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Forums > Contributor Zone > AlphaOlympics 2017: The Results

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Author: EmP (Mod)
Posted: September 02, 2017 (06:31 PM)
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Overdrive: Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl

WQ: Overdrive does a good job describing the critical elements that make Etrian Odyssey work so well. The game sounds like a modern take on Shining in the Darkness and the like where all your challenges lie in a formidable maze, and the only way to move forward is to become stronger and manage your items better. One thing that wasnít clear was whether trips to the shop would reset the dungeon, but I imagine with a game like this, they would have built in options to reach the higher-level floors.

I like the personal approach in the review which compares this labyrinth to similar mazes in past RPGs that required significant planning (pencil and paper mapping) to complete. This gave us a perspective as to how well the developer improved the mechanic while still making the game challenging and rewarding. I also found the FOE and boss discussion to be quite informative as well; the implementation of these mechanics appears to separate Etrian Odyssey from the rest of the genre, at least a little.

Unfortunately, I doní think the hell/salvation motif worked quite as well as expected throughout the review, especially when it didnít seem 100% applicable in spots. For one thing, I expected the game to center around a hell/salvation theme at first, but as I continued reading the review, I just got the sense that Etria just happened to be located in an unfortunate spot with a maze full of dangerous monsters hindering tourism. If there really was a hell/salvation mechanic, then it didnít come across quite as well as it could have.

Overall, a pretty solid effort that effectively sells the game.

Score: 80

Joe: I could gripe about sentence tightening and structure, but those minor issues don't detract enough from the finished product to write the review off. Mostly, there are some areas that could have been shortened and that's really more of a nitpick than a genuine gripe here. What really works for this review is that it flows wonderfully and does a great job capturing the strong points of Etrian Odyssey. It's been a while since I played one of those games, and your review reminded me how hectic they can be. You do a great job capturing how worrisome those FOEs are, and especially remarking that you'll constantly need to change your strategy. I'll admit that I got nervous reading about the Boulder Boars, the crabs and those damn wolves. Having read this, I think I may pick up another EO game in the future, since I haven't visited that brand in so long...

Score: 90

Kate: Iím sorry to say, but this whole heaven/hell motif you have going on through this review doesnít work. It doesnít seem to serve a purpose and feels tacked on and superfluous, mainly because it doesnít tie into the game. This is a shame for several reasons, but no more so than because itís so heavily featured that it seeps into everything.

I get why you tried it, though; though Iíve not played this remake, Iíve lost countless hours to Etrian Odyssey and thoroughly enjoyed myself, but itís a humble foundation and doesnít give you a lot of exciting things to talk about. Your party are cardboard cut-outs defined by their fighting role and whatever generic character model youíve picked out for them, after all. And thereís no real plot to speak of other than go from A to B because reasons. So I understand that youíve attached a gimmick but a/ the gimmick is often at odds with the game you write about and b/ you seem to put the gimmick before the review at times.

Your (ha!) salvation is that the bits you do write about the game are very descriptive. By far the highlight of the review is when you talk at length about the FOEs, the shining example being how you drew giant crabs out of hiding by taking too long dispatching a random encounter. Those few paragraphs were among the most engaging Iíve read during this tourney. More of that (and even-handed criticisms, like complaining about how unhelpful shop restocking is) and this review could have been a real contender. That it wasnít must be hell for you (Iím so sorry!).

Score: 68
238





Fiddlesticks: Bloodborne

WQ: Your Bloodborne review wonderfully captures sheer intensity of the game, from its combat to its disturbing lore. Small complaint, but the intro is perhaps the weakest part of the review with nods to game elements that wonít necessarily make sense to people who havenít played it all the way through yet, or, at the very least, these elements appear jarring without the rest of the context of the review as a background. That being said, it does create a sense of curiosity to any reader who wants to find out more. The review only gets better from there, describing his misadventures with a formidable boss and the surrounding landscape while at the same time emphasizing your yearning to experience more.

Bloodborne is a difficult yet strangely addicting game, as many of the Souls series are. However, this review captures the essence of these seemingly contradictory characteristics perfectly. The fast-paced, hard-hitting combat sucks you in like nothing other, and the weird sounds and atmosphere compel you to move forward to see what new horrors you can unlock. Iíve only reached the Cathedral Ward myself, and I can definitely relate to its draw. (Though, as of late, Iíve found the game more disturbing than I can handle, so I donít know how much more of it Iíll play, but weíll see.)

It seemed to me that the review likened the madness found within the game to the obsessiveness that the lore and environment instill in us as the player, and this is quite effective. Truly a compelling read for a compelling game.

I would take a stab at Demonís Souls again if you like. Iíve beaten it (though, admittedly not without help), but it is possible.

Score: 90

Joe: A very strong review that benefits from your casual voice and your enthusiasm. Those are the qualities I expect from any 5/5 rated review. Word choice strongly emphasized the action and harshness of the experience, and I came away feeling like I had just played the game. I also liked that the review eschewed the standard list of positives and negatives, and that it flowed more naturally because of that. My only qualm is that the piece petered out towards the end. Thankfully, by that time the review was already ending, so it didn't hamper the finished product too much.

Score: 92

Kate:What an eccentric introduction. On one hand, it means nothing to me and, I suspect nothing to people who have yet to play the game, which strikes me as kind of redundant. Isnít the point of a review to inform people who have not played it whether or not they should do so? On the other hand, itís very engaging and certainly sets the tone early. Itís a game world dripping with eldritch lore. You then go right to town making the entire thing sound fantastic.

The review is a seamless narrative that flows from point to point effortlessly making it feel like a shorter read than it is. Thereís a lot of vivid imagery mixed in with the descriptions of what to expect during your stay in a haunted town. The last paragraph feels like added fluff, though, and I think the review could have ended better on the previous one. I think I can see what you were trying to -- providing a closer for your introduction. But it mostly just comes off as repeating a lot of already made points, which dilutes them.

