Are game reviews valid?

Are game reviews valid? by Honorabili

You might read a game review and be enticed to go buy or play a game but is a review really valid? How long did the reviewer play the game? Does it take into account replayability and updates over the life of the game?

The Quality Triangle
The Quality Triangle

I’ve written a bunch of game reviews but I often find myself with the dilemma of when I sit down and think about how effective the review really is. One of the reasons I created Obsolete Gamer is so that I can honestly review games in a reasonable and realistic manner. It’s really really hard to play a game that hasn’t come out yet or has just come out and play it like a crackhead non-stop to try to simulate having played it over a series of days and weeks. The problem with even doing that is that the game will still be new to me within a week timeframe as opposed to the game having been around in my collection for months. One would be more excited about a new game rather than an old one, unless it’s a really old game that was your favorite and you haven’t played in a while and you just found it because you lost it for some reason.

Planet Side cover
Planet Side cover

This question might not just apply to games but to maybe some movies or things like electronics and cars as well. Most reviews that just get mass produced will say this thing is “the next best thing since sliced bread and you must have it!” but they don’t take into account that for instance a car might have a defect that you will only see after owning it for a year or a game will get ruined by the 5th patch because they changed something that fucked up game balance and it will make people flee playing a game like a sinking ship. This especially happens for MMOs which are changing all the time. PlanetSide comes to mind, which a ton of my friends used to play when it was really, really popular. Your best bet it to read a game review by somebody that has the same tastes as you or to read a review written recently about an old game (like what we write here often, ahem).

A problem I have sometimes running Obsolete Gamer is that some reviews I’ve written, in order to keep them valid, I have to go back and play a game and update the review. One game that does this a lot to me is Nation Red, which updates like at least once a month, with new content added ALL THE TIME! I keep track of this for Obsolete Gamer but many sites will just pump out an article and just file it forever in its archives, never ever updating it again. In my book that makes those reviews useless. If you haven’t already checked out our game reviews do so in this section of the website.

Civilization 5 Crash
Civilization 5 Crash

So what’s the point of reviews? I see many as pieces of writing intended to get the reader to buy or play a game. Many get used to hype up the expectations of the potential and existing fanbase to a game or product. Some are genuinely written to try to warn people to stay away from a particularly poorly made game that would just be a waste of time and money for the player. Sure, I’ve played some games that have gotten bad reviews and found them somewhat more pleasant than this horrible picture the media painted for me. For example, I gave Elemental War of Magic a fair chance and actually it was sad that I enjoyed it more than Civilization 5, a game I had pre-ordered for $50 and now hate with a passion. The media crucified Elemental War of Magic because of its many bugs and shortcomings and yes even Stardock admits screwing up and it resulting as a flop but the difference here is that Elemental War of Magic got patched to the point where it’s very much enjoyable now but it still has a bad reputation as opposed to Civilization 5, which is PRAISED to be the strategy game of the year, although in my and in the eyes of every true Civilization game fan, it’s the biggest pile of shit ever made with the Civilization name. The game is months old and still has most of the bugs and missing features I mentioned in my early review of the game. It’s disappointing especially when they are still selling this turd for so much money. If you want to see this rage, visit the Facebook Civilization Page to join in on the fight!

Psychonauts Box, groovy huh?
Psychonauts Box, groovy huh?

This kind of hypocrisy has been around for many years, and not just in the gaming industry. Whatever has the biggest budget will get hyped up and up and some stuff that does deserve attention will sink into obscurity. Let’s look at small games though because it’s easy for people to say that Call of Duty or Halo or World of Warcraft are the best games EVER but let’s look at small games to see where the industry nailed it and where it dropped the ball. The industry rightly praised Plants vs Zombies and Trine and rightly so but it dropped the ball when it came to a classic gem like Psychonauts. You might say “Yeah, Psychonauts got famous later as a cult classic” but seriously, the people who made it needed the money from the game when it came out, not 4-6 years later! Most people pirated Psychonauts or bought it on Steam for $2 when they had its sale or even from Good Old Games. Think about how many people might have been laid off because the game didn’t do well when it was fresh.

