010 (06:10 AM)
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"I simply don't understand the mentality around here that standard review = bad. Sometimes that can be a good thing. Sometimes less is more."

Does that mentality exist? It certainly doesn't from me. Thing is, I write several standard reviews a month. It makes up a sizeable portion of my job. Things like this allow me to flex my muscles. I would never suggest sticking to formula is a bad thing in reviewing. I'd hope you wouldn't say deviating from it once in a while was bad, either.

Again - "plugging" the review. I was doing nothing of the sort.

Eh. Maybe my piece just grated with you for reasons I didn't intend. That's probably the fault of how I presented it. But I don't want you to think that I'm this cock-sure arsehole who just wanted to show off how many big words he knew, or anything. I thought it was pretty explicit from that HL2 review link at the end that I was being pretty self-depreciating - I was trying to say "Hey, you think this is a load of complete nonsense? Well check this shit out..."

All this said, I knew this review was ambitious. And perhaps I didn't pull it off. When I'd finished writing it, my Twitter update said "That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever written." So I guess I was setting myself up for a fall a little.

No probs.

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Author: Lewis
Posted: January 11, 2010 (06:18 AM)
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ALLLLSOOOO: Aschultz picking up on a Red Faction / Eternal Darkness comparison to show why ED worked and RF didn't? Absolutely stunning. I had no idea I was doing that, yet you read it as my central argument. That's definitely a problem with how I approached it. Honestly? The idea was just to suddenly start talking about a different game entirely, and I knew I wanted to put in a nod to my other ludicrous contest entries somewhere, so I just C&Pd directly out of that review. I love how you read more into it though. It makes me feel all fuzzy. :-)

EDIT: Actually, I do want to add one more thing.

As soon as I got assigned the letter "E", I got giddy. I immediately knew what I was going to write. The first game that sprang to mind was Eternal Darkness, which is obviously all about the sanity meter, which OHMYGOD was a chance for me to go completely nuts. Whenever I do one of these contests, I'm always thinking "how can I totally break format and do something completely against-the-grain?" because that's what I use them for as an exercise. But I'm also aware it hasn't always gelled well with everyone.

So this was a piece I could only ever write here, with everyone understanding the context of a Lewis Denby contest entry, which is why I'm disappointed that it failed. That's only my fault, and I mean nothing against Rand when I argue his criticism, because to be honest, if it came across as if I was being obnoxious, then that's my fault as a writer, and not his as a judge. The intended reading, I guess, was "Oh, look. Lewis knows bloody well how ridiculous he's being, but ho ho, that's funny, because that's what Lewis does in these contests, and he's really outdone himself this time." No one picked up on that, and I could sit here all day and say "that sucks, because I thought these guys knew what I was about in these contests and would have latched onto that," but ultimately, I'm still supposed to be putting some good writing out. So that's a shame. Must try harder, eh?

Thanks once again to the judges. You're all fab. Have Easter eggs on the house.

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Author: overdrive (Mod)
Posted: January 11, 2010 (09:48 AM)
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Fifth place. Not where I'd usually be hoping to place in this competition, as it means that I just picked up one more high placement that wasn't first place. But I'm still pretty happy. I'd been going through writer's block for the past couple months and barely writing anything. Having Avatar assigned to me and having this contest to write for kinda snapped me out of that, but I could still feel some rust on me while I was writing. When I finished it, I looked at it as a good review, but (in my opinion) lacking that special something that makes something a contest winner.

Such is life. On to the next challenge. Which will be to finish a review that's been on my desktop for about a month because that aforementioned writer's block hasn't let me finish it.

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

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Author: Genj
Posted: January 11, 2010 (09:52 AM)
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Haha pretty much what I expected considering I admitted beforehand it wasn't a good game for a contest. Glad to see my judgments weren't overly negatively. I actually thought about doing Assassin's Creed for the contest but hadn't finished the game in time. Incidentally, ASchultz, the game has the password system. I guess emulating it never made me even think about it since I could save state anytime. I'll be sure to add in a sentence since I probably have one of the few reviews for the game on the Internet.

Congrats to Zigfried and my thanks to the judging panel.


