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Top 5 Ways To Improve Game Reviews

As I grow older (mid-20’s), I look back on life and begin to wonder just what the hell I was thinking back when certain things mattered to me. I was perusing a few sites this morning, and one of the things I used to care about so much that mean little to me now popped up; game reviews.

Don’t misunderstand me, game reviews are an important piece of the gaming industry. They’re a check against developers, so crappy games aren’t released as frequently. They can be informative to the public, and so on. However, there was a time when game reviews would send me through the roof. Sometimes for good reasons, others not so good. Looking back, it all just seems so silly.

All these different thoughts lead to the Top 5 list. What are some things that can be improved upon with game reviews? How can they be made more relevant?

Let’s get to it.

Top 5 Things To Improve With Game Reviews

5. Engage More With The Gamers

Sometimes consumers forget, but they’re the cog that keeps our entire way of life turning. Without consumers, or a user base there’d be no video games, or reviews for that matter. This simple idea translates to our current economic status, but that’s a topic for another time, and another blog.

The gamer crowd is the lifeblood of the game review. If no one is there to hear you speak, or read your words then what’s the point. Which is why it irks me to see so many reviewers not engage with their user base. I’m not sure if it’s in the interests of professionalism, or if game reviewers are just busy. If you look around some review sites, you’ll rarely find reviewers follow up their writings or respond to comments left by readers.

To be fair, not all comments are worth addressing, but there is worth while dialogue to respond to. Yet, you’ll find reviewers not answering questions, or backing up the claims they make in their review summaries. With Facebook, Twitter, and all different kinds of social networking the idea of user engagement is just reaching its peak. It’s not enough to just leave empty words in an article on your site anymore. It’s all about your communication as well.

4. Neutral Genre/Title Fanboyism

If you look around mainstream news, the idea of ‘objective’ journalism is fading faster than hard line telephones. Everyone has a bias, and it seems that we care less and less if that bias gets in the way of reporting facts or figures. This idea translates to the video game world as well. Though, I will say it’s not as prevalent as it once was.

I think that #4 on today’s list is one of the hardest changes to implement for game reviews. Mainly, because reviews are in, and of themselves bias. They’re opinions, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear that opinion from someone who had a jaded view going into playing the game. If I’m wanting to check out thoughts on the newest Madden game, I don’t want to hear about what the reviewer thought of previous Maddens. Specifically if they hated it, or were absolutely in love with it.

Hearing how great Madden is, from someone who has always been a huge Madden fan kind makes their thoughts moot. Unless you’re a Madden fan that is. But why restrict your viewing audience to only those who love Madden? Or hate it.

Now, I’m not saying that someone shouldn’t review a game because of any prior qualms/preferences towards certain titles or genres. I’m just saying that it needs to be kept to a minimum when it comes out in their writing.

I’ll probably need to come back to this whenever Punch Out! releases this year.

3. Include, Don’t Exclude

My biggest pet peeve when reading through a review, is finding large sections of a game are missing from the write-up. Whenever I read a review, and I know something has blatantly been omitted the review is instantly void in my eyes.

Reviews should always follow the motto ‘more is better’. Even if the review is an essay, atleast the reader has a choice to either skim through, or read the entire entry. Whenever a review is cut short, or information is left out, there’s really only one option for the reader. Which is to read it, but be denied things they should probably know about the game they’re reading about.

What’s really frustrating is that on certain sites, you can tell some games get better treatment than others. I’m not talking about positive/negative reactions but that certain games get talked about more than others. This, sometimes is due to the fact that certain games have more content than others, but that isn’t always the case.

2. Add Second Opinions

In every publication that I’ve ever read, my favorites tend to be ones that present the greatest number of ideas about games. EGM generally always added second opinons. IGN includes them sometimes, but not nearly enough. I’m not quite sure why all of the major gaming publications don’t post more than one review.

On WiiBlog, you’ll generally just see one review, but that’s because it’s a smaller publication. Believe me, I’d allow as many differing opinions as I could if the resources were there. Yet, I visit these large sites, with bountiful resources and I’m left flummoxed by the inclusion of only one review.

What, that one person is the ‘end all, be all’ in terms of reviewing a particular game? What exactly, makes one person so special that they get one exclusive review per site? The answer, is quite simply that they aren’t special. It’s merely one opinion, which is a microcosm of a larger whole. And really isn’t, nor should be representative of the overall feeling towards a game.