Games are sort of like cars in the economic sense: they degrade in value over time. The money they make for the developer the most is earned when they are new and fresh. When they are on sale because they flopped or they’re old is marginal. The money the developer gets from ebgames or some other place selling you a used copy is NOTHING. I’m not saying go out there and buy every game because I do believe some stuff should have never come out and is not even worth downloading a pirated copy (a topic for another article), but if you do LOVE a game, whether you played it a friends house, got a demo, or are playing a warez copy, do try to buy it to pay back the creators and people whose life was spent writing that game. The economy is a democracy in the sense that you vote with your wallet. If you like the games made by certain authors and programmers and studios, keep them in business. Don’t you want your friends to do well?

Odium, a game few have played with like no reviews
Odium, a game few have played with like no reviews

I’m getting sidetracked, so going back to reviews, if you can’t find a good review for a game or a review at all, do a little research instead. See if there are people who posted information on forums regarding the quality of a game. Some stuff might be too new and small for people to review or it might be just really really BAD. Sometimes that’s a way to tell but sometimes the game might just be a lost gem that you have found. Give games a chance and don’t always go with what the mass media wants you to play. I don’t know how busy your life is, but try to not let people make a decision for you. This also doesn’t apply to just games as well but life as a whole. Discover something you will like. Try out a new genre if you’re bored of gaming in general or go out and do something else to get a new perspective. This might keep you from burning out on something.

Who knows what may happen? You might just find a game that becomes a new favorite of yours and you might end up like us writing reviews on them yourselves and websites like this one or maybe this one as well. ;] Just make sure that you honestly share your opinion on a game… To yourself be true and to others as well, if you can. Save people the aggravation of buying a lemon!

Trine

Trine
Trine

Trine review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Symphony of the Night + The Lost Vikings + Out of This World = fun!”

Overall Score:

8 out of 10

Overview:

Trine is a fantasy action puzzle platformer game that consists of three soul-bound characters that got trapped that way at the beginning of the game through magic making their way through each map in stages. You switch characters depending on which one you want to use, in the style of The Lost Vikings, only that all three characters take up the same place, rather than like in The Lost Vikings each being an independent character that you control once at a time.

The three characters are a mage, a rogue archer, and a warrior.

The mage can move objects around through magic and summon magic cubes/planks, which you can use to use to jump higher or drop on enemies.

The rogue archer is basically the most powerful character in the game. She can fire a ton of arrows that although they don’t do as much damage as the warrior, you can eventually fire multiple numbers of them and you can dispatch enemies safely at a distance. The best ability she has is firing a grappling arrow, sort of like the grappling hook gun that Batman has, which you can use to climb up, slide down, rock back and forth, swing, and all sorts of crazy acrobatics. She can light torches by firing flame arrows at them. For me, she’s basically the main character to use.

The warrior is supposed to be the main fighter, although the rogue archer is superior in my eyes. He mainly mashes things, whether parts of the terrain or boxes or enemies. He can also pick stuff up and move it around and he has a shield which absorbs most damage, so long as you angle it properly. He can also light torches, simply by chopping them with his sword.

There are 3 stats in this game, health, mana/energy, and XP.

Health is pretty self explanatory, with some enemies dropping hearts which can heal you. You can also heal by going to a checkpoint, if your health is lower than the minimum that difficulty setting designates as the minimum.

Mana/energy gets used up any time the mage does anything, or to do special attacks for the other two characters. The rogue archer mainly uses the energy to fire lit arrows when you pick up that power. The warrior uses energy to perform special attacks. You replentish mana/energy by going to the next checkpoint or by picking up blue vials which some enemies drop, which this is the most common drop in the game.

The last stat is XP. You pick this up in green vials that are scattered throughout the map (mainly in hard to reach places) and by killing enemies. When you get enough XP all three characters level up and you get a certain amount of character points which you use to purchase new powers or improve old ones.

The final thing to mention regarding general gameplay is that there are different treasures/loot hidden throughout the maps. Each one can boost your powers by a set amount or add a completely different kind of power to the character. For example, I picked up an item which lets my mage swim under water for unlimited amounts of time.

