Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Game Reviews

Memo to GameSpot and IGN: YOU ARE DUMB.
I don't normally like the whole process of taking umbrage at reviews. It's the kind of thing that clogs letters pages of newspapers, especially arts weeklies. "Your reviewer savaged this play that I went to and loved, and thus your reviewer is an out-of-touch idiot with no joy in his heart, and should be replaced by someone who thinks more like ME." It's a complete fucking waste of everybody's time, because it's a review, and reviews are opinion, and opinions are mostly subjective, and what's worse, once someone's already seen the work, they're not the target audience for the review, are they? They are not.
So it is with a heavy heart that I am forced to inform you that Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot is an out-of-touch idiot with no joy in his heart, and should be replaced by someone who thinks more like ME. And IGN's Peer Schneider ain't much better.
Most game reviews are ass to begin with. Many people do not realize this, and mistakenly believe that all the words in a game review are important. When reading a game review, you can immediately discard every word that factually describe's a game's story and feature set. This is the kind of pointless filler that should have been covered already in the half-dozen news stories and previews that have already shown up. They're repeated in the review because, well, it's really easy to do.
You can also typically ignore the omnipresent "technical breakdowns" - things like "graphics", "sound", "presentation". If the reviewer ACTUALLY discusses, say, the graphics in a way that completely separates them from other gameplay components, then the section is meaningless; if he doesn't, it'll just be repetitive.
Once you strip all the bullshit away, you're left with about 20% of the review being things that actually matter. And in the case of Wario Ware for GameCube, these bozos didn't even get that fifth right.
Background for the non-game-inclined: Wario Ware GC is a multiplayer "party" adaptation of the smash hit portable Wario Ware game, which came out last year. In the portable game, you play 200 different five-second long "microgames" in various sequences until you lose. The home console version takes those 200 five-second games and uses them to decide the outcome of eight different larger multiplayer contests.
Note that the semantic equivalent of the above paragraph takes between 10 and 20 paragraphs in each of these reviews.
So in essence, you have a game who's whole point is to take 200 simple Game Boy Advance microgames and turn them into a multiplayer game experience. Therefore it makes PERFECT SENSE that the two biggest criticisms in both of these reviews are.... that there isn't much to do unless you're playing multiplayer, and that the 200 GBA microgames look like 200 GBA microgames?
Aren't you glad these people are out there playing games so that you don't have to?
But it's Gerstmann who takes the cake with the kind of claim that makes even the most jaded reviewer of reviews sit up, take notice, and go to town: He refers to the larger multiplayer contests as "mostly unnecessary". Which would be like saying that Pac-Man is cool, except for all the "mostly unnecessary" DOT-GOBBLING. The entire reason this game exists is these eight games. But apparently, that's not what Gerstmann feels should have been done. He spends three paragraphs waxing poetic about how much he loves the Game Boy version, and then hits us with:
While there's certainly fun to be had in the multiplayer modes of WarioWare, they all seem pretty forced. In particular, Othello with minigames is a bit of a stretch. All in all, the minigames are the real star of the show, and they're great enough to stand on their own without needing some sort of external shell or other impetus to play them. 
What Mr. Gerstmann is inexplicably overlooking is that the only way you can play the minigames in any kind of competitive sense is just to take turns and keep score by yourself. By his logic, the ideal multiplayer version of Wario Ware would consist of a Game Boy cartridge, a large room, and a NOTEPAD. And since this version of Wario Ware lacks both a notepad AND a writing utensil, it fails.
And I love the first bit there. "While there's certainly fun to be had..." Did I miss a memo? Am I behind the times? Has everyone else moved on, and I'm the only plebian left who foolishly believes that we play these games to HAVE FUN? (The reviews and sales of Deus Ex: Invisible War actually point to this being fact, but I'll leave it as sarcasm for the time being). "Certainly fun to be had" is the highest praise you can heap on a game, not some qualifier you toss off to justify your irrational rantings.
Maybe if reviewers spent more time actually dissecting games critically, and less time blue-skying across four-page articles describing some fantasy ideal of a game that makes the game they should be writing about pale in comparison, then they wouldn't seem so DUMB.