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Gamer’s Thoughts: How do I write my first impressions and reviews?

Arpegi BackI have written a lot of first impressions and game reviews. In today’s article, I’m going to talk about how I create one of those articles. Consider this article as a sort of “behind the screens” look into my creative process. How I try to get an article ready every week. The focus of this article will be how I analyze a game. How I look at it’s nuts and bolts and how I translate that to words. In any case, feel free to leave a comment with how you prepare for your articles and/your thoughts. So, I hope you are ready since here we go! 

Preparations

380kvPersonally, picking a subject for the article is one of the hardest parts to me. I have a lot of ideas but often I change my mind at the last minute.

Quite common is that I write an article about the game I have been playing recently. It’s easier since the memories of the game are quite fresh in my mind.

Sometimes, when I don’t have an idea; I look around in my collection for a game to take a look at. And when I don’t feel like writing about a certain game, I try to find an interesting subject to write about. In most cases, I write an article in one of my series like Gaming Nostalgia, Gamer’s Thoughts or Gaming Music.

When I decided which game I’m going to talk about, I start playing it. I always have my tablet or a notebook close to me. Truth to be told, I don’t take many notes. Since I feel that writing an article with the impressions you have gives a stronger article.

So, my notes are mostly things that I don’t want to forget. Like certain moments or certain frustrations.

This way I find that you can give a more general impression of the game. This way I can focus more on the game instead of going too much in depth about one aspect.

The research part

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So, right before I start writing the article, I thinking of a good title and look up some other articles about the game.

I always give my own opinion on my blog. Even while other critics disagree with me. Besides, I’m not that good of a liar anyways.

But, it’s always interesting to see what other people write about the game. It gives me another angle on the game. It can also give me some ideas on how I should write the article.

It also gives me some background information about the game. This is rather helpful for finishing the article. To check if all my facts are correct. Also, I’m extremely interested in the history of gaming and the development. So, yeah…

The analyzing of the game

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How does one judge a story? Well, that’s very tricky. I used to write a lot of stories in the past. But nowadays, I write a lot about games.

So, I look at a story in a very different way. I look at how it’s written, how it’s structured, how it draws in the player and how it actually works. A good story must make you smile here and there and/or put you on the edge of your seat.

In my early gaming days, I used to never play games without a story. When a game didn’t have a story, I skipped it. With some exceptions like Tetris and Pac-Man of course.

The story is something that is the most important to me in a game. The better the story is, the more fun I have playing the game.

Presentation

The presentation of a game is something I can look past that, to a certain extent. I honestly don’t really care of some enemies are generic. I see it as a positive if they try to do something new with it.

Yet, there are two aspects of the presentation that I pay a lot of attention to. That are the menus and the controls.

A menu in a game should be easy to navigate. Also, a certain task shouldn’t require a “million” clicks before you can perform it.

And about the controls, it’s quite self-explanatory I think. Would you play a game with bad controls? Controls that work against you? Not a lot of people would enjoy themselves!

Difficulty

I love games that are challenging but aren’t too difficult. The more brutal a game is, the less fun I have with it.

Don’t understand me wrong here. There is nothing wrong with difficult games, I just don’t like them.

Truth to be told, reviewing the difficulty of a game is pretty tricky. Something that I find difficult in a game can be easy for somebody else. And it can work in the other way too.

Music and sound

The music of a game is quite important to me. The prove of that is the fact that I write a series about gaming music. Sometimes, some of my favorite songs are actually my ringtone.

At work, I listen to a lot of gaming music as well. Since it helps me concentrate. But in some cases, it can be a distraction since the memories come back from the game.

That’s why I listen to the soundtrack of the game while I’m reviewing or writing the first impression of a game. It helps me remember the game. 🙂

Closing off

So, yeah. I hope you enjoyed reading this article. I tried to give a general idea how I make my articles. If you guys and girls want to know more, feel free to leave me a comment. Maybe could turn in a new article.

While I love writing articles like these, I love writing about games more. This makes it quite hard to pin down exactly what I look at while reviewing or writing a “first impression” article.

In any case, before I ramble too much… I think it’s time to wrap up this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it! I hope to welcome you another time on my blog but until then, take care! Have a great rest of your day.

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My favorite game music #6: Can’t stop writing these.

GamesIt’s that time again. Time to write another entry in my series of best game music ever made. Now, to be clear. This is my opinion. So, if you dislike a track, that’s good. It would be scary if we had the exact same taste. Anyways, give these tracks a listen and read the explanation I wrote next to the box-art. Maybe you find new music for your music library or maybe even new games to play. Apart from the story, I’m very into how a game draws people in and music is a big part in that. Generally, I’m look at content as an exterminator. I ask myself: “Why do people like this?”. I want to learn from that to bring even better content. Yeah. But before we start, let me say the usual again. In this article, only one track of a game for each article. If I like other tracks as well, that means I have to put them at another article. Feel free to leave a comment on this article with your opinion on this article and / or the tracks.

