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Topic: What do you look for in a review?

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Solomon_Rambling

This question has been sitting with me for awhile now, especially as I have been reading the comment sections for Nintendo Life’s reviews. Specifically, I’ve noticed how critical some readers are of the reviews. Some ridicule the reviewer for not understanding the genre. Others pick out biases or holes in the argument. Then there are those who criticize the actual writing. After reading the comment section for Roland Ingram’s review on Root Letter, I had to ask what people are looking for (or aren’t) in a review.

I personally want a review to be as entertaining as it is informative. Professionalism and objectivity have their merits but are not as important. I’d rather hear a writer’s voice in the review; that’s what engages me. If I want objectivity, I look at Metacritic for a cold, sterile number. Otherwise, try to be funny. Structure your review differently. Create an introduction that makes me want to read, and then I want to know the following:

  • Does it control well?
  • Are there bugs?
  • How much content is there?
  • What other downsides are there?

I enjoyed Ingram’s review for the most part, although I agree he included a few too many petty insults. I also know that we love the scathing reviews for games like Race With Ryan, Zombieland: Double Tap, and (if we want to point to the infamous) the Letter.

Anyway, what do you look for in a review in terms of content, tone, and purpose?

When all else fails, make a blog post about it.
https://solomonrambling.com

Ralizah

False dichotomy. A review can be professional AND engaging/well-written/etc. If reviewers want to be catty, they should stick to blogging.

When it comes to Switch games

  • No obvious bias against the subject matter of the game. A prude shouldn't be reviewing a fanservice-heavy game. Someone who doesn't like shooters shouldn't review DOOM. etc.
  • In that same vein, no lecturing about moral or social issues in the text of the review. I can work that stuff out for myself, thanks.
  • Discussion about performance/stability, both docked and undocked
  • Discussion about visual fidelity, both docked and undocked
  • Gameplay/story/music/etc. strengths and weaknesses
  • A ballpark idea of how long the game is
  • Side content/extra gameplay modes/etc.

Edited on by Ralizah

Nintendo Switch FC: SW-2726-5961-1794

Heavyarms55

Ralizah wrote:

False dichotomy. A review can be professional AND engaging/well-written/etc. If reviewers want to be catty, they should stick to blogging.

When it comes to Switch games

  • No obvious bias against the subject matter of the game. A prude shouldn't be reviewing a fanservice-heavy game. Someone who doesn't like shooters shouldn't review DOOM. etc.
  • In that same vein, no lecturing about moral or social issues in the text of the review. I can work that stuff out for myself, thanks.
  • Discussion about performance/stability, both docked and undocked
  • Discussion about visual fidelity, both docked and undocked
  • Gameplay/story/music/etc. strengths and weaknesses
  • A ballpark idea of how long the game is
  • Side content/extra gameplay modes/etc.

I think @Ralizah nailed it perfectly here. But I'd also like to add that as much objectivity as is possible and for the reviewer to acknowledge if/when their personal preference might be affecting the judgement. We can never really detach ourselves totally from our own positions - but we should be upfront with them when reviewing something.

Nintendo Switch FC: 4867-2891-2493
Switch username: Em
Discord: Heavyarms55#1475
Pokemon Go FC: 3838 2595 7596
PSN: Heavyarms55zx

cryptologous

Kinda agree with everything @Ralizah said.

I think prioritisation is a huge underlying pointer to a review that is written either disingenuously or by someone who doesn't have much experience with the genre. Prioritising aesthetic over puzzles in a puzzler review could be damaging. Prioritising story over gameplay in a fighter will spark some heat. In the case the game at hand is being praised, you get a different prioritisation problem, that being the readers often prioritise the numbers and joys/cons list over the review. I think it's easier to read intent into half a paragraph than mine for the intent behind five.

tl;dr: surely a review doesn't need a concluding paragraph, a "Conclusion", a joys/cons list, and a number

EDIT: @Heavyarms55 one thing I've come to notice over time across all review platforms is these kinds of preference pre-empts are seldom necessary if the reviewer can adequately prioritise the right things for a given genre, and I often find the preambles, and specifically for sites that seem to have strict deadlines and wordcount limits (like NL seems to have) tend to needlessly bog reviews down. I'd personally rather reviewers who were unfamiliar with certain niches spent the time learning about them in their own time and reviewed confidently. If the personal preference comes in the form of infatuation rather than a lack of prior knowledge, that should and most often does show in criticisms most people wouldn't notice on the surface which is much better than the inverse afaic.

Edited on by cryptologous

cryptologous

Solomon_Rambling

My mistake for insinuating professionalism/engaging were a dichotomy, @ Ralizah; it was not my intention. Those reviews that manage both are amazing. My complaint was more directed to those reviews which deliver all of the facts about the game but lack creativity in delivery or any meaningful commentary.

Now, “cattiness” is a bit harder for me to grasp. I do agree that reviewers should not purposefully intend to insult or demean the developers, but I think cattiness can have a place in a well-constructed review. I think Zero Punctuation and the Jimquisition are both bitingly critical (sometimes overly so) but offer unique perspectives in works. I also understand their main purpose is often to entertain. Roger Ebert (my personal favorite film critic) similarly used cattiness to make a point. The immediate ones which come to mind are his reviews for “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” and “the Human Centipede”). That said, I get that this may just be my personal taste.

I also like your point on prioritiz(s)ation, @cryptologous. I have been irked when reviewers criticize a Mario game for lack of story, a puzzle game for not having replay value, or a multiplayer game for missing an equally expansive single-player mode.

When all else fails, make a blog post about it.
https://solomonrambling.com

jump

What do I look for in a review? Well I go straight to the number at the end after those horrible wordy parts in between the screenshots, if it's less than 10/10 I cancel my pre-order!!!

Nicolai wrote:

Alright, I gotta stop getting into arguments with jump. Someone remind me next time.

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