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Forums > Contributor Zone > Alphabetolympics RESULTS!!! (finally)

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Author: Halon
Posted: November 26, 2008 (12:50 PM)
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I apologize for the tardiness; there was a confusion about the deadline with one of the judges.

Congrats to everyone who entered this thing and made it great. Turnout wasn’t as great as I was hoping but there were plenty of great reviews in this. Also special thanks to the judges, Janus, Jerec and Masters for their hard work.

Now on to the results!

# is for 3x3 Eyes by Timrod

JANUS: Are Japanese workers renowned for standing around absentmindedly?
My problem with this review is that I have absolutely no idea what's going on. I realise that this confusion is partly intentional because you also found the game baffling and the central argument for the 1/10 score is the inanity of the gameplay. 3X3 Eyes does seem completely incomprehensible to someone who has no knowledge of the anime series upon which it is based. On that level I'm convinced. However, I found the review itself hard to engage with for different reasons. As a reader there is nothing substantial to relate the writing to and as a result most of the humour was lost on me (if I knew for sure the genre I would be able to visualise the writing better). Most of the sentences are also fairly long (and punctuated with dashes), which works against comprehension when you're linking several random crazy examples. But you do get my sympathy for drawing the numbers. 49

JEREC: The intro seemed a little bitter at the contest, but fair enough. I'm not sure it belonged in the review itself, though. It makes sense now, but it's going to look pretty weird to anyone who happens to read your review any time after this. If that happens at all... But that's really my only negative comment about the review. It's a funny bash review. I liked how you called the Constipated Japanese guy CJ. I liked how you made fun of the weird and crappy stuff in the game without resorting to venomous attacks. 82

MASTERS: Funny intro for the purposes of the contest, but for a random reader coming across it, it would be extremely confusing and maybe off-putting. The jokes keep coming, but after awhile I got bogged down by them and wanted to picture the game, and couldn't. It also sounds like Timrod beat the game, but how did he manage that? What's the point of the game? I think the language PLUS subject matter barriers are too great for the review to be credible so we get wit in place of info. 48

A is for Alisia Dragoon by EmP

JANUS: The theme established at the start of this review (innocent Alisia in comparison to other idealised heroines) was fantastic, and I think it strikes right to the heart of the appeal this game has. There's something different about playing as a ordinary girl (albeit one blessed with extraordinary powers). I liked the way Emp opened with this thread then returned to it at the close, because it really emphasises this as a unique strength of the game. Emp does a good job of making Alisia Dragoon seem like a dramatic, thrill-a-minute experience with some typically vivid descriptions. For example: the zombie legionnaires that appear from the sky in emerald flashes. The lightning attack is also made to sound particularly impressive. So Emp succeeds in making me want to play Alisia Dragoon. The only things holding the review back are some awkward phrasing and over-long sentences: the "This helps when she's stalking beneath..." line, for example. Sometimes this makes the review hard to follow, but otherwise this was an strong, entertaining effort. 92

JEREC: This could have read like any of the other hundred reviews I've read for Genesis action game, but it didn't. I enjoyed how you talked about the character, because not only did it make the review interesting to read, it actually made me interested in the game. Well, not interested enough to actually go and play it, but that's due to my own lack of time or motivation. But if I were to poke through my list of Genesis roms, I'd give this a go. The only issue I had with this review is that a few sentences here were much too long - divided up with far too many commas that they got a little difficult to follow. Also, you typo'd the game's name in the intro. 88

MASTERS: If there's one thing Emp can do, it's great intros. I like the girl hook, but the following two paragraphs feel a bit overwritten. The review concludes nicely with the girl theme coming full circle, and the thing is well written as Emp reviews always are, but I felt it was lacking in analysis. We get the 'show, don't tell' type of reviewing where a nice picture is painted, but not enough emphasis as to how the goodness of the picture impacted the reviewer. 86

B is for Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts by Suskie

JANUS: This was a fantastic review. Two things impressed me about it -- actually, make that three things. Firstly, the structure was faultless. Every time I had a question in my head Suskie answered it in the very next paragraph, and the fact that I had these questions show how effective the review is at enticing the reader in and making them WANT to read more about the game. So when learning about the limitless possibilities for construction I was thinking "OK, this sounds great, but what purpose do they serve?" Suskie answered this in the next couple of paragraphs, and the fact that he did it in this order made the main selling point (the construction) the dominant theme. My second point is that the writing was impeccable. Suskie adopted this sort of "post 3D-platformer" tone, judging Nuts & Bolts as a new game for the mini-game age, but at the same time allowed a sense of nostalgia to creep in during the intro and conclusion. I thought this was a superb way to handle a game that tries to resurrect Banjo and Kazooie because it made it feel relevant and fresh and not a tired cash-in. I forgot my third point, but oh well. Excellent review. 97