#1: Kirby’s Adventure Wii (Wii) – Super Ability

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I have only started playing this game rather recently. I’m even planning to write a first impression on it rather soon.

This game is full of amazing tracks. Sadly, they don’t always fit the scenery quite well. It’s such a shame.

This adventure isn’t a simple remake of the gameboy classic under the same name. Well, nearly the same name, with the “Wii” dropped.

This track is very upbeat and energetic. You can feel the power in your remote. In a way. This track is one of the main reasons why playing with the super ability is so much fun!

So, if you want to know my opinion of the game, keep an eye on my blog when I post the first impression of it. Otherwise, when I don’t find the time, here is my opinion in short. It’s one of the best Kirby games I have played. But there are some minor flaws that take away from the game.

#2: Alice: Madness Returns (PC ~ Steam) – Combat Theme

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Recently, I have written a first impression article about this game. I’m still quite surprised how this game has such a short OST from the results I get from Google.

Most likely, I was derping up when I looked for the full soundtrack. Why did I look for the full soundtrack? Well, I can’t fully decide which one of the tracks is my favorite one.

Most, if not all, of the tracks in the soundtrack of this game are good candidates for making it up on my list. They are just amazing and fun to listen to.

They draw you into the game without any problem at all. I want to finish this game for more reasons then the music alone.

I know that this is a sequel. Normally I always play the original first. But I wasn’t able to find the original. If somebody finds the original copy online somewhere, feel free to contact me. I’m quite interested to play the first game.

#3: Tetris (Gameboy) – Theme A.

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Some of you are having nostalgia right now for sure. I wish I put the music here from Tetris DX but that might be for another article. Since I have selected this track for this article.

And dayum, does this game have some big nostalgic memories for me. I have played this game to pieces. At one point I even had three copies of this game. I wanted to play this game with friends… so yeah, I got copies from garage sales and such.

This game is one of the first actual games I played in my life. For many, it’s Pokémon or Pac-Man… But for me it’s Tetris. Maybe that’s why I have such a big love for puzzle games. I started out with one of the biggest titles in puzzle game history.

And to close off this part, did you know that Tetris is one of the main reasons why the Gameboy was so popular? Yeah, look it up. Or I might talk about it in another article.

#4: Tomb Raider (PC) – Adventure Found Me!

Tomb Raider Survivor Box-Art.

Tomb Raider Survivor Box-Art.

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This short but sweet introduction track is one I played on replay when I was writing my notes for Alan Wake or my Tomb Raider articles. It just fits the mood of those kinds of games.

But I fell in love with this track when I heard this remixed into a hardstyle track. Kodex remixed this music, with the actual voice acting and such into their track.

And the quote, is actually one of my life quotes. Apart from the “Valour, for thy name is education.” … This is the quote I life by:

A famous explorer once said, that the extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are. I’d finally set out to make my mark; to find adventure. But instead adventure found me. In our darkest moments, when life flashes before us, we find something; Something that keeps us going. Something that pushes us.

Yeah, it inspired me to do great things. Like starting a blog and meeting new people. It has been quite an adventure!

#5: Pandora’s Tower (Wii) – 1st Master Theme

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Now we didn’t get the Devil May Cry on the Wii, yet this game is extremely close. It feels like a clone of Devil May Cry but with some JRPG elements mixed in.

This game’s plot is leaning towards the “already seen before” area. Yet, it’s highly interesting.

Now, I have to stop myself, since I want to write a full article about this game in the near future.

I haven’t gotten far into the game just yet but what I have seen was amazing. I can only complement the game for that.

I totally enjoy the music in this game, it nails the atmosphere and it’s extreme fun to play. I’m currently playing this game together with “A Shadow’s Tale” on my Wii. These two titles are the perfect way to blow off dust of my Wii.

So, to close off the last game of this article, I advice you to keep an eye on my blog. Soon, there will be an article of this game.

Closing words

Well, that was another music article of mine. I hope you enjoyed reading it and listing to the amazing music I have picked out for you guys.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, I post updates often there. Like how I almost broke my baby toe and that I was unable to write for a day because of that. Believe me, it stings quite bad. And then you are glad that some nice game music can take your head from the pain.

So, that might have been too much information for some. Anyways, I hope to welcome you at another article. Take care guys!