This remains a very strongly written review by an obviously talented writer. Iím glad to have read it as Iím now very interested in a game that, truth be told, wasnít even on my radar before.

Score: 82
264





Usagi: The Dark Eye

WQ: From this review, we get the sense that The Dark Eye is a rather average point-and-click adventure with virtually no replay value. You do a good job describing the core issues with the game, such as the poor character development and oft-illogical puzzle solving. Because of these issues, I remain less convinced that the game is worth checking out. While you cover many of the issues very well, I donít come away with anything that made the game enjoyable for you except for the artwork, which, at least in my mind, isnít necessarily enough to warrant a purchase. On that note, and normally I wouldnít comment on something like this, but since the artwork did seem to play a large role in your impression of the game, some screenshots of the game would have helped solidify your point there.

The review itself could have done with a little trimming and polishing itself, as several points could have been made more succinctly. I also feel that, where necessary, proper use of colons and semicolons would have helped separate points in some of the longer sentences, as I had to re-read a few several times to make sure I understood exactly what you were saying. These issues are fairly minor given the overall review, however; I only pointed them out in case you wish to improve.

For the most part, your review accomplishes what it set out to do: give the reader a good sense of the gameís key features by describing the main issues so that he/she can make an informed decision.

Score: 75

Joe: Your review provided a lot of good support for your point, that The Dark Eye is a middling affair. However, some points of the review were plain, stilted or choppy. The introduction also didn't hook me much, but you made up for that by describing the story and setting well, and that got me into the review. My only other complaint--which is kind of a nitpick--is that this piece doesn't read like a 4/5 rating, and feels more like a 3/5. It seemed liked you tried to defend the 4/5 rating by praising the art style, but then said the animation wasn't all that great. Ultimately, I didn't come off feeling like I was reading a praise review. Nonetheless, what you wrote supports your thesis well, that the game is mediocre.

Score: 70

Kate: This was a functional but pretty clunky review that hit upon a lot of the points that needed hitting, but did so under a lot of redundancy and repetition. Just as a quick example, you like to say ďI feelĒ a lot before you make a statement which, aside from feeling overused after the first few usages, is already implied by the medium. Itís a review of a product; that the entire thing is your opinion dressed up is already implied.

Another example is how you find about three ways in the opening paragraph to say the exact same thing; the gameís mediocre; not awful, not great. Youíd be better off making that point once, strongly, rather than drowning it out in needless rephrasing.

The main body of the review feels equally clunky, like itís obsessed with judging the game in little sections rather than as a whole. You have a few paragraphs talking about the story (which contains an interesting dissection of the characters; you have a good eye for that) the transitions from plot into other aspects such as gameplay and artwork are awkwardly done and openly labelled. (ďWhile the story could have been improved so too could the gameplayĒ). But there are some touches present that I really appreciate that a lot of people would have left out, like mentioning the cliff-hanger ending and how playing the sequel is important to get a full sense of the tale.

That 4/5 score comes out of nowhere. You go to town making the game sound thoroughly mediocre, so it makes no sense to score it so high.

Score: 55
200





honestgamer: Titanís Tower

WQ: Youíve written a rather entertaining review about a game that doesnít sound very entertaining at all. Thatís quite an accomplishment, if I may say so, as I donít think I could pull it off. If this werenít a Wii U title, Iíd say that this game sounds like it would have belonged on the Android or iPhone or something where you plop down $0.99 to play a game with a gimmicky, incomplete mechanic. Sounds like something best saved for when youíre waiting for commercials to end, something you donít much care about and is kind of just ďthere.Ē Your review captures the basic elements of the game in their entirety (and by basic here, I mean simple mechanics, as there isnít much to it). It also sums up the issues well (namely, the inevitable instances where you lose due to impossibly placed hazards). I also rather enjoyed the backhanded compliments to the developer for featuring a much-improved title from its other games.

I did raise my eyebrow at this, but only because I wasnít sure if this was intentional: ďA single coin improves your score by five, while a glowing one nets you a cool 5 points.Ē Did you mean for that to say five, or should it have said one? I ask because I could easily see this as an attempt at sarcasm as well, though, if it was an attempt at sarcasm, it unfortunately didnít work as well since I had the question.

Anyway, I did enjoy reading this, and you have thoroughly convinced me to avoid it lest I get extremely bored one day and decide to look for something similar on my phone.

Score: 85

Joe: Oh, that scathing introduction!

That having been said, this is a wonderfully written review that flows smoothly and describes Titan's Tower as well as it should. However, the review didn't grip me as strongly as some of the others presented in this contest. I think that had more to do with the game itself and its content, which wasn't as exciting to read about as battling through a city of werewolves or OD's frantic descriptions of FOEs. Granted, it had some terrific sections, like the anecdote about your wife laughing at you. So while this review doesn't top my list, it is a very well done piece.

Score: 87

Kate: Is it backhanded to suggest this was as humorous in a sometimes wholly irrelevant way? I donít understand where some of this came from; the Cinderella-themed intro didnít make a lot of sense, so tying it back at the conclusion felt like a massive stretch. Amusing though it was, I donít see the point in the paragraph where your wife laughs at your efforts and this stops her from playing a bad game. That was weird. Also, you talk about how one coin gives you five points a shinier coin gives you five points. I donít know if thatís a typo or a joke.

What does work is a subtle attack on what I now know to be a bottom-of-the-barrel developer who is quite ruthlessly damned with faint praise at times. Put the boots into the minimalistic soundtrack by suggesting itís above and beyond the developerís standard fair is the kind of clever sentiment I would have liked to have seen more of. Your moments of subtle mocking are your reviewís highlights here and, despite a few less stellar moments, youíve still produced a higher quality review than such a game probably deserves.