JEREC: I was looking forward to this review, and I'm glad you were able to get it done. This is one of those new games I'm interested in, but I still have second thoughts. Until now, I had no idea what to expect of the game, but you've answered a whole lot of questions for me with this review. Like, how did it compare to the first two? I realise now that they're taking the series in a different direction, and you do make it sound like a good thing. I was worried that this whole game was just a gimmick, but... it sounds fun. The review itself is perhaps a little long and wordy, especially in the first few paragraphs. But it picks up later, and there's that bit where you talk about trying your flying chair in a situation. You know what this review feels like? It's like I'm sitting next to you while you're playing this and showing me all the cool stuff you can do. Not many reviews can really do that effectively, but you pull it off here quite well. 90

MASTERS: Things start off dry, but the Mario throwing parties joke turns it around in a hurry. The second paragraph, I don't 'get' at all.
In fact, the continuing "LOG" thing completely escapes me. As I read, I got the impression that I might appreciate the review more if I had any experience at all with the series. It's written well as always, but it goes on a bit long, and feels a bit more like a blog entry than a review. 68

C is for XLA) target=new>Castle Crashers by DoI

JANUS: The introduction was spot-on: there really are so many internet based time-wasters these days. I like the way you relate Castle Crashers to this movement, which I think is fairly emblematic of most independent XLA games in that they take simple genres like the beat-'em-up and cram them with wacky ideas. I thought this review was strongest when it was covering this craziness. I actually would have enjoyed hearing more about this because it allows you to convey your enthusiasm and makes Castle Crashers sound like a game with tons of personality. Discussion of the intensity and creativity of the enemies and settings made the game sound great fun, and the fights over the princess sound hilarious. However, I'm not convinced about the depth. Or rather, I think that while there may be depth, it's not exactly the sort of longevity that is unique. Different elemental powers and combos have been a beat-'em-up staple since time began, and so in this respect Castle Crashers doesn't really seem to differ from the flash tradition of using unoriginal formulas. Still, this was an enjoyable read and I liked the way you used short sentences at the beginning of paragraphs to hone in on your point, with the most amusing example being "Pretty much everything in Castle Crashers hates you". 80

JEREC: Short, to the point, and sadly, kinda boring. I never really got into this review, just sort of reading along with half my mind paying attention. I wasn't distracted by anything, I don't think. I can see what you're saying about this game, about its art style and masses of enemies... and something about flash games and then this game not being a flash game. What this review lacks, I think, is why it's fun. You tell me it's fun, and I'll have a good time, but I'm not convinced. 70

MASTERS: An excellent intro transitions into the incredibly smoothly written meat of this review before Dragoon loses steam, giving way to a bit of redundancy and decidely less style. It's a review of a simple game, and it's a short review, so the issues with prose quality tend to stand out more. 78

E is for Exile by Sho

JANUS: Sho wins the award for opening line of the competition. As always, the writing is superb and the analysis is succinct and insightful. In a ROM-happy competition such as this, sho's knowledge of Working Designs and the previous exploits of Sadler give him an authority and authenticity that a writer can lack if they randomly pick a 16-bit game to review. Something feels missing, though. Maybe it's the subject material, which sounds fairly ordinary outside its few quirks, but this seems about as close to a cookie-cutter sho review as you're likely to get. There's something about the plot-humour-one paragraph of gameplay criticism structure that feels uninspired, particularly when compared to Suskie's beautifully organised review. Nevertheless, sho's writing, knowledge and commentary are still strong. 82

JEREC: A lot of time is spend talking about the outrageous things the main character does, and the setting, but aside from a small bit about how simple the game is, I don't know much beyond that it's an action RPG. Oh, and something about level grinding. I suppose I can't complain, since the game is supposedly simple. And I did like the comment about the Virtual Console. I can't see something like this on a Nintendo console, and it would be awesome if it managed to sneak under the radar. A decent, short review. 83

MASTERS: This review is ridiculously well-written. It's the perfect length, it is relentlessly paced, and it informs in a knowing yet irreverent fashion. There are no missteps here. Of course, I'd have applauded the game based on the author's use of the word "eldritch" alone. Brilliant. 93

G is for Guilty Gear 2 by Pickhut

JANUS: The MegaMan joke was funny because I didn't think you were going to be funny. If that makes sense.... Anyway, this was a good review. Overture is explained thoroughly and your judgments are clear and well-supported. I didn't expect anything else, and maybe that's an issue in itself. Although good, this is entirely what I expect from a pickhut review and maybe a contest is a time to confound these expectations and attempt something different (even if it doesn't work)? I think I'm probably going to reiterate some of the things Leroux mentioned about your Gears of War 2 review, too. My main issue with this review is that any sense of thematic progression is abandoned just over half way through and you rush through settings, story and online play in a very strict and dull manner. The result is that the ending of the review is plain and forgettable. So I think in terms of organisation you could have held the review together better, especially given that the first half actually does a good job of linking different points in a structured way. In other words, good review, but room for improvement. 83

