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Forums > Contributor Zone > Time-Travelling Review of the Week: Nov 3 - 9, 2013

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Author: WilltheGreat
Posted: January 13, 2014 (12:13 PM)
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LADIES and GENTLEMEN, BOYS and GIRLS, tonight you are very lucky indeed. Tonight you have the pleasure, the PRIVILEGE, of witnessing a spectacle like no other.

IN THIS CORNER weighing in at 332 reviews, some of them for games we've actually heard of... All the way from the United Kingdom, ladies and Gentlemen, the English Enigma, the Master Mis-Speller, those three little letters that strike fear into the hearts of game devs everywhere... EMP!

AND IN THIS CORNER, from the state my countrymen like to call Southern Canada... A man whom you all know, a man who needs no introduction, the one, the only, The HONESTGAMER!

Tonight these two giants face off in a battle like no other. Tonight, two reviewers enter the ring, but only one will walk out again.


Let's begin!

EmP - Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut (PC)

EmP's piece begins, first and foremost, by drawing attention to the fact that it's a Director's Cut of an earlier release. Worth mentioning? Certainly. Worth mentioning in the opening sentence? Myself, I'd have started from a blank slate on the assumption that a PC gamer who picks it up hasn't played the 360 release; if they had, why are they picking it up on PC? Then again I haven't penned a review in over a year so what do I know?

Point is, the first two paragraphs assume the reader has a working knowledge of the original 360 release, which I'm not convinced is a reasonable assumption. Come the third paragraph we start hearing about the game itself, and this piece starts to take off; I'd have started here.

Once we get to the meat of the review, you make it clear this game is not very good. But then we get to the end and..."Wait. What?" is absolutely right. You spend the rest of the review saying how awful it is, but then suddenly it's "unique and creative"? Critique is ultimately subjective, sure, but if you're going to do a Kansas City Shuffle with your opinion you've got to justify it a little better. I never had to take Levar Burton's word for it, why should I take yours?

Final verdict: This review can't decide whether it wants to recommend the game or not. Which may actually be a commentary on the game itself. Clever review, certainly. Effective review, harder to say.

Maybe I just didn't get it; it's entirely possible. But all I can give is my opinion, and my opinion is this is not your best work.

honestgamer - The Guided Fate Paradox (PS3)

Apparently "get" is a noun now. I'm not sure when that happened or who to blame. Inquiring minds need to know.

For the most part I can't find anything to say, with the understanding that if I'm not saying anything it means you're doing well. But around about paragraph 5 I glanced at my browser scrollbar thinking I was nearly done. I was wrong. That's a problem.

There's obviously a lot of ground to cover here, and you refer once to having glossed over a lot of stuff. I have to wonder about what you've glossed over, then, because the middle part of this piece feels like it gets bogged down in minutiae and mechanics. I think you probably wrote a lot more and then compressed that down, but I wonder if it couldn't have been compressed a little bit further. For instance, you make specific mention that a character's stats improve as they level up, and give an example of how a level 1 character starts with less HP than a character near the end of the game - it was 2013 when you wrote this, I don't think the implications of leveling up need to be spelled out.

The last three paragraphs are, I think, the strongest. If I had to pick something to criticize, you're maybe using qualifiers too often - but even then that seems like a little thing.

Final verdict: This piece starts out well, stumbles a bit in the middle, but ultimately finishes strong.


First Place: honestgamer
Second Place: EmP

A wise man once said, "If you're not first, you're last." For this review week, those words are more literal than he probably intended them to be.

See you next time...?

"Either, sir, you're an ass or masquerading as one."
- Nero Wolfe

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Author: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: January 13, 2014 (01:01 PM)
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Thank you for your perceptive choice, Will, and my apologies to those who didn't have quite what it took to beat me.*

* condolences may be insincere

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

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

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Author: EmP (Mod)
Posted: January 13, 2014 (01:40 PM)
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Congrats indeed to Jason for his win -- a well deserved affair. Further kudos to young Will and his timely topic that he finished with much haste. Fine critiques offered up, William, and I appreciate the efforts made. Despite picking the wrong winner I shall also take this chance to wish you a happy birthday.

For us. For them. For you.