Score: 70
242



NO SNAZZY BANNER AVAILABLE!
stupid obscure abondonware...


Nightfire Night Fire

WQ: Haha. I like that you chose a game based off of your User Name. Thatís cheeky. Anyway, onto the point. This review is quite direct but very effective in describing what this game is about. You donít get bogged down with flowery writing that may not necessarily serve a useful purpose other than to provide entertainment. This lets your review tell us exactly what we need to know without needing a philosophy degree or a dictionary to figure out what youíre trying to say. Unfortunately, it also lends itself not to really stand out against the crowd, but this isnít your fault, either, as this review is perhaps the most appropriate write-up for a game of this mediocre caliber. Itís a shame that the game doesnít provide much in the way of actual, you know, gameplay, but as you pointed out, it could have very well been an impressive achievement for a single individual in the 80s. Even at that, though, your comparison of this title to the superstar hits that came out in the same year really puts this in perspective for the time. Even if it was 1986, it sounds like this game really would not have held out as anything spectacular then either.

Overall, the review accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do in telling us wat we need to know so we donít waste our time with this game. In a way, I wish we didnít have to put arbitrary scores on here because everyoneís game and writing style are often so different yet effective that grading just doesnít seem fair. But alas, here we are.

P.S. You know, if youíd had #, you could have reviewed 007: Night Fire.

Score: 83

Joe: Man, did you luck out finding a game with a title similar to your username. Maybe one day someone will develop a "Joe the Destroyer" video game (hopefully without getting hit by a lawsuit from the estate of Joe "The Destroyer" Hammond) and I can review that.

Anyway, my words for you are much like those I had for Honestgamer. This is a well written review, save for a couple of small hiccups (Night fire instead of Night Fire at one point). However, although it's an interesting review, it didn't hold my attention as well as some of the others. That and the review lost momentum towards the end. It felt like you were running out of things to say, but I suppose that's to be expected from a minimalist game.

Score: 85

Kate: Your game pick was cute and Iíd be giving it more praise if you didnít smother your reader with the cleverness of your chicanery in your opening paragraph. Thereís a lot in that opening block of text I donít really like; itís a bit pointlessly meta to point out that the gameís review is solely down to a reviewing tourney so bluntly. Thereís a few valid points that might be worth making, but the way itís presented reads like a Ďletís talk about me!í excuse.

I like this review more if I ignore reality and pretend it starts from the second paragraph, but, alas, no such mercy for you. The line about being the doddering grandfather of games was great and the look back on how the games of yesteryear were viewed and then trying to put it in historical context were also done well. The highlight was being sympathetic to what was open a one-man passion project but still stomping a big fat time stamp against it be mentioning the bigger titles of its generation.

Iíve a soft spot for reviews like this, picking up bits of forgotten media that have either long had their time or barely had one at all, and then telling a largely disinterested world about it. Once you get away from the syrupy, self-serving intro, the rest of the review is soothingly nostalgic but, above all else, fair.

Score: 73
241





HasteyPixels: Valkyria Chronicles

WQ: Your review covers all the bases of the game fairly well without giving too much information that could lead to confusion. However, the review as a whole seems to have structural problems, especially in the beginning. I found the discussion about the graphics and PC support to be oddly placed within the review, as issues like that typically appear at the end or middle of reviews once weíre introduced to the game and its premise. Often these elements arenít mentioned at all, but since youíre reviewing the game for Steam, or at least from a Steam perspective, you may have found them necessary to include.

I also had a hard time figuring out what genre this game fell in until you made the comparison with Final Fantasy Tactics. It would have helped if, in the beginning of the review when first introducing the combat and classes and the like, that you just mention that the game falls within the turn-based strategy genre, so that we have a frame of mind when reading about the commander and his useful scout assistant.

The review also has several grammatical issues that take away from the impact of what youíre trying to say, but this could just be cleaned up with better proofreading.

All this being said, the review does get better and more on point as it goes on, especially when discussing how combat works and the importance of certain units. This I found to be rather informative, and the examples provided as to how each unit plays tactically helps enforce the necessity of understanding each unitís strategy. Something that could have helped tie all this together would have been to use an example of your experience with the game where, say, you had a particularly difficult battle with an enemy squad that you overcame through successfully managing units.

You also did a good job employing pictures in this review. I donít comment often about pics in reviews now that theyíre so common, but theyíre not always used to support the talking points of the review, either. I felt that the pics you chose fit the narrative of the review perfectly, as each one depicted a scene of your next (few) point(s).

Overall, this wasnít a bad effort by any means, even if it may sound like it because of all the points of improvement I provide. I feel that with some refinement, you could have a very competitive effort.

Score: 70

Joe: This was a very strong review with a great beginning and end, but kind of a dry middle. The middle isn't without merit, though, as you use that real estate to detail all of the game's most important features. I like that you went into the classes and special abilities, as well as your description of the combat system. I came away from the review feeling like I had just rented the game. Great work!

Score: 86

Kate: This review has a lot of structure issues. Your first line introduces a person Iíve never heard of, (is that just me? Am I not the huge nerd I always assumed?) Then you name drop a character youíve not spoken about yet, so the average reader doesnít get the reference. Then you miss a word from the last line of your intro, which, even if complete, is a line that makes no sense. Why is it a good thing that this is a flawed port? Flawed ports help nothing! The next paragraph is a weird specs one which might just be written to brag about how you have a better graphics card? I donít know any more!

Thatís the roughest part of your review, which improves largely thereafter. It strikes me as a review that could do with a good editing, but once you start talking about the things in the game you obviously enjoyed, then you start collecting the reviewís highlights. You get a bit listy at times, but we all do that.