JEREC: I kinda lost the plot about half way through this review, when at one moment, the game was like a brawler based on a fighting game series, and then there's capture ghosts and masterghosts and units and it seemed like out of nowhere I was reading about a completely different game. But then I re-read it and saw the transition I somehow missed the first time (often, when I get bored, I find I read on auto-pilot, so when something snaps me back to attention like this... I get confused). Okay, so once I got back on track, I realised that it was sounding very complicated and not very fun, and perhaps that works in your favour, because I can see the 6/10 score. In a round-about way, the review manages to get its point across. I just found it really boring and confusing. Much like this game seems to be. 60

MASTERS: Pickhut makes me laugh right away with the Megaman bit and the bit about getting the game as soon as it comes out. He keeps things conversational and flowing for most of the review (which seems longer than his usual works). The issue as I see it, is that the 'how' of the gameplay isn't properly tied to the 'how good is it'. I am informed in an entertaining way up until the end when I see the score, and am truly at a loss as to why the game received it. 72

H is for Half-Life 2 by Lewis

JANUS: This is exactly what I mean about a contest being the place to experiment and attempt something different (see comments on pickhut's review). My initial impressions were OH NO NOT HALFLIFE 2, but the greatest achievement of this review is that it manages to feel fresh and unique even in the ocean of Half-Life 2 praise. This is mainly down to the writing, which is wonderful. Half-Life 2 is described in extremely succinct, very visual chunks that take you right back into the game (if you've played it) or entice you into Gordon Freeman's world (if you haven't). It doesn't say anything particularly new, but then when you aren't breaking new ground the key is in finding little things that people have forgotten. This is why the description of the hillside village is especially striking. The writing is so strong and the examples offer such a thrilling and engaging account of Half-Life 2's appeal that the repetition of "imagine" was never an issue. The only minor blemish was the cringe-worthy paragraph on Alyx, but otherwise this was brilliant. 96

JEREC: One of those reviews, huh? Oh, very lovely writing, full of dichotomy, imagery, and a whole lot of pretentiousness that doesn't really tell me anything. I haven't played Half Life 2, and I don't know much about it. I don't feel like I know any more about the game, and it certainly doesn't make me want to play the game. Because I know what these reviews are like, I've seen too many of them try to evoke the mood of a game to a player that has no idea what you're on about. I inherently don't trust reviews like this, because they exaggarate, fabricate, and can be quite misleading. If I were to play this game, would it be anything at all like you've tried to get me to imagine? I don't know. You get 30 points for good writing, but as a review, this doesn't work. 30

MASTERS: This is an ambitious effort which is mostly successful. I was blown away for the opening few paragraphs, before the uniformity of the approach started to wear on me, and the line "Your reputation precedes you..." is rather jarring after every sentence prior began with "imagine". Towards the end, the 'imagines' are interspersed with some insights sans-gimmick, and I think the review could benefit from that happening earlier on. Still, it doesn't get much better than this. 88

J is for Jim Power by Wolfqueen

JANUS: I was about to give you 99 until you mocked the mighty GENESIS GUITAR! This was a difficult review to judge. One the one hand, it was an entertaining read, explored the game's levels fully, and delivered a convincing assessment of its main faults (repetition and difficulty). In some of the reviews I have read so far it has taken a while to establish the style and genre of the game, but here the descriptions create a very vivid picture of Jim Power right from the very first sentence. The result is that the review is very engaging and easy to read. However, sometimes the writing is a little rough. Here's an example: "Its greatest variation lay between levels." This is a sudden change in tense and should really read "Its greatest variation lies between levels", but even then it isn't totally clear. "There's plenty of variety in the level design" is simpler (if that's what you mean). Also, the effort to be descriptive results in some over-worded sentences: hostile Roman-style legionnaires could be shortened to hostile Roman legions, for example. Still, I think you're clearly attempting to push your writing forward and make it more descriptive, analytical and entertaining. I would encourage all of these things, but make sure that you reread your reviews to identify what works and what doesn't work so you can improve your technical accuracy and expression. 81

JEREC: I enjoyed reading about the various ways you died. It sounds incredibly frustrating to me, and I'm impressed you stuck with it when there's so many other games out there to play. The cheating bit was good, and quite honest. Not many of us will admit to cheating in a game, but here I can completely understand why. It's a well written review, easy and enjoyable to read. I know enough about this game to avoid it, and you've convinced me it was bad. I did like the way the game got the last laugh, too. Serves you right for cheating. 90

MASTERS: Wolfqueen's review boasts solid prose, but has issues with flow. The intro makes the game sound good, which she doesn't think it is. The following paragraph which is supposed to be describing how frustrating the game is, doesn't quite make its point, because many of the examples of death cited could be chalked up to a shit player at the controls. Then suddenly we're told the game is boring which is a bit jarring. The review comes into its own later, but then has a somewhat confusing paragraph about laser blasts. The final two 'cheat' paragraphs are a good, funny read, but the review ends abruptly and unfairly on a note brought about by cheating. 70