First Impressions: Pokémon Ranger (DS) ~ All These Circles Make Me Dizzy.

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Wikipedia entry. (Since the official site is updated to the latest entry in the series.)

Sometimes games have a lot of potential. And this game surely has potential. This Pokémon spin-off is based on one of the opponent types in the main series. Yet, some games then fail horribly to deliver. I was planning to make write this article in a story-ish thing-y but I wanted to be direct for this game. It made me think about something. If you ever ask yourself why I don’t review that many bad games on my blog is because the games I play are the games that catch my eye and I think are interesting to play. I also look beyond the graphics and other things while I’m playing. And I trust my instinct in order to avoid bad games. Yet, it happens that a bad game slips in here and there, but when I’m having fun and when I’m enjoying myself, that makes the game a lot better. Remember that I judge my games extremely personally. That might be a flaw of my reviewing skills, since I should actually review my games more so that I look if it would be for everybody. Anyways, I thought this was important to say since there are a lot of fans for this game. So, to avoid flaming in the comments I better explain myself. But feel free to leave me a comment to tell me how I did or what you think of this game. Anyways, here we go!

The first isn’t always the best.

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This game made me doubt my instinct of choosing great games. I’m going to be extremely honest here, this game is flawed. Yet, it’s a game I’ll finish since I want to beat the first one in the series before I continue to play the other games in the series. I did play the sequel and the 3rd game in the series and I really enjoyed my time there. I never beaten them though. Okay, Guardian Signs I had beaten but not 100%, since I had a part of the epilogue left to beat.

I’m going to dive into the parts I didn’t like of this game first. Honestly, I don’t like the overworld animation. Some Pokémon seem a bit jittery when they move and the running animation of your character is way to fast for your friend Pokémon to keep up. And this causes a lot of issues. Pokémon will no clip through walls and various other locations to reach you. When they can’t cross a certain river or other place, they will spawn next to you after a short while of being off screen.

The graphics in this game look really neat though. It’s another take on how things can look in the main series. I’m so glad they took it in an other direction yet, similar. But the level design don’t look very pleasant. Not that it looks ugly or anything but I really don’t feel the polish of the other Pokémon games that go into cities.

Bad?

ds_pokemonranger_ss03 copyBut there are other things really makes me want to rip this game apart. First of all, the map screen is a total joke. It’s actually useless. Your map is more like a radar with an arrow representing you and squares if there is a door you can enter. Also, it displays Pokémon nearby. I actually found a glitch in the map. Before the sewer part in Fall City, you need to try to get on top the entrance of the sewers, that road, and look at the map then. It’ll appear that a lot of Pokémon are there.

Secondly, I really dislike in this game is the music. It’s bland and forgettable. I actually had to play the OST to remember the music. I really hope that the music in the rest of the game makes up for the music in the first section of the game.

Thirdly, while the capturing of Pokémon is an awesome idea and it works in the game as well, it’s the only really enjoyable part of the gameplay. The locations to explore are bland and generic. Also the capturing can be really frustrating since sometimes the Pokémon will run on the side of the screen which makes drawing your circles around them a real pain to execute. Not to mention the possible damage to your touch screen if you get a bit to … circle-happy? Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the possible interruption you can have in mid-capture when your styler levels up. Yeah, it can happen.

But the biggest let down has to be the extremely weak story. Even the first Pokémon game had a better story. It suffers from cheesy-ness, generic characters and basic plots. The plot can be summed up easily by: “Superstyler is stolen by bad guys to cause evil.” No character gets depth and stay dolls on strings to play a certain role. Such a lost opportunity. This makes predicting the story extremely easy and ruins the thrill of the story.

Why do I still play this?

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By now you might think that I have given up fate for this game. But surprisingly, there is a charm in this game that keeps pulling me in over and over again. Even with the obvious flaws of this game, it remains fun. Exploring the, linear, places to progress is fun.

Finding the right Pokémon to assist you in destroying a big rock is sweet. Also, you really need to think about which Pokémon you have to take along since you can’t have them all at the same time.

The controls of this game is a major plus. You can use the D-Pad and/or the stylus to move. And it actually works extremely well. Yet, I managed to find a bug in the controls. When you have a ladder that goes down, try walking at the side. When you are in middle at the side, the screen will shake while your character continues to walk in front of him.

