Title: Team Tournament Preview: Week 5!
Posted: July 24, 2009 (12:08 PM)
This week saw the sudden departure of Drella, our previous Swami of the previews. We wish him well in his troubles and wish for his quick return. Not one to let a grand tradition die, I've stepped up to the plate to take over his divination duties. It might not follow the same format (we all see the future in our own way) but it aspires to the same level of professionalism and random guessing.
Putting this together took me many hours, but it was a huge help to me in my own writing, getting to see a wide variety of reviews and forcing me to figure out why some of them work and why some don't. It's pushed me past my block on my coming review of Mytran Wars, which I should now have posted before the end of the weekend (though I think it's got embargo).
In any case, I definitely need to give a nod to Drella for doing this every week. I'll continue as long as he remains absent and I look forward to it at the same time that I acknowledge just how much work it is. Without Drella starting the trend, I never would've pushed myself to do it.
So you have my thanks.
The Frozen Fields of Creeping Death
Zigfried at Janus
Zigfried submits a review for Mid-Garts, a game I’ve heard tell of in old British gaming circles. The review has the usual Zig flair, but it seems a bit overblown, as have many of Zig’s reviews for this tournament. The transition from “I hate this game” to “this is great” is a difficult one and it effectively makes the review twice as long.
Janus has a chance here to blow Zig away with a short and precise review. Unfortunately, he takes a similarly lengthed approach in his review of Dead Rising. I like his focus on the crazed psychos of the game, but did he have to cover so many of them? By the time we’ve read the first two, we get the point: the guys are creepy in a classic horror way.
I think Zig wins out with a slightly more entertaining dissertation.
Randxian at Dreamer
Randxian’s review is a second draft, and it shows. The review is very polished, and has a nice balance going for it. Just as you’re beginning to feel tired of hearing about one aspect of the game, Randxian switches topics and you’re sated.
Dreamer, on the other hand, continues the tradition of Janus’ verbosity by delivering a lengthy Manhunt review. Actually, Dreamer’s review isn’t all that long, but it feels clunky. It has a very strong beginning and ending, but then it gets bogged down when it starts talking about mechanics. A point about the game forcing players to use stealth seems to take several paragraphs too many to state. This dampens the effect of finding out how bad the stealth controls are. Ultimately, I think this will cost him the win in favour of Randxian.
Felix at Disco
While I’m not a huge fan of Disco’s Mirror’s Edge review, it is short and spunky, and that gets props in any tournament. Overall, I don’t think people this tournament are being careful enough about the length of their reviews. Having been a judge in two tournaments, I can say that there reaches a point where you want to strangle anyone turning in something above a 1000 words and you want to hug anyone who turns in a 500 word review.
Felix’s review of some crazy Michael Jordan game may be longer, but it’s highly entertaining and packed with emotion. However, it’s also disappointingly sloppy. Some lines, especially early on, take multiple readings before they make sense. Like his last few reviews, Felix is doing the “highs and lows” versus “consistency."
This is a hard one to call. Felix's review definitely leaves you with more of an idea of what the game is actually like. Seeing as how this tournament has already had a Mirror's Edge review, I think the judges will be looking for something a bit more in depth from Disco and give the win to Felix.
Team prediction: Janus’ deathly creepers come close to choking the final vestiges of life out of Zigfried and his team, but ultimately the vines are put into deep freeze with a 3-0 loss.
Emp at Dagoss
Emp really needs to start reading his reviews before he submits them. Apparently he’s been failing to do this since at least 2008. This line in particular baffles me: “...that crap on you from the safety to the top of the screen.” Safety to the top of the screen? Aside from this, though, EmP writes some damn good reviews. His approach to the game is refreshing, taking us one at a time through all the levels the game has in order to show us just how little it really has to offer... except in the way of pain.
Dagoss, on the other hand, turns in Never Winter Nights 2, a review that is about as entertaining as the game itself and has about as many bugs (such as a list near the end that does Dagoss no favours). I chuckled a bit at his introduction, once I discovered what he was doing, but then I quickly fell back into apathy as the rest of the review took its sweet time making any points. In the Team Tournament, one thing that has come out quite clearly from the judges is that they like reviews to get around to the point. If the judges are at all consistent, they’ll take one look at this and give a unanimous 3-0 in favour of EmP.
Dark Eternal at Wolfqueen
Again, I don’t think the value of brevity can be stressed enough in a tournament where the judges have to read 24 reviews a week for 11 weeks. That said, there is such a thing as cutting yourself too short, and I think Dark Eternal crosses that line with his Loom review. Just as you’re beginning to get interested in what he’s talking about, the review is over... much like the game he’s describing.