Looking at game reviews, I can understand why the ‘one and only’ format was chosen. Mostly, because traditional media has always been reviewed that way. Just look at entertainment publications, where you’ll see movie reviews conducted by one person. TV, books, are also forms of media that have been traditionally reviewed by one person, per publication.

I can tell you that with games, my opinion is generally formed by discussing with others. Why can’t discussions be used as reviews? Why not setup a round table for a certain game, and have opinions bounce off one another? I think that offering second opinions is a good start to revitalize, and revamp the way we review our games.

Just because media has been reviewed a certain way in the past, doesn’t mean that’s what needs to keep continuing. As the wonders of the internet grow, so should the ways we relay information about a game to the consumers.

1. Numerical Scores

For me, one of the funniest moments in gaming was when Gamespot (Jeff Gerstmann) dropped his review of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess onto viewers. You’d have thought Gerstmann sparked World War III from all the backlash he received from Zelda, and Nintendo fanboys. All because he thought LoZ: TP deserved a 8.8.

I didn’t agree with some of the negatives that Jeff mentioned in his review. I loved the wii remote controls, and thought it was great to see an Ocarina styled Link on the Wii. Two things he mentions as negatives. There-in lies my point. People weren’t upset with Jeff’s write-up of the game, but the arbitrary number he assigned to it.

Something about that little 8.8, drove people into a hysteria. If you don’t believe me, look at player reviews on that site. People gave the game a 10, for nothing more than to try and prove a point to Jeff. That his numerical score was somehow ‘wrong’.

I’m not going to act high and mighty, because I myself have used a numerical score for reviews on this site. But I leave it at the end, as a footnote to what should really be important, the content. I know people that live, and die by the number though. You’ll see forum topics created solely based on a review ‘score’. They generally turn into flame wars.

Why? Is what I want to ask. Why, do we care so much about those little digits? Is there a chemical imbalance in our heads, that sees an arbitrary score that sends us into a frenzy?

“Oh no, Halo 3 only received a 4.5 stars out of 5, I can no longer show my face around here again”

That’s a literal quote from a review I’ve seen before.

For me, numerical scores are the bane of the game review world. I wish I had a time machine and could go back and find out who devised the first review system for anything. Tell him how it was hurting valid content, and to just write out your views instead.

What’s sad is that review scores aren’t going anywhere. Publishers plaster results all over their boxes. ‘ This game receives 5/5 from Gamepro’. All I ask is that we take a step back, and try to find out why is matters so much. Then hopefully we can devise a better solution.

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So, after discussing today’s topic, how important are game reviews to you? If you do put stock into reviews, how do you read them? Do you really care so much about a numerical result, and if so how do you read into review systems?

Top 5 Games To Play On Valentine’s Day

I don’t think we have a more divisive holiday in a year more than Valentines Day. Or as some refer to it as ‘V-Day’. For those who have a significant other, Valentines Day can have a two-prong effect. Either it’s a momentous occasion with rose petal adorned bedrooms, and romantic filled evenings. For others it’s a stressful day with someone trying their best to please the other, and getting all worked up over it in the process. For those without a partner, we (yes we … :( ) tend to just walk around with a huge middle finger up in the air.

If you’re looking to buck the Valentine’s Day trend, or if you have a girl/boy-friend that’s just uber cool why not give gaming a chance? There’s games out there that can bring two souls together, and become one. You just gotta know where to look.

Wii Blog Top 5 Valentine's Day Games

5. House of the Dead

Before playing House of the Dead: Overkill, I nearly forgot the fun that on-rail shooters can bring to the gaming world. The simple nature of aiming a reticule at a screen and blowing the face off of a zombie just has an endearing charm to it that will more than likely never get old.

House of the Dead
Fill The Hole In Your Spouse’s Heart, By Putting A Hole In A Mutant’s Stomach

What does seeing zombie brains blowing up have to do with Valentine’s Day? The visuals of a zombie explosion might not get the romantic juices flowing, but the co-op aspect that an on-rails shooter brings definitely can.

Ladies, if your man is challenged ‘gaming wise’ then a shooter is the best way to start. All that is required is being able to aim at the screen and pull the trigger. Same goes for guys who have a girlfriend who isn’t into gaming. When trying to find a game that can be enjoyed by both partners, it’s vital that you keep it simple. There’s nothing more simple, yet fun than a pure shooter. Plus, you’ve got mutants to cap in the face. Trust me, he/she will love it.

