My Review System & How It Works

I do not doubt at all that my system has flaws in it and someone can come along and pick it apart and tell me why it doesn’t work for them, that’s fine.  I just figure if I’m going to post reviews and score games, I should at least give some explanations to how my scoring works.

My reviews and scores are based on my personal experiences I had with the game, sometimes that may result in some outlier scores, but I believe this is how reviews should be done.   I also like to keep my reviews short, and to the point. I feel as all it really boils down to is the game good, average, or bad, and that’s how I score them.

Pretty much any game I play or review, I have an interest in it.  Most likely, I also purchased the game (I don’t receive review copies), and I only want to spend my time and money on games I am interested in.  I find it very frustrating to read a game review from someone who has no interest in the genre, or series and had to begrudgingly play the game.   Readers read reviews for games they’re interested in playing, they want that reviewer to be interested too, with similar tastes.    Even if I spend my own money, or I’m a fan of a series/genre, I can acknowledge when a game falls short of expectations or isn’t very good…this doesn’t mean everything gets good scores.

I do not doubt at all that my system has flaws in it and someone can come along and pick it apart and tell me why it doesn’t work for them, that’s fine.  I just figure if I’m going to post reviews and score games, I should at least give some explanations to how my scoring works.

By far, the most important thing for me in a video game is if it is fun to play. It could have next to no story, fall short by modern tech’s standards, have the simplest game mechanics, or a combination of all three, but if the game is fun, it can’t be that bad can it? All of those other things surely are appreciated, and can definitely make a more complete game, but they’re nothing without the game being fun.

When scoring a game I like to imagine what a studio’s goal was when developing their game.  Were some of their design choices because they were going for a retro feel?  A more challenging approach?  Does it seem like they accomplished what they set out to do, or were they in way over their head and the mechanics don’t pan out, or are out of balance? Is this simply just a remaster? Does it satisfy it’s audience?

I’ve played some very simple indie games that intentionally look, sound and feel like a 25 year old game.  I don’t downgrade that game for an old feel, if it feels right. There are also simpler genres, that are safe from certain critiques and expectations of other genres. Here’s some examples I can think of

  • Puzzle Games – By now we all have an understanding of Tetris, or other puzzle games, expectations usually are below anything ground-breaking and can understand this genre has somewhat of a ceiling.  It doesn’t need to have all of the latest techs bells and whistles, but it still deserves to meet today’s standards for online play and other similar functionality.
  • Board Games – Similarly when a new Monopoly game comes out, we know what Monopoly is we know how it plays.  Does this game play like Monopoly?  Is it easier to play this video game version of Monopoly than the board game?   It’s fair to think the developer has a goal to make the game feel like a digital version of Monopoly without the clean-up of a board game, and other conveniences such as calculating scores or allowing online play.
  • Arcade Games – Particularly Arcade Sports games, this is easier to bring a comparison to.  If I’m playing NBA Jam/Playgrounds or NBA 2K/Live I should have entirely different expectations and understanding of what the studios were going for.  If an arcade-style NBA Playgrounds has cheap “comeback” AI who can make unlikely 3point shots, and shut-down defense, I should understand that’s part of Arcade-Style sports.  It’s not fair to compare that to a simulation type of basketball game that should have more complicated AI, more realistic characters and animation models, and more in-depth gameplay modes.

These aren’t excuses for these games to fall short, but more for an understanding of what’s intended and what’s necessary.   The bottom line is, was it a great puzzle game?  Would I, as a puzzle or Tetris fan enjoy playing this game?

On the negative end about goals, if I were to play a more realistic or simulation sports game, and I find the AI easy to fool, scoring easy, and overall unrealstic experience. There have been incidents where remastered games play worse than their original versions. I have played games with a great concept and clever ideas that don’t hold my interest for the length of the game, or the mechanics fall apart in later, more challenging sections.

Allowing the price of game to influence it’s score can be tricky because prices change, and sometimes they change quickly.  Often $60 MSRP games can drop as low as $30 within 6 – 8 weeks of release if it’s near Black Friday, so would I account for something like that?  Honestly, I don’t know.   This is mainly why pricing is not that influential in my scoring, but I’ll try my best to mention if a game leans towards a day one pick-up, wait for a sale price, or a bargain bin purchase.

The scores should be pretty self explanatory, but I’ll still break it down with an understanding that can still have room for flexibility.

5 – One of the best in it’s genre, it might not be perfect but it executes most things superbly. Fans of this genre or series will be satisfied picking this up on release. This game is potentially a classic, and certainly one of the best of it’s time.

4 – This is good game but it still has room for improvements. Fans of the genre or series will be happy with it. For some, it’s still worth full price, others might wait for a sale. Worth playing.

3 – Average game, never does anything special, doesn’t advance the genre or series. Sometimes the game comes across as a copy cat. Some fans within the genre will still have a good time, good pick up on sale, good rental

2 – Bad game that may have a couple satisfying moments within it, but is still a poor game. This is never worth full price and there are far better options available. If you must have it, wait for it to hit the bargain bin.

1 – Very flawed, possibly broken game. This is not worth your time or money. Only pick this game up because you’ve got some specific reason as a collector, or you’re a die-hard fan that refuses to miss any games in this series or from this studio.

Older games are often looked at with rose-tinted glasses and heavy influences of nostalgia. As I p lay or review games, I try to avoid or ignore the tech aspects of a game and l ook really into the core of it’s gameplay. Again “Is it Fun?” “Does it meet it’s goals/expectations?”, what was my personal experience. This is very important when reviewing older games since the tech is clearly going to be out-dated, even though some age well.

So on older games, I try to include a section called the “Old Man’s Review” and here I review and scores the game based on the quality of the game at it’s time. This is the “Old Man” reviewing these games he played back in his time, and remembers being amazed at the ability to play Nintendo games on a portable device, even if they were all pea-green. The “Old Man” still impressed by the speed of Sonic the Hedgehog on his Sega Genesis, or a 1-joystick first person shooter. These things are out-dated, hard to go back to or appreciate, and have been replaced by better technology or ideas. But the Old Man remembers them for what they were in their time. His take on these older games are

I will give you an example of a score I’ve given, that I’m sure plenty of people disagree with: Dragon Quest Heroes.  I gave this game a 5/5, which seeing by it’s Metacritic score of 77, I graded it much higher than the norm.  Here’s a few things about my experience with that game:

  • My only experience with Mosu games before DQH, was Hyrule Warriors, so my experience was very limited.  I know a lot of people were well burned out of Dynasty Warriors/Mosu games by this point, but for me, it was new/fresh.
  • I’m also a pretty big fan of the Dragon Quest series, I love the characters, the lore, the writing, etc, this was such a great mixture of a hack-n-slash and a Dragon Quest game.
  • Also, I started this during a Winter Break, and couldn’t put it down, my wife and I had a great time taking turns playing this together and put in over 60 hours of it.
  • Despite it’s lack of technical achievements, even still 3 years later it is one of the best game experiences I’ve had on the Playstation 4

A short example of a negative experience I had (of a game I didn’t review or play deep into) was Dying Light.   I had just played Far Cry 4 right before Dying Light, and I found it too similar (first person “sandbox” world) that I couldn’t enjoy Dying Light and had to stop.   It wasn’t fair to Dying Light, but being burned out from Far Cry 4 had a negative impact on my experience.

I think those are very important factors that influence my score differently than others. My lack of experience of Mosu games (so they’re still fresh to me), my fandom of Dragon Quest Heroes, and the circumstances of when I played it all have an impact.

Posted on February 28, 2019, in Thinking Outloud, Write-Ups and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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