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Forums > Announcements & Site Feedback > The PsychoPenguin Review Extravaganza - RESULTS!

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Author: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: May 25, 2012 (06:13 PM)
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The PsychoPenguin Review Extravaganza is complete, and now it's time to see who won the $150 prize. As I judged these reviews, I was looking for all the things I usually look for: 1) well-supported points; 2) a clear understanding of what did or didn't make the game work; 3) polished grammar. The reviews that nailed all those points--as always--are the ones that stood the best chance of winning the tournament, and I'm always looking for people to stretch their writing muscles and really get into the spirit of things.

Without further ado, here are my comments on the seven qualifying reviews. I'm presenting them in reverse order, leading up to the review that won it all.




Legaia 2: Duel Saga (PS2) by Sise-Neg

While this review contained a lot of good information, it often threw lists at me without giving any item on that list much individual context. The organizational structure felt too random. I enjoyed the first half of the review with the well-written summary of what sounds like an interesting plot, with the exception of the paragraph that broke things down as a list of all the cliches (those have been done too often in reviews at this point to have much impact; I know I've used them a few times myself), but all the jumping around finally wore me out as a reader and I was ready for the review to end several paragraphs before it actually did. The game sounds interesting to me, despite some of the stuff you said that made it sound rough around the edges. With more focus and structure (and probably with some of the comments reworded or trimmed), this could be a tight and effective review. It gets the job done even without such changes, but it's not a contest winner.

Circus Caper (NES) by aschultz

There were some places in this review that were rather jarring, without transitions from one point to another. You also mention Psycho Penguin but give the reader no context. I know this contest was posted and submitted for a review, but most people who might play it later won't have the benefit of knowing anything about that. They'll just want good writing about the game, which you mostly deliver here. The game sounds unique and you do a good job of highlighting its various elements. However, some bits of what you wrote didn't make a lot of sense to me. For instance, you noted that it's possible to be hit 20 times before you die, and that you can refill your life. This sounds easy enough to me, but you make it clear that the game is quite challenging. Aside from the bottomless pits you mentioned, why is that the case? I feel like if your points were more precisely established the review would have been stronger, but it's still full of helpful info about an NES game I barely even knew existed.

Blaster Master 2 (Genesis) by EmP

There was a lot of personal history here, and some interesting discussion of Blaster Master on the NES, but most of the discussion that relates to the actual game being reviewed is kept brief. I come through with a clear sense that the sequel sucks because it's not true to the first game, and you made clear why you loved the first game so much--despite not wanting to say nice things about Nintendo at the time--but I would have liked to see more of the game exploring the actual game you were covering. It's still a strong piece and it does give me enough info (particularly the bit about aiming your turret and your tank with the Genesis controller) that I know I would probably hate it as much as you clearly do, but I'm just not as informed by the time I reach the end of your review as I expect to be.

ActRaiser (Super Nintendo) by zippdementia

This review was written with a confident voice that should be quite convincing to anyone who hasn't actually played ActRaiser. The description of the music was about as good as I can remember reading in a game review for at least a few years, and there were moments where you went into good detail on some of the gorgeous environments. I disagree vigorously with your conclusions (the simple nature of the simulation elements was the key design element that made ActRaiser a success both at the time of its launch and now, so many years later), but at least you present them with passion. You could stand to clean up some of the text, particiularly in the second half of the paragraph that appears above the "Let us listen" screen capture, and your objections to the religious themes do feel out of place despite your best efforts to tie them into the discussion, but otherwise this is one of the strongest submissions in the contest. Nice going!

Metroid II: Return of Samus (Game Boy) by disco

This review was shaping up to be the most polished contributions, grammatically, but it sort of fell apart at the end. Still, points were communicated clearly and effectively. I've heard nothing but praise about this game until I read this review, so it was interesting to see a response that presented the other side of that coin. In the end, this was a solid review and the approach worked. It wasn't especially remarkable, just solid game criticism. Sometimes that's all a game needs.

Final Fantasy X (PS2) by overdrive

Your approach to this review worked for me, mostly because I have played both Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XIII. If not for that, I probably would have been lost. Of course, most people who might decide to read a Final Fantasy X review are probably coming from a place that involves having recently played XIII, so you took an acceptable risk. I would have liked to see you weave the point throughout your review more efficiently, and the conclusion didn't seem to tie into the intro as well as it might have. There also was some rough phrasing, particularly near the start of the review, but you broke free from that funk about halfway through and wrote a review that got better as it went. With a little bit of extra polishing, I think this could be one of your better reviews in a long while.