L is for The Legend of Zelda by Sportsman

JANUS: My predicament with this review is that I like it, but I'm not sure I'm convinced by it. I'll begin with the things I like. I thought the measured, subtle tone of the writing was appropriate. It lacked enthusiasm and wouldn't suit every game, but here I felt it matched the gist of your argument, which is that the Legend of Zelda offers very pure and simple adventuring in the literal sense. I thought this approach was very refreshing, because dealing with the mythology of this title is a tired formula by now. It's almost as if you rediscover the charms of this game and judge it based on what it is, rather than the series that it's a part of. However, there were times when I just wasn't totally convinced by your arguments. My response to the opening paragraph is: see Oblivion. I think selling Zelda on this basis relies a lot on appreciating the historical perspective, given that a lot of games have moved towards freedom recently. Nevertheless, the puzzle angle is more persuasive, but even within this I have issues. Fighting eight enemies and a pillar doesn't sound especially exciting. You don't really express the intensity of this other than stating that it is intense (twice!), so some variation in the description would be good here to elevate Zelda beyond historical relic status. I did enjoy this review and, as I've said, the approach is takes was refreshing, but it doesn't really convince me of the 10/10. 80

JEREC: I was quite intrigued how you would approach a game like this... and I am glad that it was a short, honest piece which didn't talk glory about the Zelda franchise and how this was the start of it all. Instead, you just simply talk about what makes this one a true adventure, and describing the game as one huge puzzle has certainly made me look at the old game in a new way. I hadn't really thought of it like that. I found the game far too non-linear, and I never knew where I was supposed to go, but I think I was missing the point. As far as the review goes, it was a pretty gripping read until the conclusion, where it just seemed to be repeating lines from earlier in the review. I know repetition is a good way to sum up, but it felt tacked on here. 86

MASTERS: Sportsman writes a focused essay which implores the reader to agree with him that LoZ is THE adventure game, that its appeal has survived the years because it's OUR adventure and can be approached in any number of ways. I admire the way he rides his thesis, but there isn't enough showing here to go with the telling. I know the concept behind why he thinks Zelda is so great, but show me more of the sights and sounds and describe those intense later battles you mention so I can more easily believe this old relic is a ten. 76

M is for Mirror’s Edge by Zippdementia

JANUS: I agree completely with the introduction. I've lost count of the number of games that have looked promising in preview stage only to ruin my expectations on their release. I was impressed most by the level of analysis in this review. Your response to the dystopian environment, for example, was considered, accepting that it's rather sterile but explaining how this turns out to be a positive in the context of the game. In terms of criticism, this review was very thoughtful and interesting, especially when you analyse what makes a good platformer (and how this relates to Mirror's Edge). However, as a contest review, I didn't enjoy it as much as some of the others and I think this is because of the way it is structured. As an essay it lacks unity, and this detracts from the readability (couldn't think of a better word!). It almost works as four distinct sections: the summary-style intro which ends with the question, all the good points, then all the bad points, then the observations on the platform genre. So although the review is strong, it lacks coherence and flow. 84

JEREC: I've got no problem with lengthy reviews when they're as good as this one. Despite not having a PS3, I found this review incredibly interesting. I found myself wanting to know about this game, and how it did some things so well, and others not so well. I would think a first person platformer would not work, but here I'm convinced it does work. And there's lovely bits of writing that seem so simple, but say so much about the game. This line, for example, "In a game where the draw is soaring through the open air, there seems to be little to gain from clipping the player's wings." I can visualise this game, though I haven't seen a single screenshot or video. I can imagine what it's like to play this game. I can see why you'd like it, why you'd keep it, even with the flaws. This is a wonderful piece of persuasive writing. I'm glad you went with this over that Metal Gear Solid something review. 95

MASTERS: I love that this review is brimming with enthusiasm. The intro is engaging, if overly dramatic, and the review arrives at its score quite ideally. The only issues with the review are some grammatical quirks, and the transitions. More finesse moving from one topic and one paragraph to the next would elevate this review to rarer air. As it stands, still a solid piece. 85

O is for Out of this World by Darketernal

JANUS: I am a member of the DE fan-club but this review was just too baffling for me. I think creativity is a good thing, and as reviewers we should always use contests as an opportunity to produce unique and uncharacteristic efforts, but this review was just really, really confusing. I've read it about five times now and I'm still not sure I have a clue what is going on. The creative narrative is so dominant that I don't have any idea what Out of the World is about or what it's like to play. I don't really understand what makes it different. This sort of approach can work, but here the balance is skewed too much in favour of story-telling at the expense of reviewing. When being creative you still need to review the game, and this effort doesn't do that. 30

JEREC: I liked the third person perspective used here, both on your younger self, and the game's character. The review seemed overly negative, and I was surprised to see the 6, and the fact that your younger self seemed to like the game a lot, though it was obviously frustrating for him. Kinda reminds me of my gaming youth. I liked games like the Keen series (as you referenced it, it brought a grin to my face). They weren't great games, but we played them anyway. Stuff like that helped me identify with this review quite well, making it quite effective. 86

MASTERS: The review starts strong, but hits a rocky patch with the "Instead, what awaited..." paragraph. I like the theme of 'young boy held in rapt attention by frustrating game' and it mostly works, but later on you move away from it, substituting 'you' for the boy or Lester, which threw me. Also, I know you're working a 'gimmick', but to say "through a series of challenges" just makes me want more actual gameplay details, and I don't get it, so that's disappointing. Still, you've got an excellent ending here. One more thing: BEER? Really? 86

