Bad Reviews

As a writer about video games, I’m obligated to look at the works of others in my field. And they are found wanting. I never get tired of pointing out how corrupt and worthless the mainstream video game sites are. The most obvious example of this is Jeff Gerstman (Formerly of Gamespot, now working for GiantBomb, now enslaved to his former masters ), who got fired for giving a 6 out of 10 to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men (Which by all means is awfully generous) while ads for Kane & Lynch: Dead Men sandwiched his review.

THE GREATEST GAME EVER MADE. A TRULY PROFOUND AND MEANINGFUL LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE. IF YOU DIDN’T CRY AT THE ENDING WHEN SPIKE DIES YOU HAVE NO SOUL.

Here’s a mediocre review plagued with an opening paragraph so unbelievably pretentious that I could barely stand to read any farther. The rest of the review could contain Skittle rainbows shooting out of a leprechaun’s buttocks but I will never know because I’m not reading it seriously. Here’s a better one, and it is better because the author describes the actual game in detail. If the review has any flaws, it would be that it offers no explanation of the original SNES game; it assumes that readers are already familiar with the game. This isn’t such a bad thing if you take into account that reviews of the original are readily available, but a review of a port should cover those bases.

This is another good one. Despite being a review for a boring soulless cash cow franchise like Naruto, the author puts more effort into examining the game’s mechanics in a few short paragraphs than any no-content quasi-philosophic art-game review from the likes of any of the drooling imbeciles from Kotaku .

THIS IS WHAT NARUTARDS ACTUALLY BELIEVE

Oh hey, a competent-but-unnecessary review of First/Third Person Tactical Cardboard Cutout Highly-Polished Boredom Action Ops #665225727984 . If you spend $60 plus tax on that game instead of waiting a few months for it to fall into the bargain bin , I have some real estate on Mars to sell you. Let’s move on to something else.

This slew of reviews is noteworthy for several reasons. The first entry, for a NES nostalgia-fest named Abobo’s Big Adventure , accurately portrays the experience of having played the game without the reader having to actually play it. I think the score is too low (Especially compared to a rancid, smoldering turd like Retro Game Challenge ) but the overall sentiment is precise and succinct: The game is fun because it openly copies from other games that are fun.

Your next challenge is to flush this game where it belongs within 30 seconds. Go!

But then they turn around and give an A to The Ocean Around Me , a boring, fun-hating “art game” that was made in MSPaint in fifteen minutes simply because it has a supposed “message”. Yes, those scare quotes are intentional; the game is a worthless endeavor that no one should seriously enjoy but the AV Club writers love it because they are caught in the Very Important Indie Game Message mindset that tells them that an objectively poor game full of bugs is actually a good game if it has some vague meaning about loneliness or childhood or whatever. This is not an acceptable attitude.

The Onion AV Club , one of my very favorite places on the internet, recently turned its gaming division into a separate site . Gameological society offers daily updates of articles, reviews and interviews rather than mindless celebrity gossip and speculation like many other gaming sites. I find them to be generally average and therefore disappointing. This article is about two similar games separated by a decade, which in video game terms is a lifetime of technological progression. I wish the author had gone into more detail about games inspired by 1986’s Defender of the Crown and whether or not they improved on its basic framework.

Out of This World was phenomenal and I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise.

Look at this crap.

Out of This World was ahead of its time in 1991, and it is still ahead of not-its time in 2008. One might call it an art film of a videogame. This wouldn’t be a wrong description so much as a lazy one. It’s more of a silent film of a videogame. Or, better than that, it is a videogame of a videogame.”

That is just awful writing that does not get any meaning across. That and Action Button’s black-and-white-and-blocky filter deliberately ruins the images of any game they’re presenting. Yet many of his other points are true: Out of This World ’s lack of cumbersome inventory or on-screen HUD are points in its favor; they result in a more streamlined and immersive experience that portray the bleak atmosphere of Eric Chahi’s genius.

GameFAQs is notorious for its very useful guides contrasted by moronic reviews and sub-idiotic message boards. Kid Icarus: Uprising is worth waiting 25 years despite the reviewer not mentioning what makes the game fun to play? X-Men: The Arcade Game deserves a 10/10 for story ? Tetris is good because it has drama ? LOL. This review of an extremely obscure 1997 JRPG is the only review on GameFAQs I recall ever enjoying.

I have no faith that game reviewers will get their act together and start practicing a level of professionalism seen in all other media. And I don’t think I’m even good enough to make up for the gaping abyss of quality in games journalism, let alone writers superior to me such as the pretty good Yahtzee and the staggering genius Seanbaby . I want to see people who actually talk about the game and what it’s like to play it rather than arty artsy art art AHHHHHT . The industry is doomed unless it gets hundreds of great writers, pronto.

But I could never hate you, Sean-sama~~~~~

About Lee

Lee Laughead writes stuff about video games. Read his Twitter at https://twitter.com/Mesarphelous even though Twitter sucks.
Ramblings, Video Gaming

2 comments


  1. Couple things to get out of the way before I move on to the meat of this comment:

    – I’ve recently started reading the Gameological Society, and I have to say, I’m really positively impressed by a lot of their segments. They seem to put a lot more effort into digging out interesting games for their Sawbuck Gamer bits-there’s a lot of stuff that’s been featured there which hasn’t come across any of my other ‘obscure-game’ type feeds.

    – In a way, I’d argue that it’s unfair picking on GameFAQs reviews in this context- remember that GameFAQs reviews are user-submitted and there’s little-to-no quality control on them. If 90% of your reviews are generated by 14-year-olds working clandestinely on their middle school library computers, then yes, the overall quality level is probably not going to be that high.

    That being said, in general- I think video game reviewing is still kind of struggling to find its’ voice. It’s a relatively young field compared to a lot of varieties of review, and we- as in the game writing community- are still kind of finding and developing the vocabulary that we need.

    Writing what a game is like is great, but I could write bulleted lists about what a given game has or doesn’t have- but that’s boring, and doesn’t really take into account what works in a given game and what doesn’t or whether the whole is greater or less than the sum of its’ parts. Writing about one’s own personal experience with the game- whether you liked it and why- is great for blogs, but that’s not the sort of thing that flies in ‘professional’ reviews of any stripe. Compounding the problem is that people often don’t understand or can’t articulate why they liked a given thing or not.

    I tend to feel that most modern reviewers are ones that can do the latter eloquently, either keeping the first-person to the minimum or expanding its’ use into a twisted art form and turning your review into five or six pages of how awesome you are with a passing mention of whatever it is you’re ostensibly reviewing somewhere near the end (Looking right at you, Tim Rogers. Right at you.). I believe that it’s the course of things that the next generation or crop of reviewers will be able to glean what’s best out of the current crop and use it to improve the art.

    – HC

  2. Lee

    This article was junk not only on its own merits, but also due to the hypocrisy found in the many bad reviews I’ve written myself.

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