On his heels is Wolf Queen, who annoyingly beat me last week with a particularly cunning review that she was obviously given by the devil himself. Her review this week is much less cunning (though it ironically does have a screenshot involving “Natural Blonde Killer...” perhaps a secret message to EmP?). Compared with last week’s enthusiasm, the Getaway seems tired.
Dark Eternal’s review may have felt cut short, but it had a lot of emotion behind it, and in such a pairing I think that will nab him his first win of the season.
Dragoon of Infinity at Golden Vortex
Dragoon’s come out fairly strong this year, and he continues that trend with a review of Bubble Bobble that is as endearing and cute as the game itself. While it could have used a good once-over for grammatical consistency and maybe a “read-out-loud” to fix some tough sentences, it’s a fun review to read, and it does two things the TT judges like: it’s got emotion and it’s got style.
Golden Vortex, on the other hand, does two things the judges hate: it’s long and it takes forever to get to the point. By now I’ve discovered, in my own writing, that lengthy introductions never do a review any favours. It’s much better to leap head first into criticism or praise or to at least talk about something from the actual game. Beginning with a history lesson is cliché and, more importantly, fairly uninteresting. I think the judges will agree.
Team prediction: It turns out that wolves, whirlpools, and dudes named Dave, while all individually cool, don’t do much for each other when thrown into the same room with a bunch of natural born killers. EmP’s regularly-born assassins go home with a jar of water, a pelt, and a dude named Dave’s scalp for a 3-0 win.
Team Verbose Eloquence slaughters Boo. Next.
The Enigmatic Vagina
Belisarios at Suskie
Belisarios’ beastly review isn’t BAD, per se, but it feels unpolished. The conversational tone would be nice except that it doesn’t really contribute anything of import to our knowledge of the game, making this feel more like “an evening with Belisarios.” Not an evening poorly spent, but not what we paid for, either.
Suskie is the golden child of Honest Gamers, it seems. I have to admit to being a little peeved at not even getting off a single hit against him in our last bout. He’s certainly found his stride lately. Homeworld is a review that captures the feel of the game without needing to go into boring technicalities like controls. Usually such a review would leave one feeling like they know nothing about how the game plays, but that isn’t the case here. Indeed, if I had to pick a metaphor for this review, it would be the quiet infinity of space, punctuated by the occasional laser shot and exploding ship. There’s a certain peaceful quality to this review that is countered by a sharing of Suskie’s pain when he describes losing a ship and his nervousness when he describes a claustrophobic space fight.
No, Suskie isn’t losing his crown this week, no matter Bel's enthusiasm to fight him.
Overdrive at True
Another thing that can’t be over valued in this tournament: new material. it’s the wave Suskie’s team has ridden to success, and Overdrive is coming at them with the same strategy. His review of Challenge of the Dragon is entertaining and well written and takes an interesting approach as it focuses on a gaming system as its overall through-line.
True answers OD with a new review of his own, an absolutely fabulous review of some terrible viking game. Those words should never be allowed to go together (“terrible” and “viking game,” not “True” and “Fabulous”) and True is on that point like a whore on... well, nevermind that. This is an engaging, funny, review that nicely counters OD’s excellent effort. If I had to pick one between OD and True, I’d have to say True’s is a little funnier, a little flashier, and packs a little more oomph into its 1000n or so words.
Venter at Schultz
If one word describes Venter, it’s consistency. His reviews are never quite on the level of a Suskie or a Zigfried at their best, yet he never fails to deliver a solid review with no mistakes and no fooling around. And he’s got 500 of them. He easily earns his title as the creator of Honest Gamers. I would actually label him an under-acknowledged dark knight of this tournament, as he’s come out strong and stayed so, defeating his opponents, for the most part, with ease. As for this review? It's consistent with what I've just said. What else did you expect?
The only way to take down a Venter review is to do something unexpected. Schultz’s review of Decathlon chooses an unexpected title, at least, and it has some cool approaches to the game, really creating the atmosphere of child hood. He’s also gone in and changed the review quite a bit since my earlier critique of it, which is always nice to see. Other than this, it’s as proficient as Venter’s but not as long.
I’m not sure how that’s going to translate for the judges. Seeing as how Venter’s been doing so well, it would be a weak bet for me to go against another win for him, so I tip the hat to Aschultz for effort and give Venter the predicted win.
Team Prediction: Despite a strong effort, it is once again proved that nothing can stand against the power of vagina. 2-1 in favour of Suskie.
The Verbose Ascendent
“Yeah, but really,” you say. And I acquiesce.
Will at Blueberry
I’m not really sure what to think of this randomly chosen Will review. It doesn’t really cover much about the game. I understand it’s a review of an expansion, and I’m thankful Will didn’t go over all the myriad mechanics of Supreme Commander AGAIN (because honestly... who is going to read this except people who own the main game?) but ultimately he says little that you couldn’t get from reading the back of the box. So the game has a bunch of new scenarios... are they any fun?