Score: 58
214





JedwardRandy: Magician Lord

WQ: At first, I was a little worried about this review, as the flowery language in the beginning describing the graphics, animation, and enemy design kind of threw me for a loop. As entertaining as it was, it seemed unnecessarily complicated. BUT! Once you started talking about how crappy the game was, I became convinced that all this in the beginning was deliberate and just to show the contrast between the nice aesthetic the game exuded at its surface compared to the steaming pile of rhino dung at its core. I admit, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the last two-thirds of this review with the colorful slamming of the poor game mechanics (such as the jumping). Both informative and entertaining, I feel that this was one of the more enjoyable reads throughout this tournament.

Score: 85

Joe: Damn, this was a sweet review! It was very well balanced and flows beautifully, plus it was just a fun piece to read. I especially enjoyed your descriptions of the visuals. You painted some excellent, detailed pictures that I could easily see in my mind's eye. My complaints are small. For one thing, some of the references were questionable. For instance, had I not seen Kung Fury, I might not have understood that section of the review. Yeah, I know, who on the internet hasn't seen Kung Fury? You'd be surprised. Regardless, this was a great review with awesome descriptions and some good laughs, not to mention excellent support for your thesis.

Score: 90

Kate: Oh my Ė what a wonderfully overwritten review. The first paragraph might as well be an advertisement for the wonders of thesauruses, waxing loquacious though it does to get across the simple fact that the reviewer quite likes a hat.

Some of it works better than others Ė the cut-aways to the son make no sense, but the majority is gloriously goofy. The overboard praise of the initial paragraphs is brilliantly dispelled with a simple statement that, despite the glamour, the gameís actually a bit shit. What I really like is that, throughout all the overblown prose, it doesnít forget to still be a review. It still manages to be even-handed, even after itís pulled the rug away with its declaration of awfulness, citing good practices like amiable magic and memorable boss fights.

You know, I canít shake the feeling that this review is making fun of me in some way. But Iím going to go ahead and like it, anyway.

Score: 85
260





EmP: Oxenfree

WQ: Typically, when reading a review, I should come away with knowing exactly what this game is about. And thatís exactly what this review does. Your review fantastically describes a game that, to most (including me), would be difficult to describe. Your descriptive, sometimes snarky, writing colorfully paints the world, structure and social situations that the characters in this game end up in. I donít come away from this review with any questions that should have been answered, only a sense of what to expect and whether I would get enjoyment from playing it. Truly, I donít think I could find anything significant to complain about. You had one instance where you hilariously use the wrong word (excretionsĒ instead of ďexcursion,Ē I believe, to describe the island adventure, but this is nothing, and I did find it amusing. Iím really only mentioning it just to show that the review is so solid that this was the most ďnegativeĒ thing I could say about it. As is usual with your reviews, your conclusion masterfully ties all the points together that youíd made throughout the review without rehashing anything or introducing new points. This is something I feel that I have yet to learn, and I am always typically envious of your style. :P

Keep up the good work!

Score 90

Joe: Holy cow, this was an impressive review! It flowed perfectly, detailed the game without an inch of dryness, and left me wanting to play the game (I've been on the fence about getting it, despite it being on my Steam wishlist). You went into the characters without completely spoiling the story and didn't just list off strong points and weaknesses. Yeah, you missed a period at one point and had a typo somewhere else, but the content of the review makes up for that.

Score: 95

Kate: Gosh, thatís an unfortunate typo. Well, not even that because the wordís spelt perfectly, so Iím going to go ahead and assume that your autocheck screwed you over here, but thatís something youíve got to be catching. Iím not sure exertion is particularly good for the line even if youíd used it right, but excretion is a whole different tone.

That was the only time I laughed at you and not with you. Thereís something so engaging about the tone of this review. Itís kind of casual in a strangely comfortable way, sometimes to the point where you donít even know youíre being fed game information until itís too late. But, at the same time, thereís a bitter undertone thatís almost annoyed that the game turned out good because it wants to make fun of it more. Knowing thatís there and never gets the chance to show its teeth really makes the game sound like a triumph.

There are some important lines, like the Goosebumps/Silent Hill one (Iím a coward, so would never play anything but the lightest of PG-13 horrors) but, my word, that conclusion. If the review itself convinced someone like me who canít watch a Letís Play of Resident Evil without hiding behind their hands to wishlist the game, then that ending prompted me to buy it. I didnít want to eat this week, anyway.

Score: 84
269





darketernal: The Cat Lady

WQ: You put a good amount of effort into describing what makes The Cat Lady work and what doesnít. I donít come away with any serious questions about the game, and I feel as though I have a fairly complete picture of what it represents. The problems with the review come mainly from sentence structure. Either sentences are too long (i.e. they could be cut up into smaller ones just as effectively), or the words used could be condensed into something more succinct. In places, this leads to disengagement for the reader, or even necessitates re-reading sentences to make sure we understand the full extent of whatís being said. In any case, itís laudable that you aimed to cover every aspect of the game, but sometimes, covering everything isnít necessary, especially if itís ancillary to what makes the game work (or not) as a whole. Determining what and what not to include in this regard can be difficult, however, and is something I often struggle with to this day. By in large, though, this review accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to provide as much detail into what elements make the game great and which ones donít.

SCORE: 70

Joe: This review was pretty rough around the edges. The were a number of grammatical errors and places that could be tightened. For instance, one long sentence near the beginning would have read better as two or three separate sentences. You do a good job describing the game's aesthetics, characters and puzzles, though. One trap that a lot of people fall into is detailing puzzles in the most tedious, anal way, and I this review stayed away from that. You also laid out the characters very well without giving away much of the plot, and did a terrific job talking about how ugly visuals can still be pleasing.

Score: 68

Kate: Those weird inverted quote marks thing sure are off-putting. Is this a new thing that no oneís told me about? It doesnít make sense to me!