But in conclusion, this game is good but not great. This game plays it extremely safe to introduce us to a new spin-off that is a lot of fun. But it needs a lot of polish to make the game more fun. This game might have some serious flaws but it doesn’t destroy the game and it’s still playable. But I’m going to leave it here. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review. Until the next one. 🙂

Rant #003: Tutorials ~ The games that hold your hand.

ds-game-reviewsIt’s extremely lovely how games now explain the things in game. Sadly enough you don’t have to look at the manual anymore. For that manuals start to disappear. As a game collector, this makes me sad. But there is one thing that makes me sad too. That’s how games now a days have tutorials. Even if the battle system is extremely simple, the developers feel like explaining the game mechanics to you. Is this needed? Each time you play the game? Well, I don’t think so. Game tutorials are overrated, big time. I’m not against them, but they are certainty overstaying their welcome now.

Want to play the game, here I will help you.

I was talking with a friend of mine over Skype earlier and I said that I was giving Call Of Duty a shot. (ha, bad pun.) And he said that past CoD 5 it isn’t worth a play, since the game actually “holds your hand”.

What I mean with this is that you barely have any challenge in trying. The button you need to press flashes on the screen way on beforehand and finishing the game is just as easy as pressing the button.

Don’t confuse these with quick time events. I actually kinda like quick time events, as long as they aren’t overdone in a game. Tomb Raider has the action broken up with quick time events.

A game that’s good with it’s tutorial is Devil May Cry 4. The first part is you having a tutorial of the basics, to refresh and check if your controls are properly set, and after that it’s up to you to play the game. When you get a new ability, the instructions flash on screen once and then it’s up to you to remember them.

That’s the big problem with games that flash the buttons on screen. Back in the day, I knew where the A and B buttons where on the gameboy. But now I don’t know where the buttons are located on my PSP, since the button is flashed on the screen and I quickly peek over or just memorize it for that game. That may be a personal nitpick but tutorials can be annoying as getting the trash out and the bag rips. The first time you might go through with it but the second time you want to say some curse words.

Where is the skip button?

I can understand tutorials to make the games accessible for everybody. But when a battle system is self-explanatory then why for the love of God do we need a tutorial. I’m looking at you Pokémon for example. Is it really needed to say that you can select attacks under “attack” and that your items are under “bag”? Well no, let me try to defeat my opponents Pokémon by trying to run away and let’s try to throw a Pokéball to a wild Pokémon with a Sand Attack.

One game managed to nearly boil my blood. The start of Devil May Cry 4 is a fixed tutorial. And when you don’t do the move or the action required, forget it, you won’t pass to the rest of the game. Lovely.

A game that got it right is Overlord for example. In this game, right after the opening, you get the basics explained but for the basic combat and such, you can take a route. But if you want to skip it, you can go right to the Throne Room. This is how I want my games to be! With a skip-able tutorial.  I don’t want to be reminded each time I restart the game how to play the game.

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A game that is a perfect example of how to do it, but make it extremely annoying is The Legend Of Zelda – Ocarina Of Time.

In this game, you have a fairy following you, acting as your tutorial in how to use weapons and your items. But the sound effect to remind you that she has something to say is “HEY LISTEN.” and you hear this phrase a least a million time in the game. It gets on people’s nerves extremely quickly. Luckily they fixed this in the sequel Majora’s Mask where the sound effect is just a tingle.

A game that has no tutorial is Minecraft. This game drops you in a random generated world and without prior knowledge, this game is pretty confusing. And this is the big fun of Minecraft. You get to learn the game by playing it and you feel rewarded if you kill that first Zombie or craft your first bow. Most recipes aren’t far fetched anyways.

Some games have in game menu’s where you can review certain combo’s or actions. I remember some games, and I’m sorry that I can’t bring an example at this moment… I think it might be Age of Mythology for the DS, have a separate tutorial button that you can take outside of the game. That’s also a great option.

I feel retard. 

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Yes, I feel sometimes as a retard in a game. The game gets more like an interactive movie where you need to punch in the right button on the right time. There is no real skill involved anymore.

It’s like that coach at the side of a soccer game shouting at their players each and every move they need to do.

In complicated games, no issue, more power to you. But like I said, in a game like Kirby or Pokémon where the things are obvious how they work, it’s not needed. Just scrap that part and use the space for something decent like more levels.

Nintendo isn’t the only wrong do’er in this. I feel like tutorials now-a-days make a game way to easy. They flash the button you need to press or they can’t be skipped. What’s wrong with the challenge in a game. I once heard on a podcast that a developer needed to scrap a puzzle inside a game because there weren’t enough hints and you needed to use your common sense.

Oh, that’s another thing. Gamers don’t use a lot of common sense because of these tutorials. I wouldn’t be surprised if some gamer shouted at their game because “it wasn’t in the tutorial.”. Pathetic.

In conclusion, I think tutorials are welcome to aid the player get introduced in a game. But it’s annoying when you can’t skip it or when it explains extremely easy stuff that makes me go: “No shit sherlock.”.