R is for Resistance 2 by True

JANUS: True is a good example of how much you can improve if you really work on your writing. Without wishing to sound cliched, this review takes the reader on a journey, with True guiding us through the memorable moments and experiences to be had in Resistance 2. This approach is fantastic because it's entertaining to read and allows True to express just how striking and awesome the game is. It helps that the writing is almost flawless, describing the game with grace, enthusiasm and conviction. I also liked the way you dismissed the inferior FPS games in the first paragraph because it gives you a basis to really persuade us that Resistance 2 is something special and unique. The accounts that you then use to illustrate the game's qualities are wonderful because they are vivid and descriptive but still show restraint. Take the "From edge to edge..." sentence. You create an incredibly powerful image using only one sentence, and I think the ability to be concise in such an elegant way is the mark of a great writer. The only blemishes are a couple of minor writing errors ("keep your peace", "isolate Antarctica", etc.) and the unintentionally ambiguous "war is brilliant and flawless" ending. 95

JEREC: You need to proof-read this. I don't mind a few errors, but some of them were quite jarring. Other than that, your love of this game shines through with every line. I could visualise what you were saying about the game (helped, I suppose, by the pictures to the right). If I played FPS's at all, and had a PS3, I'd feel compelled to give this game a go. Judging by the last lines in this review, I'm guessing that's what you were going for, so mission accomplished. Just proof-read the review, fix up a few silly little errors, and you'll have a fantastic, persuasive review that few could find fault with. 89

MASTERS: What does it mean that Hale is 'one-sided'? The paragraph immediately following could be less awkward and that would help make your point. That being said, you turn around and write a brilliant paragraph right after that, describing the magnitude of the game. The "I ran faster" one sentence paragraph is very strong -- and I found that an issue, because you follow it up with a description of another boss, where I thought you might expound on the running and what happened next. After that, it's all smooth sailing, but this doesn't smack of the caliber True normally achieves. 82

S is for The Sims 2 by Honestgamer

JANUS: I'll be honest and say that this review left me feeling a bit disappointed. I think there are generally two types of Venter reviews: ones where you are obviously interested in the title and let this enthusiasm come across in the description of the gameplay, and ones where you don't seem as excited by the concept but still deliver a very professional assessment of the game (an example off the top of my head would be your recent Cooking Mama review). This one, however, doesn't really fit into either category. The extended introduction is cute, but all it really tells me is that you don't really care for The Sims and that the person who should probably be writing this review is your wife. You need to review expansion packs from a position of authority because you have to assume your audience is going to very well informed. This review undermines this straight away by declaring that you only checked your wife's progress occasionally. This lack of familiarity with the game results in a review that feels like an extended press release. It therefore provides adequate information on the gameplay features, but fails to offer precise analysis of how Apartment Life works as an expansion pack. Magic, to take one example, is tossed in almost as an aside, without you really explaining how it works or what it adds to The Sims experience. I think that instead of reviewing this game by proxy it would have been more valuable had you just let your wife share her thoughts. 65

JEREC: This review was a mess. Reviewing expansions is tough, I know, but something like this, where it's just a bunch of new features... it's absolutely meaningless in a context like this. I'm not even sure a Sims player would need to read a review for this, just find a list of what's new and decide for themselves. But that's beside the point. This review starts off with an overly long anecdote on Mr. and Mrs. Venter's Sims experience, and at least you didn't line up in the store to get the game, or we'd be hearing about that, too. The rest of the review is just all over the place, really. As a non-Sims player, I can't make much sense of it. Doesn't mean a thing. It seemed like an interesting experiment, to review a game based on someone else's play experience, but... here it does not work. 25

MASTERS: I like Venter's intro. It's casual and relatable. The bit about "I do, after all, field press releases from HUNDREDS OF CONTACTS" is probably true, but sounds like braggadocio so it made me laugh. Anyway, I think you're missing a word in the "...EA cash cow..." line. And unfortunately, after the anecdote starring your wife began the review nicely, the back and forth with your young lady seems to go on for a bit too long in the following paragraphs. Also, I didn't expect a score of 8 after reading a mostly unenthusiastic and mostly negative account of an expansion pack that either doesn't offer much in the way of new material, or if it does, you don't recognize it. It's good writing, but it's dry, and I think apathy toward the subject matter is to blame. 74