This was not the game I imagined when I read the title. Cat Lady hardly sounds like a horror title, but here we are. Thereís a fair few structure issues throughout; a lot of overloaded sentences that run on into redundancy, or muddy your points by providing too much information in too small a space. Thereís also some really awkward phrasing that double words up, like talking about scratching your head and, in the same sentence, that thereís no question marks over your head. The very next sentence then uses Ďsolvingí twice Ė itís all just very clunky.

Still, some moments shine through. Your conclusion has a sense of gravitas to it, and the captions youíve used for the screenshots were brilliant (ďshockingly accurateĒ giving me my biggest laugh of the day)

Score: 68
206





pickhut: 88 Heroes

WQ: The review starts off with your initial reaction to the game before even playing it, and only gets better from there. Reading this review, I feel almost as frustrated as you did playing this game, as I would be furious if I kept losing because the game decides to throw me some stupid joke character. It definitely sounds like a game with some interesting ideas, but I can definitely see why it doesnít work well at all. I found myself agreeing with every point you made, even though I have no familiarity with this game at all. The review was also fairly engaging with colorful descriptions of the characters and level design that allowed me to picture what you were talking about. In your conclusion, you even point out issues that the developers could have improved on, which puts this game into an even starker light as to what it did wrong. Nice work overall.

SCORE: 88

Joe: Your intro instantly hooked me. I started this review near the end of my work break and decided to be a naughty boy and stay in the break room to read the rest, instead of going back to work. I couldn't stop reading after that introduction. Without going into bland lists or bashing overmuch, you naturally ripped this game a new one. Your examples are terrific, especially when you talk about how certain characters just don't work for certain challenges, but you have to use them anyway. I got pissed off just reading about that! This review flowed smoothly, while filling in all of the appropriate details. Great work!

Score: 91

Kate: A lot of this game sounds great in theory, so you do well to point out how it falls apart in execution. It doesnít get off to a great start Ė not for the first time today, I think a review would work better if you deleted the first paragraph and started from the second. I guess the first is to try and outline your expectations for the game, but it never seems to go anywhere.

Two things you nail and nail hard; talking about how the redundancy rot sets in pretty quickly, and the best use of a screenshot yet where you bitch about the question mark character asking you stupid questions, then have a screenshot of it asking you a stupid question about how annoying he is.

Score: 77
256





Jerec: The Stanley Parable

WQ: HAHA! Jerec, I love you. This was perhaps the most entertaining and brilliant write up of a ďmetatextual,Ē as you called it, game Iíve ever seen. I read the whole thing using the narratorís voice, too, just so you know, as your review mirrored the narrator to a tee. Even though about half the review discusses your process for choosing a game to review for this tourney, you still manage to cover enough of the game to give us a sense of what it is and what it does. Given that the game is so short, and talking about it with any real sense of detail very well could spoil it, I do think you took the safer approach in discussing the game itself by alluding to the branching paths and the illusion of choice. The only thing is, since this is such a niche way of writing up the review, Iím not sure how well it would go over with someone who hasnít played the game before. I actually picked it up for like $2.99 during a Steam sale, so I didnít feel cheated and only played t for like an hour or two before growing tired of it, as, to me, the game does tend to wear out quickly.

Still, I so thoroughly enjoyed your review that I truly donít know how to rate it. So, RNG here we go!

Score: 92

Joe: I don't mind the occasional gimmick review. I've written a couple myself. This one is really good as far as readability is concerned. Your voice and descriptions are clear, and the piece itself is fun to read. However, I felt like half of the review was an introduction and the latter half didn't have much to say about the game. Regardless, it covers all of the proper bases and still gets the job done very well, not to mention that your approach made this piece more memorable. Honestly, there really isn't much to The Stanley Parable, so the review's structure is a little forgivable.

Score: 87

Kate: Hereís the thing; Iíve put a few hours into this game and found it mildly amusing at best, yet I canít get enough of reading reviews about it. Thereís something about the game that brings out the meta in people, which is something that works both towards and against this review. Itís clever and ballsy, and you can colour me amused Ė this wonít count for nothing. But you also have to cut through a lot of filler to get to the actual game.

Such as it is, anyway. Not counting the one-liners, thereís ten paragraphs to this review, and only the final third talks directly about the game itself. The rest sets a tone, but I think is too meta for its own good. This thing you all have going on here, this whole review tourney thing? Itís been a blast to be a part of and Iím glad something like this exists, but before I was coerced into taking part, I would have never known such a thing existed. Someone, coming into this review outside of a tourney, which is exceedingly narrow audience, is going to have no idea what youíre talking about. But I do, and so do I judge it on that? Do I take a view on the confused mess an outside reader might become? See what I mean about how writing about this game turns everyone pretentiously meta? Damn you, Stanley Parable!

Iím finishing here before I spend the rest of the evening arguing with myself.

Score: 74
253





Phazomasher: The Firemen

WQ: Your review does a good job describing everything I would need to know about this game, which is good, as it sounds fairly unique. I donít really know how many firefighter simulators there are out there (thereís at least one or two more that Iíve heard of), so Iím glad to see a pretty thorough description of how this game approaches the subject. It sounds like a rather interesting sort of action-puzzle-platformer combination. I definitely like the idea of how you strategically need to switch modes with the firehose in order to progress through each stage without dying. Itís also good to hear that the AI isnít inept like most AI partners are, though I had a couple questions regarding his mechanics, namely: does he also have a hose or does his axe solely do the job? And if so, how does the axe get rid of fire exactly, as I thought fire axes were used to clear away obstacles (like the fallen beams you mention in the review)? I would also be curious to know if a second player could control the AI, too, though, with his invincibility, I doubt this would be the case.

The discussion on the visuals felt mostly unnecessary, as you such a good job in the review of describing everything else, that a lot of what you mention there is repeated in a sense (such as the description of the fire itself). This is a relatively small complaint, though, for an otherwise solid review of a game Iíve never heard of.