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Author: wolfqueen001
Posted: January 11, 2010 (09:55 AM)
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Thanks for judging and the feedback. I honestly wasn't expecting much with this review, so the scores I saw were about where I expected them to be.

Felix: This review is better than the first draft I'd written up, which had started out sounding more like an academic essay than a review. I also found myself trying to cut down some of the lengthy paragraphs with shorter sentence structures, so in that sense, at least you didn't have to deal with those. =P As for my constantly criticizing myself, well... I dunno. I can only feel good about a review if I feel I really did a good job with it, and lately I just haven't been feeling like I've been doing a good job. =/ Sorry.

That being said, Schultz pretty much nailed everything specifically wrong with this. A lot of the language I was using, especially transatory language like the "to be fair" bit was stuff that I'd probably cringe at in other reviews, and I did in my own. But I've been having such a problem lately with writing these that I don't feel like I can make the stuff flow together better in a more effective manner. I strongly feel that my college writing has started to impact my review writing, and not in a good way. I disagree that I should use my college style for reviewing because quite frankly, my college writing is very technical and very dull, and while some reviewers can write very technically and analytically and be really good at it, that just isn't my style and I don't feel that I have the knowledge necessary to pull it off. As it is now, though, I feel that some of these elements that I employ in college writing, such as the transitions I use and such, are creeping up in my reviews and in my mental process and it's strongly affecting my ability to write quality reviews, which is making me very sad.

That being said, I'll try to explain some of the things you pointed out. The premise behind my review, at least with discussing the fluctuating humor and seriousness within the game, was to point out that the game had intended to be very dark and serious. Or so I thought anyhow. The humor, which is appreciated to some degree for comic relief, goes overboard and compromises - as opposed to just balances - that seriousness. I think this was the biggest problem - besides my writing itself - that you had with this, so I hope that helps. I wish I could've conveyed it better in the review, though.

To randxian I'll try to explain the restrictedness (or lack thereof) thing. What I was trying to say with that was that players might feel restricted because they can't really explore large portions of the world at once. However, because of the difficulty involved, they won't likely notice this as they'll be too busy trying to get stronger in order to pass through the next area without much issue. Related to that, you can raise levels from any monsters you fight, but it's more effective to raise in stronger areas because of the extra experience. I also tried to say that any troubles with dying from random monsters clears up after a short while. Because of the levelling curves in the game, stronger areas don't seem as strong because you have more ways of healing yourself and can take more damage. Not really sure if that helps... I feel like the way I explained it made it more confusing. =/ Sorry for that.

Anyway, thanks again. Maybe I'll do better next time if I can get out of this funk. Congrats to the winners and everyone else.

P.S. Can you put spaces between all those flashy numbers and review / letter names, Schultz? It hurts my eyes seeing it all lumped together like that. Also, in the breakdown, it'd help if they were numerically ranked as well. Thanks. :)

[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: darketernal
Posted: January 11, 2010 (10:24 AM)
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Thanks for the comments. I would have been first, naturally, but due to my computer resetting every five minutes(when it manages to start up in the first place, which sometimes takes over an hour or so) I think I did good. This reply alone took a better part of the day of trying to make the computer work.

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Author: aschultz
Posted: January 11, 2010 (10:35 AM)
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Everyone who posted since--some stuff I definitely want to reply to but I am a bit busy. It's cool to see lots of other people with good stuff to say.

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

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Author: zippdementia
Posted: January 11, 2010 (11:16 AM)
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Wow, can I please request this line up of judges again? That was the perfect mix of personalities to judge reviews, I feel. I'm going to feel slighted if I don't get this mix up of judges for the next contest.

Thanks for the comments. I personally wondered whether I would be short changing the game a little bit but for me, the controls really WERE the experience. I found myself not wanting to play the game because I knew it controlled so badly. And I don't feel particularly bad about the approach I took, because obviously the review was well written enough to nab a 100 from one judge. But I can also see where, if I were to give a better rounded review next time, it will have wider appeal.

Next time I'll do that, thanks!