4. Mario Kart

With the rest of today’s list, you’ll notice an overlying trend. The games you should be playing on Valentine’s Day should involve competition on some sort of level. If you play your cards right, competing with your significant other can bring about a very fruitful romance. You just have to know how to keep it within reason. Meaning, don’t jump up and get your lover’s face because you won a race. Keep it light, and fun.

Mario Kart is a game that is made purely on the aspect of competition. There’s racing, kart sabotage by way of items, and then the always loved ‘Battle Mode’. If you want to keep the V-Day gaming session going for a long period of time, then Mario Kart is definitely the game to look into. With the variety of modes, and the want of trying to improve your kart driving skills, Mario Kart can keep you gaming for hours on end.

Mario Kart blue spikey shell
If You Truly Love Her, You Won’t Use The Blue Spiky Shell

With my #5 pick I didn’t pick a particular game in the House of the Dead series to play. I feel the same with Mario Kart as well. It all depends on what kind of control you feel comfortable with. If you’re at peace with the Super Nintendo, then play some of the original Mario Kart. I would recommend for newcomers that you play Mario Kart: Wii. Using motion control I’ve noticed is much easier to pick up, than using a d-pad, or analog stick.

3. Street Fighter II

Street Fighter II, is the game on my list that I recommend if the person you’re playing with is into games. For newbies, Street Fighter II can be an overwhelming experience. There’s a subtle poetry to Street Fighter games that can take awhile to pick up and understand. You don’t want your boo all frustrated on Cupid Day, for the wrong reasons.

Chun-Li
Nothing Screams ‘Love Me’ Like A Pair Of Chun-Li Thighs

If you do have a game savvy partner, then Street Fighter brings a competitive edge that few other titles can muster. First, the direct one-on-one competition creates a spark that can really build the adrenaline and get the blood flowing.

The fast, and kinetic nature of Street Fighter makes sure that the action never stops. From beginning to end of a fight, you have to be quick and on your toes to be successful.

Another aspect that I think is overlooked when it comes to Street Fighter is the breadth of options in terms of fighters. Yes, we all know the extensive amount of characters the Street Fighter universe has. I think what it truly brings is a sense of identity, and a security one has from choosing a character. If you’re playing with someone you’re close with, you want them to feel comfortable, and who doesn’t feel comfortable with Chun-li’s thighs. Or for the real freaks out there, Blanka’s massive chest hair, and green skin.

2. Tetris Attack

With my #2 pick, I’ll give you an insight into how I generally create my Top 5 lists. Usually, I open up notepad and type the numbers 1-5. I will run through all the games that make sense for the list in my head. Then I somehow come up with why one game should be placed over another in a list. Then I’ll write up a summary, and share with you why it is at its position.

I’m telling you this, because Tetris Attack was originally going to be my #1 choice. As I was writing my summaries for #2, and #1, I found that Tetris Attack was lacking a key component over the other so I had to make a switch. That’s quite a unprecedented event on WiiBlog.

Ok, you probably don’t care about any of that, so let’s move on to why Tetris Attack should be an option for you to play on Valentine’s Day.

Thinking back on all the games I’ve had friendly competition with over the years, none can compare to Tetris Attack. There’s something about taking the simple formula of Tetris, turning on its head and allowing for you to compete with others that still hasn’t been matched to this day. Tetris alone might be fun, but playing against someone else will either bring you closer or just leave somebody pissed.

Tetris Attack should come with a warning attached to it. While you’ll find no better game for competing with someone against, it can drive the emotions into overload. This is coming from personal experience.

Tetris Attack is probably the most obscure game on my list, so allow me to give a brief synopsis of its multiplayer gameplay. The basics of the game are very simlar to Tetris. As different colored blocks fall to the bottom of the screen, you have to line them up to keep the stage clear. How Tetris Attack differs, is that you’re competing with someone else to see who can stay alive the longest. As you create long combinations of block-clearing, you drop ‘garbage’ into the other player’s screen. It acts as a blocker, and leads to the person’s screen being filled faster.

This gameplay component of sabotaging your opponent is what really drives the competitive nature of the game. I mentioned before, that you should be warned about Tetris Attack. It has a great competitive spirit, but can really lead to backlash.

You’ll be walking a thin line while playing, but you have a great chance of reaping romantic reward if you play it right. Of course the old saying rings true, ‘the greater the risk, the greater the reward’.