Score: 80

Joe: I love well written reviews about games I didn't know existed. You do a great job both describing the game and supporting your thesis. I think at one point, though, you mixed up the characters' names, so I was a little confused when reading that paragraph. The comparison to Die Hard served as a good hook, and only increased my desire to check this title out.

Score: 87

Kate: That cover art cut-out at the top of the review featuring a cross-eyed receptionist is inadvertent comedic gold. I can only assume you had no part in that (but if you did, non-point-adding kudos) but itís worthy of a throw-away mention.

Iím learning about a lot of obscure games today Ė my education as a developing nerd never ends, it seems Ė so itís worth saying early that you succeed in making this game sound really good and particularly unique. Having a game that casts fire and the main and only antagonist is a brave and interesting idea, and that it pulls this off on a 16-bit system certainly sounds impressive. You communicate that well.

There are some things that donít fit as well. Though the idea of a invincible fireman killing giant flames with an axe is a great mental image, Iím not sure how that works out. Thatís kind of just left out there, and would benefit from a bit of clarity. Thereís also a paragraph near the end that just starts awkwardly talking about graphics which could have been worked in better.

Score: 66
233





Lewis: Yume Nikki

WQ: Nice to see youíre alive and doing well. From reading this, I certainly can tell that youíve changed. This review isnít so much a review as a deeply interesting discussion surrounding the cultural behaviors this game presumably tried to relay. I appreciate the comparison you made as to how you felt about the game when you first reviewed it years ago and how you feel about it now, which led to this discussion about these young (mostly male) teenagers that trend to suicide as a result of their self-imposed isolation. Itís a discussion that shows that you have changed in your understanding of the issues the game tried to convey, and that you care a lot more for the real issue and the real people affected by it than whatever the game had tried to do to entertain.

And, I will say, that even if the majority of this discourse deals with the real-world issue Japan faces as well as your internal introspection about your life, I still get a sense of what the game is like, even if a minimal. I get the sense that I really wouldnít be interested in it, as it sounds quite repetitive and shallow on the surface, even if the issue that spawned it is quite serious. All this being said, it makes judging this one difficult. Well, Iíll give it a shot.

Score: 85

Joe: 1. You know that meme that starts with a panel showing two buttons, each with a conflicting attitude written above them? And then the second panel has a man mopping sweat off his brow, as he's trying to decide which button to press?

2. That's me right now.

3. Button 1: This is an excellent and enthralling article. I knew of hikikomori, mostly thanks to Rozen Maiden, but I never studied the associated phenomenon in depth. I like the personal aspects of this article, too. I've read some of your old reviews and followed you a little on Twitter, but this is a first, tiny glimpse into your life.

4. Button 2: This isn't a game review. You said as much in the article itself.

5. So do I score this highly because it's an interesting and well written article or lowly because this is a video game review contest and this piece barely reviews the game?

6. I don't want to be either guy: neither the one who defies contest conventions at the cost of dismissing others who wrote reviews, nor the guy who types a goose egg for disqualification.

7. Forgive me for the score, because it's a really great piece, but it's not a proper review. Sorry.

Score: 50

Kate: You know, considering what Iíve just read from you, I donít think youíll mind if I tangent a little outside what Iím strictly supposed to be writing about. When I agreed to take on this judge role, I envisioned something I could kick out in a lunch break. But, no. Iíve been blown away by the amount of quality and effort thatís gone into these reviews, so it felt like it would have been a bit of an insult to have gone in so half-cocked, so these results that Iím churning out have been hours and hours of work. Iím not complaining, Iím not asking for my parade to start up, I just want the context in place so I when I say coming to the last review and seeing it was a numeric list, I wasnít heartbroken at the assumption that someone had phoned it in and I could get an easy judgment written up for the finish and then drink myself to sleep. Because this is exhausting (how do you all do it?!?)

!@#$! it. This is probably the best bit of pure writing in the entire thing.

Thereís room for critical complaint. Of course there is, you know what youíve written isnít a review in all but the most abstract of definitions. You say so yourself right there in the header and throughout the piece. Itís more than that; itís about industry and personal growth, both of which have allowed you a new insight into something that only seems to have changed because you have changed. In truth, Yume Nikki is static; itís only different because you are different, eight years has allowed you new context and offered new angles of consideration.

What the bloody hell am I supposed to do with that?! Iím not ashamed to admit that I abandoned protocol on this and rang Gary for help. Luckily, heís proven (for once) to be the more level headed person, telling me that itís ethically muddy for him to share his thoughts. Heíd almost have sounded noble if a/ he didnít follow that with how his ego trumps his ethics and heíd almost certainly be negative because beating you in this is very very important to him and b/ it was probably him that killed your interest in bad adventure games and forced you towards this re-review as he sent you Fenimore Fillmore back in the day as he sure as hell wasnít touching that hot mess.

Iím rambling so I donít have to get to a point. I recognise that. Okay.

This is a brilliantly written thing that cuts into what the game means and why that meaning can be fluid rather than talks about the graphics are/it controls like, but it only works as review if you consider it a companion piece to your original review, which, in itself if good but spoiler heavy. Should that matter? Iím not sure, but I kinda think it should? If you view this as a review, which is the job Iím being (not at all) paid to do. Itís flawed, then? Yes, but only in ways that make its point more potent. I canít argue myself down from rating this highly, even if it makes some of the criticism Iíve already made towards other people seem hypocritical. This is lovely Ė Iím all the better for having read it.

Score: 88
223


For us. For them. For you.