Blueberry’s Gun Valkyrie gives us what Will’s review lacks... examples. From the start, Blueberry describes not the game from a macro level, but rather individual experiences from a micro level. This is almost always a no-fail approach in reviewing. He takes it a step further by playing with our expectations, turning a review of a bad game into a review of an excellent game and taking us along smoothly for both parts of the ride. I really enjoyed this review and I think the judges will, too.
Zipp at Woodhouse
Last week I tried out one of my new reviews, Steambot, and it met with less-than-desirable results from the judges. After reviewing their comments and my wins earlier in the tournament, I’ve come to the conclusion that I write my best reviews when I’m focused on getting across the general experience of a game with a few key examples rather than trying to cover every aspect of it. On looking over this week’s review of Sacred 2, I can see a couple paragraphs I would probably take out now (the horse paragraph, for example), but while the review might not be as concise as I’d like it, I think Vulcity’s boring journey through the world of Ancaria makes an ironically entertaining read.
Woodhouse seeks to up this journey with a recounting of his experiences with some strange Japanese game. I think what will lose Woodhouse this week’s match is that he doesn’t delve very deeply into his game. He gives a good overview of what the game’s about, but never do we get that feeling that we’re actually playing it, nor do we come away with the feeling that this game is as enthralling as he insists it is.
Sashanan at Espiga
Sashanan comes at Espiga with a particularly engaging review of Mean Beanz. Sashanan picks a good approach for this review, from the start asserting that this is a game which is hard to put down no matter its flaws. This leads to a wonderfully funny ending for each paragraph, where we’re still playing Mighty Beanz. If there’s one problem with this review, it’s the blockiness of the paragraphs, with most of them reading with a fairly formulaic pacing that rarely gets broken up.
Espiga’s look at Two Worlds is much more free form, though it doesn’t explore it’s game in near as much depth... strange, because it’s not much smaller than Sashanan’s review. Still, it’s got great style and a compelling flow. This is gonna be a tough one to call. I’m gonna guess that Sportsman likes Sashanan’s review, but that Lewis and Jerec give the win to Espiga.
Team Prediction: Though still eloquent, Will’s team is a little too verbose and loses out to the much less attractive Blueberry. I can only hope I’m wrong.
Some random statistics!
Easiest match to call: Will vs Blueberry
Toughest match to call: Overdrive vs True
Personal Favourite review: Blueberry’s Gun Valkyrie
Least Favourite review: Dagoss’ Neverwinter Nights 2
Overall prediction for the play-offs:
At this point it all really depends on Team EmP’s performance. We know Suskie, Blueberry, and Overdrive are all going to the playoffs. There are a lot of teams at the 1-3 level this year, and for any of them to have a shot at the playoffs, EmP has to lose this match.
However, as I’ve predicted a straight ticket win for them, I don’t think we’re gonna see any change in the finals line up. There could be an interesting battle in the lower ranks, though, to see who gets the 5th position on the charts. Anyone want to lay bets?
Posted: July 24, 2009 (12:13 PM)
I only mentioned two psychopaths.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (12:22 PM)
I consider pretty much everyone in Dead Rising to be a psychopath, so I counted all the NPCs you expound upon. It's more a point about the way you go about discussing them than the actual number, but let me take a second (fourth?) look at it when I get home from rock climbing.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (12:50 PM)
What screenshot? None of the screens I subbed for that game have anyone with blond hair.
Unless you were somehow referring to EmP's review. But I don't think his do either.
But meh. That review won RotW, so there. I honestly highly doubt we'll win this match regardless of whether mine wins or loses. EmP's nightmare Circus review is really, really good.
On that note, I've been editing for him since 2008, so every time something gets missed, I feel like a failure. Thanks a lot. Haha.
Anyway, you have a huge html error about halfway through the post. It's like you messed up a hyperlink somewhere.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (01:41 PM)
Please! Given that I restate the game's name at the end of every paragraph, you could at least get it right.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (02:11 PM)
I vote for Sashanan to lose 4 to -1 on principle, because he reminded me of the slough and horror that is Mighty Beanz.
Never mind that I enjoyed the original review. Never mind it looks like he touched it up since then. Never mind that I don't have the
Oh BTW, great predictions especially on such short notice--and with reviews of your own, probably, to write/modify. And thanks for the pointers on my review. I'd have gone with a more vanilla review otherwise, and I really didn't want to do that to the judges--or my team.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (02:24 PM)
I'm intentionally reading the Zigfried Janus matchup last. It's fairly well knows that Zig's review is one of my favorites on the site but I've read it a lot so does it stay interesting? I haven't read Janus' yet but it looks really good so this will be interesting.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (02:43 PM)
@ Wolfqueen: the screenshots that come with the game's page. Check em out. See the truck? It's eerie.