U is for Ultima: Quest of the Avatar by Overdrive

JANUS: I was going to make a joke here about OD being the HG Mail Man in that he always deliv.... Anyway, I don't really have a whole lot to say about this entry. This is not a world-beater Overdrive review for me because it doesn't really do anything special or unique in the same way that Lewis or Suskie do, but even standard Overdrive is excellent. This review starts with the sort of opening sentence that makes you want to read on, then goes through the gameplay in a logical, insightful manner. I particularly liked the way you balanced up the positives and negatives -- so you started by discussing how Quest of the Avatar is unique, then addressed its flaws before ending on a higher note with your conclusion that the positives of the dungeon-crawling and the later stages of the adventure outweigh the faults. This is just sensible structuring. As someone who mentally groups NES RPGs into one big lump, your ability to differentiate between RPGs is also impressive. The point about talking to townsfolk being particularly relevant to this game is a good example of this. Having the knowledge to hone in on specific parts of Quest of the Avatar that matter to your target audience (like the manual) gives your writing credibility and authority. I expected this review to be good... and it was! 89

JEREC: This game sounds interesting. Mostly because it is, as you say, different from most other RPGs. I might've even wanted to play it, had my eyes not strayed to the right of the review where the screenshots were. Ick. I know what to expect from an Overdrive review, I've read so many of them by now, and I was not disappointed by this one. It flows perfectly. I never had to re-read a sentence. And most importantly, I felt like I was missing something by not playing this game. That is good writing. 94

MASTERS: I could find no fault with Rob's review. It has smooth transitions, no awkward word choices, makes sensible arguments and weighs pros and cons effortlessly. It also engaged me from start to finish, and I don't care for RPG's of any sort, least of all old school Ultima-types -- so to keep me reading was a feat in and of itself. There aren't many frills or big words bandied about to make this review any kind of Promethean drama 'piece', but who says that's what reviewing should be about anyway? 90

V is for Vigilante by Drella

JANUS: If OD is the HG RPG expert, then Drella has the beat-'em-up side of things covered. I think the difference between the two writers, though, is that I generally know what to expect from an Overdrive review, whereas a Drella review always manages to surprise me in terms of style and writing. This Vigilante review, for example, is hilarious in places, whether mocking the ludicrous story or ridiculing the limited gameplay ("one fucking bald guy", "dick punch", etc.). Stylistic techniques, such as the repetition of the "Skinheads have taken Madonna hostage" line, and the level of conviction and hostility in the writing make it a highly engaging read. You can't help but become absorbed by Drella's argument, especially given that the style is backed up by a core of extremely precise and detailed analysis. This review does not simply mock the game, it analyses exactly why the gameplay is broken (an example would be the bit about the limited options at your disposal for fighting enemies). The closing line was brilliant, too. I think a good comparison would be to true's review. That was a shining example of a convincing praise review, and this is an equally impressive example of a scathing yet justified bash review. 95

JEREC: This bash review was hilarious. I absolutely love the way you pick apart this game's premise. Skinheads with one bald guy. Madonna. Wow. "The Skinheads... have taken Madonna… hostage." Read like that with the appropriate pauses, I couldn't help but laugh out loud. It really looks like you had fun with this one, Drella. At first I thought this review was too silly, too over-the-top with ridiculue, but I can see it's entirely warranted. The conclusion packs a punch, too. 93

MASTERS: I am blinded by BOLD! Kidding. Drella's review drips personality and knowledge (and love) of his subject matter, so he's got one up on most of the reviewers in the contest from the start. It doesn't help other competitor's chances that this might be one of his best reviews, either. It's hilarious, and accomplishes what many of the other reviews in the competition did not, despite anything else they did well: it SHOWS how the game plays and proceeds to tear it apart in the process. Truly, this is the ideal bash review. Paint for me a picture of the mess we shouldn't be playing, and in so doing, convince me as to why I shouldn't be playing it. And who else uses imagery like this: "...a lopsided column of sticks and mud between two gleaming towers." Right, nobody. 96

W is for WAD by Bluberry

JANUS: I've seen videos of this "game". I hope the 3/10 is a joke. 0

JEREC: This is not a review. 0


X is for X-Kalibur by MYass

JANUS: There isn't much to say about this review, because there isn't much of it. I think your central point is a good one and I agree with it. Sometimes games can be so bland that if they were awful they would be more memorable. Unfortunately, I think a side effect of reviewing an unremarkable game is that this review is fairly unremarkable itself. I can't argue with you, but there isn't much here I can engage with. I was sort of confused by your observation that X-Kalibur 2097 is like a beat-'em-up but without the beating. In the next sentence you describe conventional beat-'em-up gameplay, so is X-Kalibur noticeably light on beat-'em-up action? Also, in the opening sentence you use the past tense form of "slink" even though we're in the future. These are minor things. There's nothing horribly wrong about this review. Maybe you could have delved into the gameplay more, but given that it's so ordinary perhaps there wouldn't have been much point? Ultimately, this review is solid yet unremarkable, but that's as much down to the game itself as anything else. 75

JEREC: X can be a tough letter to review for, and digging into a pile of old roms is sometimes the only way. What makes this game so fascinating to read about is how boring the game must have been to review. Nothing good, nothing bad. No huge problems, nothing really noteworthy at all to talk about. So you did the only sensible thing, you kept the review short, informative and readable. I was thinking this game seems so boring... must suck to have to review it, an I realised I was right when I got to this very good line, "X-Kaliber is neither offensive, enthralling, exciting, or disturbing. It simply is." 80