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Author: EmP (Mod)
Posted: January 14, 2014 (10:39 AM)
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WARNING This reply was not this long when it resided only in my head

Seeing as you've clearly put a surprising lot of effort into this topic (who are you, and what did you do with Will?) I feel it's the least I could do to reply in kind. Well, no, the least I could do is nothing, but there's enough of that going around right now

I guess I decided to start off with what the Director's Cut did differently because I figured a lot of people want that information and nothing but. Therefore, by leading with it, people who have played an earlier version have their most pressing queries answered right off the bat. The plan was that they would not be annoyed by having to skim-pick through the review to find this information, and new players could benefit from the drip-fed info that's in there. I could gloss over the fact that the mini-map was crap, for instance -- something that needs to be mentioned, but might have been a dragged on subject if, say, it had its own paragraph. The difficulty could be touched upon with dithering, the awful controls and so on. I'd hoped this would make the first couple of paragraphs mean more to returning players, but stay valid for newbies, who, as you pointed out, the review proper would start a couple of paragraphs in. Perhaps it didn't work; I don't really know until I throw these things out and see if they stick.

The problem with a game like Deadly Premonition is that if I talk about the things that make the game what I want to advance is its strengths directly, then I've let the reader peek behind the curtain and it culls its impact. It's tricky, and something I've had crop up with games like Spec Ops: The Line and The Stanley Parable where my choices seem to be to purposefully spoil the experience for the reader to add gravity to my argument, or try and do something creative which might well not work at all. If I go with the latter, it's not always going to work. I know of a handful of people who have got to the part in Spec Ops about warning people from reading further and, while that's exactly want I want, they stop right there. So, hurrah that they're going into a sobering game with virgin expectations, but boo, I've just effectively wasted a couple of hours and 800 odds words with the rest of the review. You've said yourself that you're not sure how much use the Parable review might be to the target audience, i.e. people deciding if they want to play the game or not, and I agree. Though I figured you'd just not found the page 2 link yet at the time. You saw that, right? It's in the bottom right?

I don't think this review is as good as the other two, but I still think I went in the right direction by trying to advance the game as a mechanical failure saved by a wicked sense of creativity I dare not shine light on too brightly for the very sake of the person I'm praising the game up to. There's examples around of doing things the other way, but I just don't see them as good ideas. m0zart was a fellow around here a few years ago who wrote a fantastic piece on Silent Hill 2 that felt more like an essay than a review at times, but excellently promoted the game's atmosphere as its main selling point. Then he told the gamer exactly why everything was symbolic for James be literally spelling out the ending. His argument at the time was that he was unable to conclude his theory without dropping this huge spoiler in, even if this meant point blank ruining the game for people that have yet to play the game. See how this has gone full circle? It once again disqualified what should probably be the target audience; people who have not played a game and want to decide of they should or not. Lewis wrote something very similar for Yume Nikki that explained the game excellently, but so well with the inclusion of the big reveal at the end, that you really had no reason to ever play the game after reading it. There's some middle ground; either Zipp or Lewis (again) wrote an awesome Dreamfall review were included within was a youtube video of the game's strongest bit of narrative. It was right at the death of the game, but it was prefaced with a warning that it should only be watched by returning players or people who are never likely to play the title at all.


Dreamfall was awesome. Did you know that TLJ: Dreamfall Chapters is due out late this year? I'm really excited for that one!


If I do have some bone of discontent with your feedback, it's in the claim that I made the game sound awful until the very end where I whip out lolbuyitanyway. If that's true, I've failed quite spectacularly there, because paragraphs 4 through 8 are meant to be high praise for the game's ambition and creativity. I never made it my aim to pull the rug out of the reader's feet with a sudden change of opinion (though it is something I like to do on occasion -- I'm pretentious like that) the plan was more to build up curiosity and, if someone felt curious enough to play the game despite the openly listed flaws, then it's probably a game they'd enjoy the same way I really enjoyed it. If not, then they would probably join the large ranks of the game's deriders. I can understand both sides, but I can't make both arguments simultaneously without showing too much of the game's hand.

Which was a difficult angle to take. I hope this doesn't come off as defensive; I'm not in the slightest. I've honestly enjoyed having an honest critique and not just a couple of lines effectively resulting in a hair ruffle; it's just made me think more about why I decided to write the review the way I did. I suppose you hit the nail on the head when you say that the ethereal stance on the game's strengths and weakness was ultimately a comment on the game itself. I'd also agree with you that perhaps it's not the bast angle to take, but I still think it the preferable to the other path demonstrated some several hundred words back. I reserve the right to be wrong .

See what can happen if you actually put some effort in and write words down now and then? You make me get all introspective and shit. I see more topics in your future now, me lad.

For us. For them. For you.

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Author: jerec
Posted: January 14, 2014 (05:30 PM)
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Hmm, interesting discussion on the challenges of reviewing games where to talk about it is to ruin the experience. For my part, there's so much else I want to say about Bravely Default, but thankfully there was enough to talk about to make the game sound awesome without ruining anything. I try not to overthink it, personally.

But I'm not the best example. If I can't find a way to review a game, I probably won't. My best efforts have always been done in a single sitting without even letting my brain catch up with my fingers.

I can avoid death by not having a life.

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