@ Sashanan: Well, that's what I get for writing at 1:00 in the morning. Nonetheless, my prediction stands firm. Which, in this case, was a very unsure win for Espiga (but I'm rooting for you, I think you deserve it with this one).
Posted: July 24, 2009 (02:51 PM)
I freely admit that that is probably the worst review I've written in a long time. Curse you, sadorandomizer!
Posted: July 24, 2009 (03:07 PM)
It could actually be a boon in disguise. If both me and Sashanan win our matches, then yours was a throwaway, a waste of a mediocre review and little else. We just have to hope Sash can pull ahead of Espiga.
If so, we won't be looking TOO bad. 2-3, and I'm fairly certain we can win our next two matches if we pick good reviews and match ups. 4-3 isn't the best record, but it's respectable.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (03:42 PM)
4-3 and you probably get into the playoffs easily. You still control your own destiny. My latest blog post has the gory details. However, time spent worrying too much about them would probably be better spent spinning out new reviews or polishing old ones.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (03:57 PM)
I was going to be that "someone" to take Drella's swami spot, but I'm glad you did this Zip, seeing as I'm at an airport right now. Fix the html burp and this'll be a pretty cool preview, largely because you predict my team winning, which is right.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (04:08 PM)
Thank you, Felix. I think I already caught the HTML burp. It was the Manhunt one, right? I found that this morning. If there's another one, let me know, please.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (04:34 PM)
I guess it's just the browser I'm on, because half this preview looks like one big hyperlink to me, but it souns like my issue is unique to me. Oy vey.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (04:37 PM)
For me there is a runaway hyperlink that starts in this paragraph:
Golden Vortex, on the other hand, does two things the judges hate: it’s long and it takes forever to get to the point. By now I’ve discovered, in my own writing, that
(right after that text)
Posted: July 24, 2009 (04:44 PM)
Well, there it is then.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (05:03 PM)
Strange. For me I see none of that. I've redone the code just in case that fixes things, please let me know, and thanks for pointing it out.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (05:11 PM)
Posted: July 24, 2009 (05:36 PM)
I'm pleased you think highly of my review. To be honest, I think Radical Dreamer did a nice job with his as well. I really expect this match to be close.
I'm just happy you think my review looks like a second draft and is therefore showing improvement. Good to know I'm moving forward, even if I don't win this match.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (05:37 PM)
I'm looking forward to reading this when I finish judging this round. Don't want to let myself be influenced. Oh no no no.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (06:32 PM)
Your point about "remaining interesting" is exactly why I used MID-GARTS instead of the other one. You know which one ;)
I certainly hope it's still entertaining, although if you've read it 100 times or something crazy like that... well, that means you've read it more than me, so I guess that's good in its own way =P
Thanks for putting this together. If I stay in this tourney long enough, you're likely to see something shorter and more precise from me. Perhaps even for a game that people would not expect to see reviewed in such a way, least of all by me. ;)
But for a lot of games (especially unknown ones) I think a more complete approach makes for a better review... even if it doesn't lead to a win. Still, I usually try to stay around 10 paragraphs, although this one is a bit over.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (08:47 PM)
Zig: Probably haven't read it too many times (most likely single digits, actually) but know it well enough so it won't surprise me in any way. That doesn't mean it won't hold up or anything. And if the other review is what I'm thinking of this is by far the better choice. ;)
If one word describes Venter, it’s consistency.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (10:44 PM)
glad you enjoyed my GunValkyrie review. I think it's one of my favorites I've written, I'm trying not to use stuff from old TTs but for this week I decided to go with one that people had at least probably forgotten about. it was either this or Breakdown, which I almost chose cause it needed less work.
Posted: July 24, 2009 (11:39 PM)
For my part, if my pick causes anyone ELSE than ASchultz to try out and be scarred by Mighty Beanz, my work is done. What do I care about points? :P
Posted: July 25, 2009 (12:05 AM)
Nice preview, very thoughtful and detailed. Thanks for taking up the responsibilities. It looks like you're doing a good job of not letting a lot of personal bias sway your predictions. That's one of the main reasons I didn't want to do these previews, the other being that I just don't have the energy to read all of those reviews.
And based on your comments, it seems like my Homeworld captured exactly the tone I wanted it to. Consider this a late thank-you for the feedback topic you started, which I just realized I never responded to.
Posted: July 25, 2009 (12:21 AM)
That's a whole new meaning to playing spoiler there, Sashanan!
Posted: July 25, 2009 (03:25 AM)
Suskie: consider it considered!
Posted: July 26, 2009 (06:39 AM)
"I’m gonna guess that Sportsman likes Sashanan’s review, but that Lewis and Jerec give the win to Espiga."
Wrong wrong wrong.
Posted: July 26, 2009 (05:21 PM)
And glad I was to be wrong wrong wrong.