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Author: EmP (Mod)
Posted: September 02, 2017 (06:41 PM)
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Before we look at the table, a word from our gracious third judge:

Hi - no one here knows me, so I should tell you a little about myself. My nameís Kate and Iíve known Gary for several years after we worked together on a magazine where I primarily reviewed music. I only do this on a very part time basis, and I guess my inclusion to this is more desperation than expertise (any music review that doesnít start with ďThis is awfulĒ is automatically dismissed by Gary, after all), but Iím happy to step in and help! Mainly because it means I have blackmail material safely stored in my back pocket for future use.

Iím relatively new to gaming. Iíve never owned a console (but do possess someone elseís DS), but fell into PC gaming very hard about five years or so ago and Iíve never looked back. I currently own more games on Steam than I can play in a lifetime (like the rest of the world, right?) I mainly play adventure games, but Iíve lost the most hours to GTA5.

Too much information? Iíll shut up and write kind words about your work now!


Just know, people reading this topic. I'll be paying for this very soon. Anyway! I openly encourage you to check my maths. But the winner is:

EmP \\ 269
Fiddlesticks \\ 264
Pickhut \\ 256
Jerec \\ 253
Randy \\ 260(-10) 250
Jason \\ 242
Nightfire \\ 241
Overdrive \\ 238
Phazomasher \\ 233
Lewis \\ 223
Hasty \\ 214
DE \\ 206
Usagi \\ 200

Oh! It's me! Well, congrats to me, then, I suppose, on my record breaking third Alpha victory. The only longer streak in existence is the amount of consecutive days Masters has been asleep since this tourney starts (and still counting), so thanks to WQ for being there from the start and to Joe for failing so hard on his Q review dropping in to fill the gap, and to Kate for currently plotting how to make a large chunk of my life miserable, and reminding me where my DS is.

We got there, guys. Remind me about this should I ever try to run another tourney again.


For us. For them. For you.

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Author: jerec
Posted: September 02, 2017 (11:42 PM)
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Wow, that was an impressive write up from the judging panel. Thanks to WQ and Joe for stepping up. I thought bringing in a guest judge who is not familiar with us or our quirks was great. It was interesting to see what an outsider made of all this, so huge thanks to Kate for taking on this massive tourney judgement.

Yeah, not to brag, but I called EmP winning this when I gave his Oxenfree review the top spot in my Review of the Week topic (I still haven't really recovered from that topic, you know). Having read most of these reviews for said topic, I... hold on, the topic is gone! EMP, JASON!, I think my thoughts came out much the same (Although I had Pickhut over Fiddlesticks, my top 3 was the same). And I got 4th!

My own review was more me just rolling the dice and submitting something, because I didn't want to drop out. I didn't know how it would be taken by anyone, and I did consider removing the review sometime after the results were added, because it really only works in the context of this tournament. Or maybe there'll be an edit sometime in the future, so if you ever read it again... it will seem a bit different. Glad to know I captured the voice of that narrator, though. That was the bit I worked on the most, because I knew without that, what I'd written would be just a self-indulgent mess.


I can avoid death by not having a life.

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Author: Fiddlesticks
Posted: September 03, 2017 (01:23 AM)
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Second place, not too shabby! Though it sucks that Masters couldn't judge as originally planned, kudos to Joe for stepping up and Kate for dropping some unexpected feedback and Wolfqueen001 for also offering up worthwhile write-ups. And, of course, thanks to EmP for deciding to organize this thing in the first place. And congrats on the win. I had fun writing my review and reading everyone else's, and I will admit I was eager to see how this would pan out. Lots of good stuff here. Hopefully there can be more events like this in the future. It creates good competition and community spirit.


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Author: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: September 03, 2017 (03:48 AM)
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Thanks, everyone who came together for this event, and especially to the judges who committed to reading a bunch of reviews and providing insightful commentary on each of them. Also, congrats and thanks to EmP for putting together documentation of his victory. Assembling such topics is a time-consuming endeavor, I know from past experience, and he did a good job of it. Congrats to everyone, and maybe we'll have to have a tournament again at some point. Even without a tournament, though, there's plenty we can be reviewing and personal projects and completion projects (like the 32X project) can keep everyone as busy as needed. ;-)


"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: wolfqueen001
Posted: September 03, 2017 (12:45 PM)
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Neat. Glad to see these out there. Really appreciate Joe and Kate stepping up to judge this with me, and Gary for putting this together. Poor Marc just had a really bad series of events occur at the wrong time, I suppose.

Congrats to everyone who participated. I thoroughly enjoyed reading these reviews, and the tournament wouldn't have been as successful (or successful at all, really) without them.

Gary, you'll have to tell Kate that she's freaking awesome. I suspected that she was someone you knew in real life primarily outside of our gaming community, but I can tell she'd fit right in here with the rest of us. I also found her critiques valuable and entertaining to read. We typically don't see scores lower than 65 in these tournaments, and I think that has to do with us all typically being insiders to the thing, so it's neat to see what someone else has to say and how they would grade these efforts. As it turns out, somewhat harshly, and that's somewhat refreshing. :D


[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: overdrive (Mod)
Posted: September 04, 2017 (04:20 PM)
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Thanks for all the feedback; made the long wait worth it. I wish I could say I was shocked I didn't win it (or place highly), but I can't. First, you had Jerec's say in his RotW that he preferred my Kemco review for that week to that one and, usually when I enter one of these, I play a game specifically for that tournament. Here, I had a game I was slowly meandering through in that "getting tired of JRPGs, but liking this game" sort of unfocused way, got E, and decided to suddenly get focused with it, leading to a review that, like the judges said, was really good in some areas and more questionable in others.

Oh well, back to the drawing board. One year, we'll do this again and then it'll be my time!


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

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Author: pickhut
Posted: September 04, 2017 (09:55 PM)
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I happened to be at work when this topic originally went up, so I managed to skim it briefly. You'd think my first reaction would be on how my review did, but it was actually, "Kate? Who?" So, much thanks for the brief introduction by EmP afterwards. And I look forward to his blackmail story.