The game gets told as a fairy tale story, and it’s really well done in that sense.

As of the time of this writing, this game is only available on PC. You can play the demo here from Steam.

This is an indie title by Frozenbyte. It has gained a lot of acclaim/awards from other gaming sites. Overall, it’s a great, although short game.

Fun Factor:

This game is a lot of fun, especially the first time through. There are many different approaches and solutions towards getting through an area or fighting enemies and to me that makes for an intelligent game, which most games are not these days, especially a platformer game. The atmosphere and way the game got made keeps you playing. The first time I played the game I was dead tired and started playing it at 11 PM. I went to bed that day at 5 AM.

For the first playthrough I give the game a Fun Factor score of 9 out of 10. For the repeat plays, I give it a score of 6 out of 10, maybe even 7 if it’s been a while.

Difficulty Versatility:

There are different difficulties but they are mostly the same. The only difference I found in game play is that the amount of health that you get when a character dies and resurrects at the checkpoints is lowered the harder you set it. I got really good at this game real fast so I would recommend playing it right from the start at the max difficulty. Most of the game is pretty easy to me, but some parts are tricky. Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 6 out of 10.

Value:

When I got this game it was $5 (when I announced the sale last time). At that cost, the game is an amazing value.

When it’s not on sale, this game usually goes for about $20. At the time of this writing, you can get it for that much through ebgames.com in DVD and also as the downloaded version. You can get it for the same price through Steam.

You can also get it from Impulse here, which is one of our sponsors.

Trine
$19.99

For $20, considering it took me 5-6 hours to beat the game the first time, it’s not so much a great value. At that cost, I’d give Value a score of 4 out of 10. At a cost of $10, I’d give it a 6 out of 10. At $5, I’d give Value a score of 8 out of 10.

Replayability:

This is a pretty short game. I’ve played it twice so far and the game was predictable the entire 2nd playthrough. I have a good memory and since I just played it back to back, I will probably revisit this game in a year or two. I’d give replayability a 4 out of 10, mainly because it’s such a well made game and the action is well done.

Sound:

The voice acting for the game is great. I enjoy when they argue with each other, regarding the path they are taking for solving the main plot. It’s comical. The mage is a shy dork, the rogue archer is a hot sexy lady, and the warrior is a dumb jock.

The sound effects are well done too. The arrows sound real. The smashing of the warrior’s sword or the impact on his shield sound amazing. Sound gets a score of 8 out of 10. I would have given it a higher score, if it had more voice acting.

Music:

The music for the game is beautiful. It goes well with the atmostphere and the fairy tale setting. The music sometimes reminds me of a Tim Burton kind of fairy tale movie. Danny Elfman would be proud! It is written by Ari Pulkkinen. I wish it were available for download. The music from Trine gets a score of 10 out of 10. It’s simply beautiful.

Graphics:

The game looks beautiful. It reminds me sort of the style that the first Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen had, only from the point of view of a side-scrolling platformer instead of the top down and not pixelated at all. They look well drawn and the game is simply beautiful. For what this game is, the Graphics deserve a score of 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game runs rock solid even while alt-tabbing the living hell out of it. Nothing to complain here. It loads up quickly as well each time. Stability/Reliability gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls are simple and fluid. Standard WASD + mouse combo work like a charm for Trine. Once you’ve played the game for a while, you will be able to use each character almost as if it’s second nature to you. It doesn’t take long to get used to the controls. Eventually you will find yourself just drilling everything with the rogue archer and the enemies won’t stand a chance. Controls get a score of 10 out of 10.

Performance:

The game runs perfectly on most gaming machines, even some obsolete ones. I never saw lag, not even once during any part of this game. The levels load up quickly as well. Performance gets a score of 10 out of 10.

My history with this game:

This was one of over 300 games I bought during the Steam holiday sale. Although the game is short I enjoyed playing it as much nearly as when I played Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the first time. I would recommend it to people who like that game a lot, who are PC gamers.