MASTERS: I like the snarky tone of this review -- reminds me of the work of a young Nick Evil. Sort of. MYASS certainly can write HISASS off. The issue I had was that MYASS tells us that the game is vanilla and does nothing to make itself stand out, immediately after describing just how amazingly singular (and retarded) many of its elements are in the first half of the review. Essentially, I'm reading: it's really, really WEIRD, but it doesn't stand out because it's the same as every other game in the genre. I know that's the point he's making--that IN SPITE of the weirdness it's still vanilla, but then what more could it have done to appear otherwise? Also, I know there's not much to the game, and you're illustrating it's just another sidescroller, but some gameplay description would have been nice. 65


1. Drella (284)
2. Overdrive (273)
3. EmP (266)
True (266)
5. Zipp (264)
6. Suskie (255)
7. Sho (250)
8. Sportsman (242)
9. Wolfqueen (241)
10. DoI (228)
11. MYass (220)
12. Pickhut (215)
13. Lewis (214)
14. Darketernal (202)
15. Timrod (179)
16. Honestgamer (164)
17. Bluberry (0)

If you catch any errors let me know ASAP. I added up the results pretty quickly so it is very possible I screwed up somewhere.


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Author: overdrive (Mod)
Posted: November 26, 2008 (01:12 PM)
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My congratualations to Drella for relegating me to the runner-up status for the second year, making this tournament my official albatross. I swear, if I ever win this thing, I'm taking a one-year sabbatical just to let it sink in. Think I have two second-place finishes, a third, a fourth and two fifths in it. At least I beat EmP this year.

And good work by the judges. It was well worth the wait for the critiques and NOT just because I got to make random posts proclaiming myself the winner due to delays.

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

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Author: drella
Posted: November 26, 2008 (01:12 PM)
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Author: wolfqueen001
Posted: November 26, 2008 (01:19 PM)
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Hah. Well, I'll take this as a going home present. I wanted to place 6-10 in this tourney, and I did. My other goal was to receive all 80s, which didn't quite make it, but Jerec's 90 complements Masters' 70, anyway, and marks my first 90 ever, which makes me very happy. Thanks! And I laughed my ass off when the game got the last laugh at me. The irony was so awesome, I really couldn't help it.

Congrats to drella, OD, and EmP/true for winning. I read all these reviews (except for OD's, sorry) and they were all really good, so this result isn't too surprising. Congrats to the other participants as well for showing up and making this more interesting than I thought it was going to be. And thnaks to the judges for taking time out of their lives to grade this thing.

Anway, onto a very long-winded response to my critique(s). Haha, Janus. I hope you were kidding about the guitar thing. =P I actually really liked the song in there, but it was the same one over and over again and it totally got really annoying after a while.

Anyway, that tense thing you pointed out was actually me getting lie/lay confused. I'd intended that to be in the present tense from the get-go... but I guess I still have those sorts of issues sometimes. I also still have a problem where I try to describe something as accurately as possible, and thus my writing may get confusing or stretched out to where concision would be necessary. With that "Roman-style legionnaires" thing, for example, I left it that way on purpose because the soldiers you're fighting aren't literally Roman soldiers, but just a mock up, but I guess saying they are wouldn't make much of a difference. I think things like that lead to many of the complaints in this review, and it's still something I need to work on.

Some of Masters' points are valid. I suppose I could have made that second paragraph sound more like the game's fault, and it's something I tried to do (and that EmP warned me against), but I guess I couldn't really do it. And I'll agree that the laser blasts thing may be a bit confusing, and looking at it now, I'm wondering why I put it in there in the first place since it really does seem kind of minor. I guess my point with it at the time was that I was trying to explain that you seemed to get powered down in some levels but powered up in others, and it's really stupid. However, the intro was meant to sound like praise so I could debunk it completely later, and the second paragraph was supposed to imply a frustration that leads to boredom, but I don't think I ever really say it's fun anywhere, except in the intentionally misleading intro. Though I will admit that it may be kind of jarring if my first two paragraphs failed their purpose for some people (or even just because I never expressly say the game's fun/boring any time before that).

Thanks for the feedback, though. I'm pleased enough with this. I did loads better than second-to-last like the last two times I entered this, which was really all I wanted to do.

[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: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: November 26, 2008 (01:22 PM)
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Thanks for the feedback on my review. It definitely was an experiment and one that didn't work as well as I hoped owing to my wife's complete and utter inability to critically dissect the game (or to justify the few thoughts she did have on... anything). If you think the review is light on details now, you should have seen her notes before I coaxed as much info out of her as I could!

This is one experiment that I don't intend to try again... Anything that I did right in the review felt like it was done right in spite of having my hands tied behind my back while a figurative blindfold blocked my vision and squeezed my brain.

I wish that I could have reviewed something else for the competition. My problem right now is that I have far too many games piling up--with a few of them being perfectly interesting titles that start with 'S'--and the deadline for this competition came two or three weeks too soon for me. I'll probably be reviewing Star Ocean: First Departure in the near future, for example. I expect a much better review to result from that, if only because I'm actually playing through every moment myself and framing my own discussion. I had hoped to review it for this comeptition, but it was simply not in the cards.

