Video reviews

 

[note] I'm mostly talking about the more crappy video reviews that really are just people sitting around talking about it while swinging the game's box around the screen or those who talk while they play; you know, the really dire ones. The ones that quite literally are just less spur-of-the-moment reviews with game footage used as a backdrop aren't nearly as horrible. Just a head's up!

 

Despite the fact reviewing is kind of what the entire site is composed of, whether it's giving an overview and opinion of a video game, a review of the events in a cartoon with satirical commentary or reviewing the changes in the publicised production process of something, reviewing just isn't something I properly comprehend.

The dictionary defines "review" as "1) a critical article or report, as in a periodical, on a book, play, recital, or the like; critique; evaluation." Basically, examining and critiquing. Laying out the floor plan of something, looking at everything in detail, and then providing critique on them, how well they fare in their respective category and how good the whole thing ends up like. You know, reviewing.
Me? I barely even use the word "review." I just use "opinion," as it means I can skip the info dump and get straight to the meat and veg: Complaining about shit!
 

You know what's great about F-Zero Maximum Velocity?

That it exists, but you're not forced by law to pay money for it.

Sure, in an ideal world it would be better if it didn't exist at all, and its existential position was filled by a game that didn't make me cry tears formed of the flesh of malformed babies, but at least Nintendo aren't forcing us at gunpoint to buy the train wreck. They released it, but you can lie content in the knowledge that they used money to produce it, and if you don't buy it, then a fraction of that may actually have been wasted. Or you can just happily ignore it and pick up a game that's good. Like
F-Zero GX. It actually has replay value, because there's so much crap to do, not to mention a lot to master! And the story mode is cornball!

F-Zero Maximum Velocity lacks interest, character, or anything that's actually engaging. Like a chance of making fucking progress. Struggling to even come in third on the first tournament just isn't cricket.

Spend your money on a toffee apple. They taste horrible, so it's the same result at a fraction of the price.

Unpublished review of F-Zero Maximum Velocity for Games I Own, Like and Hate.

Admittedly for the Games I Own, Like and Hate, section this is simply because I never really like the reviews going too far over the vertical boundaries of your typical web browser, and because it's for quick, snappy detailings of what I think of a game rather than actually enlightening you on it, whether it's worth your money or your hard drive space and all that exposition. Basically the equivalent of asking "what did you think of this movie?" versus "is this movie worth seeing?" I mean, I don't know you. I get like a hundred unique visitors each day, more or less, but I barely even know my audience, aside from the fact that throwing in a few links on Wikipedia really helped on coverage. I'm a shallow person who'd sooner watch Indiana Jones over The Lady From Shanghai or play Metal Slug over Half-Life. All listed are good products, but in their unique ways, and at the end of the day the first choices are just more accessible for a simple person like me. For you, you may pick the latter, or disown my opinion entirely and call me a miserable human being for picking what I did. Buying me an ice cream wouldn't make up for an uncalled-for outburst like that, no sir.

Of course, my "real" reviews, so to speak, didn't do too well in being exposition-ary and explaining whether or not they're worth trying, let alone pinpointing the ups and downs in great detail, so I'm more or less talking in circles. In a nutshell, I'm not a good go-to guy for knowing whether or not something is tailor-made for you!
 

 What it's about: Be a sneaky spy and collect top secret items. What you do: Race the clock, pick up booby traps and use 'em against your sorry opponent. We think: Spy vs Spy looks good and the gameplay's brill. You'll be playing this for weeks. Game score: 83%.

It sure is great you spent 2.95 for an issue of Nintendo Official Magazine to get top-notch, in-depth, life-evaluating reviews such as this, eh?