So yeah, that was days ago... I got so "distracted" by other things (still playing Dead by Daylight, surprisingly), that I forgot to reply...

But in all seriousness, a big thanks to all the judges, Joe, WQ, and Kate, for taking the time to review this big list of reviews, as I know from past experience that it can be exhausting and time consuming. I enjoy reading the various opinions on a review, especially since they can be vastly different from one another. Good job to all that participated, and congrats to EmP for winning yet another contest.


I head spaceshit noises.

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Author: Nightfire
Posted: September 05, 2017 (06:24 PM)
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Thanks for the critiques. I wanted a different letter, but stuck it out with "N" anyway. I had absolutely no good titles in my Steam library or on my shelf that started with "N", so I had to scrape the bottom of the barrel a bit. I felt that I did my best with it, and that's all I could do.

Grats to the winners. It was a fun tournament nonetheless!


placid like acid

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Author: hastypixels
Posted: September 06, 2017 (03:35 AM)
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I gotta say I completely agree - in retrospect - with the feedback given about my Valykria review. That's what happens when I don't structure my writing. It gets messy, but... I've gradually learned to structure things a little more naturally as I've had practice.

I very much value the feedback. Thanks! :)


The Gravity gun is not a toy, not a toy, no my boy...

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Author: Usagi
Posted: September 10, 2017 (07:46 PM)
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Well that was...scathing. lol

I guess I really do suck at this and should reevaluate everything that I write. :\


Read my reviews here or via Lunar Productions

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Author: JedwardRandy
Posted: September 11, 2017 (12:07 AM)
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thank you judges for writing words about my words, I like you. My 6th place ranking is honorable finish, and amoral victory because if I didn't get the 20 points penalty, I beat EmP.


I am Jedward Randy

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Author: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: September 11, 2017 (03:04 AM)
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Usagi, the people who judge events like this one trust you to know that you're already better than the average writer, simply by virtue of your work appearing on a site like this one (after all, we do reject some stuff that might appear on Metacritic or Steam or whatever).

Sometimes, that trust means the judges don't do a lot of back patting, which can be hard to take. But they do let you know what didn't work for them, and that can be tremendously helpful as you write stuff in the future for this site and/or elsewhere.

There's not much a writer can do wrong that said writer can't fix in revisions, or when writing new material as a follow-up. What's important is to not get discouraged, but instead to keep trying and improving so that someday, you can look back at the review and spot the same flaws the judges did... but also find the seeds of greatness that eventually led to great success.

Side note: I know we're "just" writing reviews here, but a lot of the principles that apply in reviews also carry over to other types of writing (including academics, fiction and technical writing). So there's a lot of value in the whole process, if you're ready to really commit to it and to forgive yourself if sometimes your output isn't quite what you had in mind. Thanks for being involved!


"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: Masters (Mod)
Posted: September 11, 2017 (04:07 PM)
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I'm glad this thing got done in the end; apologies that I wasn't able to come through... which is especially annoying as I got most of my write ups finished, and for nothing. Good on the judges stepping up, and kudos to Gary.


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

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Author: EmP (Mod)
Posted: September 12, 2017 (01:22 AM)
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SUPER SECRET TURBO SPECIAL EDITION JUDGEMENT



Marc's incomplete judging has fallen into my hands via sneaky ninja and, while his findings are incomplete, I will share with you all now the fruits of his labour. Many ninja have died to bring you this information. Canada is a dangerous and inhospitable place, after all.

M: JedwardRandy -- Magician Lord // 80

The first half of this review reads like a Promethean parody -- which it well might be (in fact, it might be a parody of my review of the same game) -- but the writer's (is that GUTS?) tack changes later on and it turns into a straight shooting, entertaining opinion piece.


N: Nightfire -- Night Fire // 87

Great review. I'm glad it didn't wear out its welcome as some reviews do on such limited material. The lack of research to open the review actually helps identify with the reader since we don't know (or care) about the specifics and history of this little science project; however, comparing the game later on with its contemporaries and seeing it for what it is with proper context was crucial and should be appluaded given how many idiot reviewers go back and review something old and make fun of it for... being old. You didn't do that, nor did you say, hey this was great for its time 10/10, which would be just as specious and intellectually dishonest. Well done.

E: OD -- Etrian Odyssey // 72

Rob's review is well written, and clearly well 'researched;' however, I found it a bit long on description and short on opinion -- it wasn't easy to tell until the end that it was a 'praise piece.' And even in closing, I'm not quite sold on what makes this a particularly special entry in the genre.

T: HonestGamer -- Titan's Tower // 88

Fantastic work from Jason. Solid intro, and great follow up paragraph where he ticks off plusses from the start by contrasting the game with the developer's other efforts -- a nice way to get those plusses in. The review was easy to read, described everything we needed to know and most importantly explained why the game is not really worth your time despite temptation from the low price tag.

Y: Lewis -- Yumi Nikki // 90

This is a fantastic piece of introspective writing from Lewis. I was engaged throughout. The issue is stated in his tagline: it's not really a review. That being said, it IS a review, and though these works should function well outside the confines of the contest, I didn't mind the fourth wall breaks here as much as I did in other reviews. I restrained my enthusiasm when providing a score given the 'gimmicky' approach, but the quality cannot be denied.

O: EmP -- Oxenfree // 91

This review is phenomenal. EmP has a way with words and that has never been so clear as with Oxenfree. In communicating any given thing, he says so much more than what is blandly on the page. This economy with words and evocativeness when paired together, make for the kind of musical writing I'd argue we should all strive to emulate. The only drawback, and it's fairly significant -- is that in the face of all the story description, and clearly the game is story driven--there's no exposition on game mechanics. What sort of game is this? Platformer? Point and click? I don't see that we're ever told.


For us. For them. For you.

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