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns (Atari 2600) by JoeTheDestroyer

This is a wonderful review of a game I've never played. You chose screenshots that suited your words perfectly, but the words themselves would still have been enough. Here I found some of your most vivid writing that I've seen to date, and it was used to excellent effect. I felt like I was taken on a journey alongside you, and as I worked through the review, I found myself rooting for your success. Your examples worked well, too, particularly the bit about the long ladders. Throughout the review, your impressions felt genuine and made me feel almost as if I had played the game myself. There were a few rough spots throughout where you change pronouns mid-sentence or threw in a comma splice or whatever, but overall the writing throughout was solid and engaging. Great stuff!




Thanks to everyone who participated in this contest, whether you did it for the prize, or for the love of retro games, or because Steve McFadden impacted you at some point as you started reviewing games. I hope that you enjoyed participating, and know that there wasn't a single review in this thing that I would consider a poor effort. My comments are more a justification of placement than they are a harsh criticism. You're all great writers and I'm thankful that this contest came together. Hopefully, we'll see more like it in the future.

Joe, congratulations on your hard-earned victory! Please send me an HG Mail with your PayPal address so that I can send you your prize!


"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


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Author: JoeTheDestroyer
Posted: May 26, 2012 (12:44 AM)
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Yay! The competition was furious, but I managed to finally win a tourney. Thank you, Jason! Great reviews from the other competitors, too!

Most of all, thank you Steve. Rest in peace.


The only thing my milkshake brings to the yard is a subpoena.


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Author: zippdementia
Posted: May 26, 2012 (12:50 AM)
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Indeed. I wish I'd had the chance to get to know him better.

And thank you, Jason, for taking the time to run the contest! I really hope things are going smoothly for you in the freelancing life and that the stress is ultimately unjustified.


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


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Author: Sise-Neg
Posted: May 26, 2012 (01:43 AM)
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Congrats on the victory, Joe!

Seeing that I was in last place, I guess I have some work to do. But with a game like Duel Saga, last place seems rather fitting... >XD

And Jason/honestgamer, thanks for holding the contest in memory of PsychoPenguin. I appreciate your comments for my review as it allowed me to learn what worked and what didn't, which I'll keep in mind for future reviews. Great site you got here :D


Everything begins and ends with Sise-Neg!


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Author: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: May 26, 2012 (02:35 AM)
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Sise-Neg, your review did win a RotW, and that's no small feat. You shouldn't feel bad at all. I apologize if I was rough in my summaries of any reviews, too. I was--and still am--going on three hours of sleep last night, so I'm a bit drained. In fact, I believe I'll go to bed now. Thanks again to all who participated, and thanks to threetimes for making it possible!


"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


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Author: threetimes
Posted: May 27, 2012 (02:50 AM)
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Congratulations Joe! That is a super review, and I know that feeling of dammit game, I'm not gonna let you beat me. I'm sure PP would have appreciated the sentiment too. When we were writing a FAQ for Rhapsody he spent days trying to track down an elusive monster, determined not to leave any stone unturned.

And aschultz, though Jason didn't appreciate the mention of PP I did. :) Your conclusion nearly made me cry, remembering the passion PP had for gaming, and his sometimes off the wall recommendations (I'd never have played Willow, Mystic Quest, or LOTR Third Age without his insistence).

Thanks to Jason for doing all the work on judging the entries and thanks to everyone for submitting great reviews.


Don't panic!


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Author: Suskie
Posted: May 27, 2012 (03:38 AM)
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Big congrats, Joe. You're one of the site's most frequent contributors and certainly one of our all-around nicest guys, so I'm happy to see you win even though I have yet to read any of these reviews. I'll try to change that soon, I promise.


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


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Author: overdrive (Mod)
Posted: May 27, 2012 (07:29 AM)
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Congrats to you, Joe. That review did bring back memories of my youth with Pitfall 2. I didn't ever make it all the way. That final stretch of birds and bats (as a side note, for making the bats the way you did...FUCK! YOU! ACTIVISION!) broke me every time.

I do have to say, with the prize being what it was, this wound up being the most depressing thread I've ever read. With the "last to first" way of posting the results, I'm going down the thread and not seeing my name. Hopes are going up, as I didn't expect my review for a very over-covered game to win. And then I see my name...with one listed below it. Sadness...


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


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Author: disco
Posted: May 27, 2012 (03:14 PM)
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Congrats, Joe! That review is excellent.

Thanks for doing this contest, Jason. I knew I wasn't going to win, but it didn't really matter to me. This was great, creative way to remember Psycho Penguin.


Is there another word for synonym?


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