Reviewing comes in many ways, from print articles that intersperse minimal text with ludicrously sized screenshots and official artwork with vaguely amusing captions, to those on 1990s video game shows that used star cuts to skip between clips so much that it can make a head spin clockwise. Okay, textual and visual isn't exactly "many," but the former of those has worked well enough online for quite some time. GameFAQs satisfied people with sloppily written reviews that barely explained why things were negative and tossed the whole concept of 1-worst, 5-average, 10-best out the window, and nobody demanded any real visual metaphor for it or anything. If somebody was talking about how terrible the graphics were, we had to go somewhere else to see what the graphics were like, so we had to either take their word for it or just dismiss it as a dreaded opinion.
Of course, dedicated sites that don't have to rely on public domain nonsense aren't restricted, and could happily throw in screenshots around the margins wherever they wanted. It adds a bit of colour, and can highlight some decent scenes. Rather nice. Good stuff. Five flaming heads.

However, screenshots aren't always satisfactory. If the only visuals you can rely on are screenshots, you have to take that text seriously. It'll have to describe the gameplay. And sometimes, it can be hard to describe it. Wario's Woods, for instance. A truly awful example to use since it's ludicrously simple to describe, but yeah, it's marching a little man around and stacking monsters and bombs of matching colours into lines to help clear the screen and fill the opponent's. A very simple description, and it does get a very, very basic outlook of what the game is about.

But it doesn't necessarily say how the game plays like. It doesn't mention the fast and furious speed of monsters that drop down, taking up valuable space, as well as the tug-of-war between you and an opponent where you can drop a load of enemies on their screen, only for them all to be blown up, generate a diamond and turn the tide like a bad case of a gravitational screw-up. You can't always take text seriously, so when it's your only means of finding out how a game plays, that's no good. Especially when someone whines several paragraphs about how a game stinks in every possible category, and ends it with a 6, still describing it as woeful.


Enter video reviews!

What's a good way to describe "ball-shatteringly awful" but make it more hilarious?

I couldn't remember what Goro looked like, but I'm sure he had a butt chin.

When writing from text, you need to keep it fresh in your mind. You can't write and play simultaneously unless you're Mortal Kombat's Goro, so what's the next best thing? Reviewing while you play! How could it fail? You're playing the game, so all feelings, emotions and opinions will be readily accessible as you face the challenges and pitfalls it throws at you. All you need is something to record the gameplay and either to dub over it afterwards or record while you play. It's magnificent! It's flawless! It's extraordinary!

Until, somehow, everyone managed to bum it up.
 

Text can be unreliable due to how hard it can be to accurately capture the essence of a game, or describe something in a manner that you would lay out otherwise. On the bright side, it can be prettied up afterwards and you can throw in some flowery language to make it seem like you're talking about something more sophisticated than flat characters stopping a swarm of Amazons from using the singing of Elvis to resurrect Hitler via turn-based battles.
Casual conversation isn't quite so eloquent on the spot. It's just casual conversation.

(I'd like to stop and point out that the storyline mentioned here actually took place in a Turok comic. Have you gained any respect for the franchise now? I hope so!)
For text, you can stop for a moment and take a paragraph to explain in undying detail about a particular element, no matter how minor, to bring additional shine to its presence and how much input it has. Unless you want to pause every two seconds, you can't exactly do that for real-time detailing. You could try, but for an amateur reviewer, you'll need some time to think up the right words. Stopping and saying "see the way he bounces off that enemy? That's great. It's awesome. That rocks" does not exactly provoke much inspiration. On the contrary, "the way your player character bounces off the bonces of your reptile foes adds a spectacular element to the game, elevating your airtime considerably and allowing for impressive demonstrations of crossing pits using only the soon-broken skulls of your airborne enemies" is rather superfluous, but sounds less like something Bill and Ted would utter.

