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a review of
judgement Posted 2007-06-22 19:24:56 by Jim Crawford
This is my favorite part of Heather Campbell's ActionButton review of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess:
“Show it to a friend who doesn?t game, and they?ll disarm you with the simplest question: Why? Ask the game why, and it falls apart like a sculpture of ash.”
This is brilliant persuasive writing. It's phrased so that you're supposed to be totally disarmed by the realization that she's totally right, you don't know why! Except the reason you can't answer her question is that she never actually asks one. Why what?

I can offer a guess, though: because it's more fun that way.

For instance. Here's my second-favorite part of the review:

“If [a] human being falls into lava, he shouldn?t wake up next to a door holding his head. UNLESS HE NEVER MOVED TO BEGIN WITH.”
I'm assuming she'd've preferred a “game over” screen, but for all I know she wanted her save file erased too.

But for all the idiocy in the review, I think the core idea, that Twilight Princess was a workmanlike game rather than an inspired one, is correct. Wind Waker, the previous game in the series, was the first Zelda game not directed by Shigeru Miyamoto, and Eiji Aonuma put his proud stamp upon it. It was a fresh, inspired game; unfortunately, because it was pushed out the door mostly unfinished, it was also a bad one. By the standards of the Zelda series, at least.

People wrongly associated the badness with the freshness, and as a result, Aonuma was scared to try anything really out-there when working on the sequel. Instead, the design team drew on other games, such as Fumito Ueda's Shadow of the Colossus, for inspiration, for what seems like the first time in the history of the series. The result is very fun, but also very derivative.

That point -- though Heather put it rather more vindictively than I did -- demonstrates what I love about ActionButton's reviews: they genuinely seem to be written for the edification of the game's developers. There are plenty of sources out there for Consumer Reports style product reviews, intended to assist consumers in their decision of what product to purchase. There aren't many that address the developer directly, essentially saying “Hey you. Here's what you did wrong, and here's how you can fix it.”

Unfortunately, the reviews often show deep ignorance of the subject on the part of the reviewer. This is an enormous turnoff, especially when combined with the pretentious, New-Games-Journalismy writing style that the iconoclastic punk rockers over there tend to prefer.

For instance. The Andrew Toups review of God of War 2 claims that every move in the game is filler, equivalent to the somersault move -- the “duck-roll” -- in Ocarina of Time:

“The duck roll is useless. It gives you no advantage in combat, nor are there any puzzles or setpieces that require you to use it ? it barely even decreases the amount of time it takes to walk. It is entirely extraneous, yet at the same time it is essential to keeping that game from becoming monotonous.”

And then goes on to say that you can finish every fight in the game by mashing a single button, over and over again. This is an incredibly damning statement, since despite all the polish put into the presentation, the whole point of God of War 2 is the fight engine and the challenges it interfaces into. Thus the zero stars awarded.

Unfortunately for Andrew and fortunately for everyone who played God of War 2 in spite of its absence of coveted stars, the claim that button mashing is a viable tactic is easily refuted by playing God of War 2 for a few hours on a difficulty level other than the easiest. The desire to avoid this sort of mistake is what motivates “real” journalists to finish the games they're reviewing before deciding how to rate them on the 7 to 9 scale.

Which I'm sure the freewheeling folks at ActionButton would decry as just another uninspired, fear-driven design decision. Like Wind Waker, ignoring the traditional rules is the big value ActionButton provides. Which is great! Just be aware that, chances are, the writer of the review you're reading there is both wrong and an asshole.

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no subject
Posted by Anonymous (Rusty) on 2007-06-25 11:22:49
Haha. I like this response better though:

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