Anyway, I'm grateful for the analysis of the review (which I mostly agree with) and I apologize for inflicting such a failed experiment on all of you. Maybe we'll have another of these next year and I can bring my 'A' game. My 'S' game clearly didn't work. ;-)

"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: zippdementia
Posted: November 26, 2008 (01:31 PM)
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Wow! Just... wow! Great work by the judges! It's hard to review a review, and it was well worth the wait to get this constructive criticism! This has been really helpful, and I plan on using the feedback in my next review, for Valkyria Chronicles.

Let's do this contest again, it was an awesome idea all around!

And hey, 5th place ain't bad!

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

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Author: jerec
Posted: November 26, 2008 (01:45 PM)
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I like how Janus' critique of Darketernal's entry is pretty much identical to mine of Lewis. What works for some people doesn't work for everyone else, hmm.

I can avoid death by not having a life.

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Author: Lewis
Posted: November 26, 2008 (01:51 PM)
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My outside bet won! Where do I claim my money?

Well done to Drella and everyone. My piece got more praise than I was expecting, to be honest. Glad some people liked the approach; I'd imagine it's the sort of thing I'll look back at in years and cringe (the last being this horrifically horrible horror), but yeah. A complete experiment. Glad it struck a chord with a couple of you.

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Author: JANUS2
Posted: November 26, 2008 (02:02 PM)
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I think when reviews are as experimental as Lewis's and DE's they're always going to strike a chord with some readers AND put others off completely. That's just the way it is. Familiarity/interest in the game/genre usually help tip the balance one way or the other. The fact that I can remember the bits Lewis described from Half-Life 2 probably did help.

I enjoyed judging this. When's the next one!

"fuck yeah oblivion" - Jihad

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Author: darketernal
Posted: November 26, 2008 (02:09 PM)
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Thanks for taking the effort of judging.

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Author: pickhut
Posted: November 26, 2008 (02:52 PM)
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It's pretty interesting how each of the judges managed to nail the review in their own ways. It was longer than my usual reviews, since I wanted to see what it would be like to add a bunch more details than I do. Funny how it ended up being for a game were I actually had to describe the game in detail for readers to really get what it is. Though, in that attempt, I risked boring the reader, like jerec, by being too descriptive. Should have thrown in some RTS game comparisons to help a little, as well. And janus was right about the review feeling worn out halfway through, since that's how I actually felt when I wrote it.

Congrats to leroux on his win, and blu on his attempt at being a runner-up.

I head spaceshit noises.

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Author: EmP (Mod)
Posted: November 26, 2008 (02:57 PM)
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Mad congrats to Drella for getting his long-overdue alpha win. Equal congrats to OD who slew me this time -- the next chair-lift payment is on me, buddy.

Kudos to my boy True who shed his rust more than enough to justify more bullying into further reviewing in the near future.

This was a strong field this year, so I'm pleased with nabbing third for the second year running. My hat is off to everyone who showed; I don't recall any other tounrye where I've enjoyed every review I've read for it. Aside from Boo. But he's a constant dissapointment.

For us. For them. For you.

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Author: bluberry
Posted: November 26, 2008 (07:45 PM)
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I demand a recount.

Oh no, it's a Goomba!

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Author: jerec
Posted: November 26, 2008 (09:40 PM)
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Okay! 0 for Boo, 0 for Boo, 0 for Boo. That adds up to 0/300.

I can avoid death by not having a life.

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Author: True
Posted: November 29, 2008 (07:15 PM)
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Tied for third with EMP, beat out only by Drella and OD...

I'll take it.

My thanks to Jerec and Masters for judging what was at least a reasonable turn out, and for their well thought out critiques. And as well, Janus, for stepping up and making this a traditional contest by giving us three judges.

But come on, guys. You could have at least given Blue one or even two points. He has so little in life as it is.

If I Offended You, You Needed It.

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Author: WilltheGreat
Posted: January 20, 2009 (05:00 AM)
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but is this the first time a contestant in the Alphas has submitted a review and achieved a score of zero?

I think Boo deserves recognition for that at least. You know, sort of a "biggest loser" award.

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

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Author: wolfqueen001
Posted: January 20, 2009 (06:34 AM)
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...the "review" was just a sentence. It wasn't even accepted. He just "wrote" it as a joke.

[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: EmP (Mod)
Posted: January 20, 2009 (08:09 AM)
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Zero's still a higher score than Willers got.

For us. For them. For you.

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Author: WilltheGreat
Posted: January 20, 2009 (01:06 PM)
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Well, no, since a null-score is not a number. It'd be like saying that an old, beat-up, falling-apart car has better steering than a pinapple.

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

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Author: EmP (Mod)
Posted: January 20, 2009 (01:13 PM)
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It would. One is still clearly better than the other.

For us. For them. For you.

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Author: Masters (Mod)
Posted: January 20, 2009 (01:18 PM)
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Mmmmm... pineapple...

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

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