@beige erk, the Gerstman review makes me question what we actually want from game reviews. On one hand, he’s totally permitted to have his own opinion of any game, if he thinks Halo is a 2 or Deus ex is the worst game ever made it is his perogitive, and it can’t NOT be his perogitive to preserve journalistic integrity of the medium as a whole.
The difficult thing though is when the pace and method of reviews come in. Catherine is a game that challenges you, it demands a certain amount of investment, and there’s a huge difference in the base investment of a guy who is drawn in by the game, and invests dollars straight up compared to a guy who was handed it as a mandatory part of his work day. This is compounded of course if you baseline dislike “Anime Nonsense.” Now he liked Persona 4, so I see why they handed him this review, but it was pretty clear from the podcast that even thinking of the game wearied him, but he force himself to complete it, like eating something rancid because it was part of his job. Not exactly the best state to judge a thing in.
So from the job-like nature of the event, of course he played it on easy, which is designed that you have very little challenging puzzling. it does this by making sure that you aren’t seeing much that you haven’t seen before, the solutions to puzzles are by and large very very slight variants on stuff you’ve already seen before, so naturally this ended up in the review as “Yeah, the puzzling is really same-y and there’s not a lot of variety to it” Which is true… on that particular setting, which constitutes about 1/10th of the game’s content, not even counting Versus or Tower of Babel (which is randomly generated on a certain structure.)
How was he going to know that though? You can’t expect a guy to take 1-2 weeks to thoroughly plumb the depth of every aspect of every game out there, difficulty levels and all. The number of titles the industry produces is growing and the content inside a game is expanding with the technology, yet there hasn’t been a corresponding boom in review staffs near as I can tell.
So, maybe he shouldn’t have been handed it in the first place? That’s not a good answer either, arguably there’s a fine line between giving games to “fans of the genre” and giving it to someone who will give a game a free pass. That being said, if I, as a puzzler fan am looking at a review of a guy who hates the puzzling, how does this help me? Doesn’t the very nature of the consumer mean that the game should be given am equal or greater shake?
And the problem only promises to get worse, as game genres get blended and more and more hybrid game types emerge, it’s going to be very difficult for a review outfit to have people who are capable and willing to give absolutely every type of game a fair shot. I’ve played games my entire life and my breadth is huge, but even I have an irrational hate-on for sports games/driving sims/etc. Similarly I’m more likely to have more give to problem games with my favorite brand of Anime Nonsense, (Trinity Universe/Cross Edge/Disgaea etc)
So there’s no objective way to review games, which is fine in a vacuum. However, this is going to make it difficult for games which are culturally impenetrable to some. God help the game that brings too much of a ‘furry’ vibe to the table regardless of its actual merits. Anime-styled games have had, well, split reactions at best. This also won’t be working very well in the far future when more and more countries have homegrown game studios. Could our the US’s massive industry fairly judge a game coming from Afghanistan? Could we have done so 10 years ago? How would we go about doing so?
That being said, throwing various anime games into metacritic shows that even anime-styled games (while they do have consistently lower scores then more culturally ‘in line’ like anything “of war”) are still able to at least hold some green ratings, Things like Star Ocean: Second story and Trinity Universe hold on and their scores tend to be in the same ballpark. Also bizarre and culturally different titles seem okay too, notably Zanzarah: The Hidden Portal for example. The Cat and the Coup also got a certain amount of positive glow despite being ‘something from far away.’ That might only be because a breath of fresh anything is welcome after so many sequels and franchises, but hopefully most places have thought this out and has it under control.
In fact the *only* exception I can find to this rule is Catherine, and Giant Bomb’s score which is 30 converted points lower then the lowest other score.
So… “It’s not awful, 2 out of 5” is maybe an abnormal event. Still, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more promising game >_>
TL:DR: Game reviews are haaaard, and becoming harder as cultures can add their own takes and uniqueness into the industry. I (and apparently everyone else in the industry :V) disagree with Gerstman’s review, but I understand he has the right to say it, and how important is to protect that right.
(Edit: Closest I’ve gotten so far to a Berkeley gas station rant! 😀 not bad!)