The Spectator's Review: Intro
Video Game Reviews from a Spectator's Perspective
In the summer of 1997 my older brother received his very first Nintendo 64 along with one of the popular games that came with the bundle; Mario Kart 64. Compared to the slightly older Super Nintendo and its outdated predecessor the Nintendo Entertainment System, the 64 was a sleek technological wonder that would keep both my brother and I occupied for hours and then years on end.
But truth be told, I didn't play.
Yes I knew how to hold that awkward remote (why did it have three handles?) and make the polygonal, 64-bit characters move around on analog CRT TV we owned at the time and I knew the basic jist of story line and mission objectives.
I just didn't like playing.
I liked watching my brother play.
To this day I don't know many people that can beat my brother in Mario Kart 64, I don't know many people that can beat him in most of the Mario series games. I would observe him for hours; that focused concentration as he beat side missions, the humorous faux disappointment when a boss obliterated his character and the determination to start over just to reach that satisfaction that slipped through his fingers until he accomplished his goal.
They were great years. I gained an appreciation for the electronic arts (not referencing the gaming company) from a point of view that I don't hear about often. Actual game players write about their experiences playing all the time. I used to follow a few YouTubers that reviewed retro games the same way others follow beauty volggers and vine videos. But my humors rested in the things I would pick up while watching my brother play that he might have missed because of his dedication to the actual art of pressing buttons and moving the joystick in repetitive sequences.
My mother didn't bother buying Gameshark books or guides or walk-through that may have shredded a number of the countless hours we both spent collaborating and creating solutions that were probably quick fixes but took us years to figure out on our own.
But we did it each time.
As the years went by, his love for gaming never lessened, but then we got older and I married and moved away from home.
I now spend my recreational time cheerleading and spectating my husband's active game-playing. Now that I have logged hundreds of hours of game spectating for a myriad of different games from different genres and possibly all game play styles, I'd like to offer reviews in the eyes of a spectator; the one who silently observes in the background, taking in everything from the graphics to the Easter eggs, the one who can see the amazing partnership between plot and strategy but also notices its flaws, the one who might wrench you from your functional fixedness problem when you've tried for the ninth time to beat that one boss.
What am I focusing on in these reviews?
1. Graphics and Aesthetics
If a game is difficult to look at because the graphics are so poor quality because they looked like a drunk high school playing with Photoshop for the first time, then what's the point? There are some games I enjoy for their graphics alone, whether real or fantasy.
2. Music Composition and SFX
For all intents and purposes, I'm not tone deaf. There are pleasant sounds and games that I will leave on because the idle music is so soothing. Anyone that enjoys Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will probably agree with me on that.
3. Storyline and Plot
So this doesn't apply to all games, but it certainly does to most. A great story line is consistent, paces itself correctly, and doesn't include too many deus ex machinas. They tell me what they think I need to know when they want me to know it and of course, makes me question my own morality and ethics.
Side missions are also a part of this category, while they should have a certain amount of independence from the main mission, they should still be relative to the game and avoid too much nonsense. (Why the heck am I collecting chickens for an FPS war-themed game?)
4. Game Mechanics
Possibly unpopular opinion; some games' mechanics suck. I take into account levels of "playability" in terms of hardness, the construction of fight/battle scenes, and how perks and abilities affect the previously mentioned. Time sensitivity should be used with care as should save features and other mechanics that can affect the ability to enjoy the game.
Please stay tuned, this series has multiple parts.
*NOTE: These reviews may contain spoilers to certain current games. I will try diligently to warn readers when I believe the review contains too much information that must be revealed to understand the review in its entirety.*