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

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Author: randxian
Posted: January 11, 2010 (05:04 PM)
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Lewis - To be perfectly honest, I don't care if you or anyone else wants to argue my critcisms. I stated above I did rush the comments, so I may not have phrased certain things appropriately and I didn't get to put as much time explaining my scores as I would have liked due to personal emergencies this week. I realise we're a community of opinionated, pretentious bastards, all with our own opinions. I'm more than happy to elaborate on any comments that seem confusing or unfair. Doesn't bother me a bit.

I also apologize if my cricism made it look like I was just trashing your review. It's obvious you put a lot of time and effort into that review, as with most contestants, so that alone is worth something. The approach simply didn't click with me. That's all there is to it. Maybe a different panel of judges would think it's the best review on the site. Who knows?

Finally, I'm all for creative and innovative efforts, but some comments have seen appear to take this a bit too far. That's just my opinion, and I realize it's not prevalant all the time, and certainly not shared by every individual.

Wolfqueen - Thanks for taking the time to explain that item a bit further. I suppose now that you mention it, what you wrote concerning that issue makes a certain amount of sense.


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Author: CoarseDragon
Posted: January 11, 2010 (06:06 PM)
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Felix, Aschultz and Randxian: Thank you for your comments. As this was my first review ever I expected to fair much worse.

I wrote the review mostly from memory so some parts (as were mentioned) were mixed a bit with other Ultima games. I suppose it could not be helped but I should have paid more attention to that (thank you for pointing that out). I did play the game long enough to get good screenshots to post with the review but I guess not long enough to remember everything I should have been more careful about.

I could have gone on a very long time about the game and added much more detail but I was not too sure how that would be received. I was worried if I prattled on to much about the game and how much I enjoyed playing it that might seem sappy or prejudiced and people might think the review to biased or to opinionated. I wrote the review the way I like to read them short and to the point. I'll evaluate your comments some more and you can see if I learned anything in my next review. (If that is alright with you folks.)

(Oh, and Felix CD is fine with me.)

Age is a condition not a state of mind.

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Author: yamishuryou
Posted: January 11, 2010 (06:40 PM)
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Thanks for the feedback guys. My various comments;

ASchultz: You needn't bother trying to read much of my other work (except for maybe Resident Evil 4). I gave up really on the whole reviewing thing a few years back, and recently decided to try getting back into the game. Surprisingly, just aging a few years seems to have done for my writing abilities what doing lots of reviews back in 2004, 2005, 2006 couldn't do. Gabriel Knight was something that I wanted to play and when the Alphabetolympics came up I decided to trade for a G for a convenient excuse to get myself to play it. I know you like your points-and-clicks as well, and Gabriel Knight is definitely worth looking into.

Felix: lol what's with the whole 'freaking' thing? In any case, I'm glad to see that's what you liked about the whole review. I was doing a little bit of thinking while writing the review and decided that I'd rather not go for the whole flamboyant writing thing (well, flamboyant might be a bit too strong a word) where actual detail of the game gets buried under unwieldy phrase, so instead I tried to write it so that it was overall fairly short, did a good job of describing the game, and got out of there fast, with only a few witty lines and puns here and there. Again, judging by your feedback I seem to have done rather well on that.

Rand: I guess I was trying to impress that there was all the talent working on the game, but the set-up to that might not have been as well as it could be, as you pointed out. Regarding it feeling a bit like a sectioned review (which Schultzy also pointed out), I quite realise that it's still a bit of a problem. I've been doing better than what I used to be like in that regard, as I try to assimilate graphics and sounds into the overall review (for example, the second last paragraph, I only use the first couple of lines on graphics, trying to connect it with the overall impression I've been spinning through the review so far). The biggest thing that I noticed I was changing while I was proofreading was when changing the beginning and ends of each line; instead of just breaking off to something else, I rewrote lines and parts of lines and beginning and endings of paragraphs so the thought process was a bit more seamless, like changing the end of the second paragraph and start of the third paragraph to connect them through a common theme of a morbid atmosphere.

Overall, thanks guys! It's definitely inspiring to see myself place above a lot of people who in the past seemed like titans for me to catch up to their level. Like I said before, it seems amazing just how much aging a few years seems to have done for my writing.

At 9:55:00 PM MST on April 5th, 2005, Venter finally defeated Phantom!

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