The following is a breakdown of how we rate the various core elements of a video game. Readers can choose to either read the bulk of the review or lazier protoplasms can opt to jump to the bottom of the page and get a glance at 8 core elements under review. The 8 elements that we select for the specific game being reviewed will be chosen based on the game’s genre (It would be unfair to give a bad score for narrative on a multiplayer racing game that has almost no story, so elements like multiplayer would be chosen instead of narrative).
The 8-Bit Review
Pretty self-explanatory. This category measures the quality of a game’s graphics and visual beauty, taking its age into consideration. Does the game shine and shimmer? What kind of experience do the visuals present? Do they aid in the execution or distract from the overall experience? Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the sight of a $100 bill in the gutter just waiting for you to pick it up.
Music and sound effects contribute to much of the atmosphere, leading to soaring dramatic scenes of tear-jerking pathos… or leading to the mute button. Face it, some games really got “it” goin’ on in the audio department. Others sound like someone took a J-pop track recorded by screaming cats and decided it was suitable for backmasking. Of course, musical taste comes down to personal taste, but this isn’t your blog is it? So did it get your toes tapping? Have you looked up the OST on Youtube? Did the songs get stuck in your head? Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being pure auditory euphoria.
Here be mechanics. Does the game glitch out? Are the controls difficult or unresponsive? Is the battle-system seamless or is it a nightmare? Does it freeze often or suffer from excruciating loading times, tempting you to perform a hard reset with a sledgehammer? This is the technical nitty-gritty of a game. Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a pure delight to swat your fingers at.
One of my personal favorite elements of a video game lies in the presentation of its unique story. Storytelling is a fundamental gift all human beings have and we each of us partake in it throughout our lives. Sometimes the story of a video game even seems to transcend its medium. Does a game’s storyline leap from its narrative and dialogue, or is it clichéd? Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the finest art of storytelling.
Co-op the backbone of gaming friendships, bromances and budding relationships. Multiplayer can focus on either online or in-house buddy time, and indeed multiplayer has taken many forms since the beginning of gaming history. Grading a multiplayer feature will take into consideration the ease of access for multiple players, the fun-ness level, the success of the use of split screens, cables, leagues, or anything else involved, and whether that brings anything to the plate or not. Scale of 1 to 10, 10 representing a sunny afternoon of high fives and grueling competitiveness.
Some games can really open up the horizons and utilize the online play feature to connect gamers to a vast community of thousands of perfect strangers. Sometimes the experience is great. Sometimes it’s exactly like stepping into an empty public restroom, and then another person steps in and uses the facility right next to you, and just when the tension is at its peak, the lights go out. Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 at the pinnacle of guild-building MMO-ing.
Put the kids to bed! Maturity ratings for films and games aren’t always the most reliable. Just look back on PG, even G rated, movies from the 80’s. Not exactly the same as kid-friendly products today. Family Friendliness measures the degree of edginess and goodness, if that’s your concern. Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the paragon of wholesome entertainment.
Oh, the horror! Exactly. The thing with scary movies and games is they should be scary. When they aren’t, they can become laughable. Maybe it’s a horror comedy, or maybe it isn’t and it’s just a cheese-fest. Scale of 1 to 10, and 10 is a nightmare-inducing terror.
Solely for the small screen, this category measures how addicting a tv show is. Is it really that hard to put down? Maybe you’ll wind up dead of dehydration before reaching the end of the seaon, but you’ll die happy. Thank God for Netflix and Hulu. Scale of 1 to 10, and 10 is the addiction level of illegal drugs and chocolate. Combined.
Nothing can make a project shine more than a good cast of actors and actresses. Nothing can bring a movie or game down more than a horrible host of characters. Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being some really great performances!
How well does the game/film communicate its themes and its message? Is it just mindless explosiveness Michael Bayness or is it a rich tapestry of deep philosophical observations of the world around us with a “moral of the story” that moves to tears? Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 evocative of the most thematic of experiences.
Essentially, how easy are the controls to learn? How accessible is this game? Does it suffer from so much complexity that you need an engineering degree just to navigate its stages? Or is it something your granpa could just plug in and play? Does it require an hour’s worth of tutorials? Or would you be fine if you lost the instructions manual? Scale of 1 to 10, and 10 is the intuitiveness of playing catch with an old man who throws under hand.
I’ve discovered that my mom was wrong. I can’t break the controller. Not even as an adult. I’ve tried. Breaking a controller clean in half remains one of those elusive childhood fantasies. However, the games that inspired such frustration remain all too real. Conquering their challenges, earning their trophies, besting their bosses and solving the worst of their puzzles can engender a feeling not unlike winning the Super Bowl (so I’ve been told. I’ve never played sports. Obviously.). The value of difficulty is that it can increase the experience, or a lack of difficulty can leave you feeling patronized. Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the biggest and baddest challenge.
This is solely for updated remixes, compilations and HD remasters of older games. How well does the collection repackage and represent the material? Does it treat it with respect as originals or does it tack on too many additional, meddling features? Scale of 1 to 10, 10 of course being the ultimate preservation of a great collection.
Remember that game you just couldn’t put down? Yeah, that one you thought of while you were getting chewed out at work? That one you told yourself you’d only play for another hour, and then glanced at the clock to discover you’ve been playing for another four? That game that you just keep brushing the dust off of and coming back to again and again, the one that you kept delving into well after you’ve reached the end? There’s a reason why pasty gamers stereotypically never leave their homes. Games can be very addicting. Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the addiction level of daytime talk-shows, like a car wreck, you just can’t look away.
Although most video games now share the same price as an organ transplant, many of them are still a dime a dozen. Whether that means they’re from a long line of regurgitated, commercial sequels or cheap knock-offs that somehow escaped from being deeply ashamed of themselves, uniqueness is a quality that becomes increasingly appealing. The best of the best are those games that push their respective genres forward with all of the innovation of pre-Wii Nintendo. Scale of 1 to 10, and of course 10 is the Holy Grail.
My Personal Grade
Someone once said “I like Jello”. Well, guess what? I don’t. Yeah, I said it. I don’t like Jello. And like Jello, complete with its assortment of flavors from Grape-Throw-Up to Cherry-Cough-Syrup, enjoying video games eventually come down to personal preference. Many of my friends (yes, I have those) enjoy games that I don’t, and I enjoy games that they don’t, for reasons entirely alien to myself or vice versa. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and appreciating video games as an art form paradoxically requires one to set aside something that is always there: personal opinion. But that’s exactly what this final category is for. It’s for me. Not you. Scale of 1 to 10.
*Note that a final aggregated score based on the eight categories will conclude the review.