1. Wii Sports

After all my years of gaming, I’ve always had a game that I play if I want to introduce someone into the world of gaming. It takes a keen set of attributes to recommend a title. First, it has to be simple. When someone fires up a video game for the first time, you don’t want them throwing a control around because of some frustrating control layout. Second, it has to be fun in an addicting sort of way. You want to bring a game into the mix that makes someone come back for more. Because how is someone going to get into gaming, if they don’t want to keep coming back?

Wii Sports represents all of these aspects of gaming more so than any I’ve played. In fact, if I had to recommend one game that a first timer should try, it would be Wii Sports. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it in some form, be it first time gamer, or long time vet. If you’re wanting to game on Valentine’s Day, than I can think of nothing better than Wii Sports.

It quintessentially has all the aspects I’ve mentioned so far in the list. I’ve mentioned its simplicity. Depending on which ‘game’ you play, it can get the adrenaline pumping. It also provides an immense sense of competition, which I find mostly in Wii bowling.

Unlike the other games on my list, there’s a physical sense to Wii Sports. While Street Fighter might have an active feel, you’re actually active with Wii Sports. If you’ve ever worked out with another, it can somehow ‘bring’ you together. I’m not guranteeing you any physical action, but if you’re gaming then Wii Sports can’t hurt the chances.

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I’ve always felt that ‘Valentine’s Day Gaming Lists’ have been quite a stretch. I still feel that way, but it can be pulled off. The important thing is to remember who you’re celebrating V-Day with. Whether it’s dinner, park strolling, or gaming it’s all about what you enjoy together. If it’s gaming then hopefully you’ll find some fun, and romance with one of the games above.

In conclusion, I’ll put down my middle finger to all you couples out there. Have a great Valentine’s Day weekend, and see you on Monday.

Top 5 WiiWare Games … So Far

There has been quite a bit of news regarding the world of WiiWare this week. There has been the release of the initial trailer for Eduardo: The Samurai Toaster. We also received confirmation of Hudson working on WiiWare’s first FPS title, Onslaught.

In light of all of this WiiWare news, I thought we would take a look at the best WiiWare games that have been released thus far. I reserve the right to bring this list back in the future, as more games are released. That is all, so now let’s get to it.

Top 5 WiiWare Games
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Top 5 Unknown/Forgotten Games You Should Play

I was going through my gaming library last night, and decided to try and find something to play that I hadn’t in awhile. I was in an old school mood, so I was flipping through my NES catalogue. I came across a game that I would say I haven’t even touched in nearly a decade, Puss n’ Boots.

After playing, I sadly realized that it wasn’t a game that hasn’t aged well. But it led me to think of all the great games that have been released over the years that have been relatively unknown, or forgotten. So, if you have the time and patience, here are some games you might not have played but definitely should.

Top 5 Unknown
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Top 5 Most Beautiful Nintendo Games Of All Time

I have a very unique distinction between beauty, and hotness. If you watched the new episode of The Office last night, Kevin makes a good explanation of the difference. As I was looking through past Top 5 lists, I noticed that I haven’t paid homage to the beautiful games of Nintendo’s past. Today is as good a day as ever to do so.

Judging beauty is one of the hardest things to do. With so many different opinions on what truly is beautiful, the old saying rings true; it is ‘in the eye of the beholder’. So, with doing this list I’ve tried to keep it simple and limit the criteria to three main factors: looks, style, and personality. It’s quite easy to have one of those traits, but to truly grasp all three is something special.

To give you a reference as to what I mean by beautiful, here’s a picture of Miranda Kerr:

Miranda Kerr

Top 5 Most Beautiful Nintendo games Of all time
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Top 5 Games/Franchises Deserving Of A Wii Continuation

In 2009, there’s at least one first party franchise that will see a Wii release, with Punch-Out!. Its been since the SNES days that we’ve seen a new Punch-Out!, but with the Wii it seemed like perfect time to bring it back. There are still games, and franchises out there that still scream for continuance. This list is the games, or franchises that I think are most worthy of a return.

Top 5 Games/Franchises Deserving Of A Wii Continuation

5. Splatterhouse

During the heyday of the horror movie genre in the mid-late 80’s, it’s hard to imagine a 16-bit game could be just as unsettling as something you’d see in a theater. Splatterhouse was that impressive though, and some of the images and enemies are still squirmishly delightful to this day.

Splatterhouse
How Did Namco Not Get Sued For Styling Rick Like A Jason Voorhees Knock-Off?
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