Video reviewing may sound like it takes a weight off your shoulders, as after all, you're saying what you think, right? You think as you play, and you say it, so that justifies it, yeah?
Well, no. It just sounds silly and unfounded. In company of others, you can mention something and they can discuss it, effectively thinking writing-style for you, but what's meant to be a real review it's more or less listing the good parts and bad parts and going no further with them. Pretty contradictory coming from me, considering that's about all I do, but I won't even try to defend myself. It's just daft! I've vaguely attempted (slightly) to explain how things are awful and how they can be improved, but in video reviews you're playing the game so you don't exactly have time to do that because you're avoiding bullets of death. If you weren't, you could possibly elaborate, but you're citing your pluses and minuses while playing a game. Like saying how great that plot twist was and how symbolic it was in a movie while the movie is still playing, in a crowded theatre. Just play the damn game and go in detail later, son, or just narrate when you're not so busy.
 

Lord Deathgar and his mighty minions traversed the land of Frothdar further, intent on discovering the secret of his mother's secret liaison, primarily to figure out what the secret was. If he knew it wouldn't be a secret, and there would be no quest, therefore you would have had to buy a different book at the airport. He stroked his chin with immeasurable contemplation, pondering just how a secret that big could have been kept from him during the six hundred years he lived with his mother. Being a bearer of the Deathgar name, death only comes to his family via severe batterings, and natural means have no effect on their enviable lifespan.
Oh, god. Where was I? Shit. Writer's block.
Lord Deathgar and his
Damn it! Man, I won't be going anywhere far with this today.
Lord Deathgar and his mighty
Oh, jeez. What was the story again?
... intent on discovering the secret of his mother's
Jesus, what was I writing?! Maybe a drop of alcohol will sort this out.
Have you guys ever tried Stella Artois? It's truly the beer of beers you guys
I mean STRAIGHT TO THE MOON
You guys
My story still looks like shit.
Maybe I should write
Space Invaders From Scotland.

Actually, that looks kind of fun.

Unless someone has the sense to edit their review, what they say is what they get, and nothing more. What's said is said, and what's not is not. And the latter often takes up a majority of reviews. In the reviews where they critique a game while not playing it (which are worse because you see those people in their badly lit rooms shifting around, scratching their chins and groaning a lot and it's so awful to actually watch because why not just audio you guys) they obviously have no immediate material to draw from aside from what they remember. And since they are critiquing from memory, this can be painful, and results in a majority of their scathing critique consisting of "um...", "yeah..." and the ever popular "oh, um... er..."
This writing here took me half an hour to write. I've got like a thousand words here, maybe? Two thousand? It consists of the actual content, and sure I repeat myself a lot, it's basically every part of the point I'm trying to make, and will take like five minutes to read, perhaps. For a video review, you have to sit through every agonising second as the reviewer tries to remember what else they want to say.
It's the equivalent of a book that includes a writing, detailed explanation of every second of the book's production, starting from the simple idea that brought the author to its creation, them making the plot points, and the months wherein they have writers block and proceed to do nothing related to it. Seeing every second of inactivity regarding the subject at hand. Wouldn't that be great?
Some people have the common decency to at least write down points to talk about during video reviews, which is actually very considerate. It's still stream-of-consciousness, but it's directional stream-of-consciousness where they know what exactly to talk about and then just speak their mind on it. That's good. I approve of that. Every "um" and "er" still adds a point towards my favouritism-towards-text-reviews metre, though.

 

With the boom of super duper recording tools and how the Angry Video Game Nerd and more have made it cool to record gameplay and complain about it, it just seems to generate a bigger crowd of lazy people who want to critique things. The difference is that mixing footage of the Nerd complaining about how easy the game is and then upper cutting Bugs Bunny edges it more towards entertainment rather than a literal review, so to speak; less something you'd watch to to see if something's worth playing for genuine fun or not. People know the games are awful before he reviews them, so he just makes that hatred exaggerated. People have mostly read reviews of Bayou Billy before some fellow made a video review, so any mutterings of "um" and "er" as the reviewer progresses screens to find something new to nag about aren't exactly anything new.

 

If you're going to video review, either chop it up so it's a more cohesive and tight result, or be willing to accept that you'll spend half the time talking out of your ass to fill dead air. And in that, you can be truly incredible.

I'm Ragey, and I get very tetchy about minor things on the internet!

And I'm in no place to diss reviewers, either!