As the project, and subsequently review database grows, inconsistencies are beginning to crop up in more and more prominent ways. The most impactful and inconsistent of these comes in the form of review metrics.
I started this project back in January 2015, and over time the method of reviewing games has become more and more refined. As a result, such review methodology is not the same across the board; I would not review a game now the same as I would at the start.
For both the benefit of myself as well as those who may be curious, I’ve decided to clear define and publicize how I score these games and what weights and considerations are involved in scoring specific categories. Hopefully by having this here, I can clear up some questions to this end, as well as maintain a better level of consistency.
Gameplay is pretty straightforward and simply defines how well the game plays. This encompasses controls, responsiveness, UI navigation, collision detection and pacing. While Fun is directly impacted by Gameplay, Gameplay itself is generally unaffected by other categories, though Presentation can occasionally have an impact, depending on how much a game’s visuals or interface affect its ability to be played.
Generally Scoring Philosophy:
- 10 – Game handles like a dream. All the pieces fall into place and everything is magical.
- 9 – Game plays nearly perfect, though there is room for improvement in one or more areas.
- 8 – Game handles very well, likely excelling in one area, though issues may be holding it back.
- 7 – Game plays at least as good as expected from its respective genre.
- 6 – Gameplay is average compared to other games. Not awful, but could stand to be better.
- 0-5 – Gameplay is bad, likely for multiple reasons.
Gameplay is unaffected by era, as it’s generally understood that a game that feels good to play, simply feels good to play. Certain passes will be granted when technological limitations prevent an aspect of a game from functioning ideally, and the game makes the best use of the tools available.
Story and Value:
Some games offer story but no replay value. Some games offer no story but lots of gameplay value. Because of this, Story and Value are scored as a single category. Typically, genres will veer more towards one of the other, and scores will be weighed accordingly. This category generally remains independent from others, though Gameplay may occasionally affect it in one way or another, specifically in game that are not story driven. For the most part, the two will remain independent.
Story is used as the primary weight when dealing with genres such as RPG’s, Action Adventure, and similar. Value comes into play with Sports, Racing and many Action and Platformer games. Some games draw from both ends of the category, such as when campaigns are introduced to sports or racing titles, or when platformers have a solid story, or when more story driven games offer multiple game modes or incentive multiple playthroughs.
General Scoring Philosophy (Story):
- 10 – Amazing and engaging story. Great characters and plot, had me hooked from start to finish.
- 9 – Great story, maybe had a couple low points or I didn’t connect with characters. Mostly fantastic.
- 8 – Mostly great story, probably a bit cliche but with a likely cast and well paced story.
- 7 – Good story, probably more on the generic side and with a few flaws, but still enjoyable.
- 6 – Average story, very generic, probably got some eyerolls out of me.
- 0-5 – Mediocre story, not at all interesting, probably didn’t bother to finish the game as a result.
General Scoring Philosophy (Value):
- 10 – So many things to do! Game offers a variety of reasons to continue playing it.
- 9 – Wide selection of playmodes, or a few great ones. My have a couple whiffs though.
- 8 – Expected amount of variety or replayability associated with the genre. All good offerings.
- 7 – Fewer options than expected, but still enough to warrant continuous play for a bit.
- 6 – Less options than would be expected, and none of them excel in any real area.
- 0-5 – Racing game with 3 tracks, 1 car, and you can only play exhibition races. You know? Virtua Racer?
While there will be occasional overlap between Story and Value, games will typically draw primary from one or the other, and scores will match according to what is most appropriate. Story and Value is generally scored across all eras when appropriate. For example, a great story can stand the test of time, though story telling mechanics available at that time are taken into consideration. Additionally, technology limitations play a factor into how many gameplay options a game can have.
Presentation includes both game graphics as well as UI and menu structure. How clear and available is all needed game information? How many menus do I need to sift through to find what I need? Presentation can occasionally have an impact, usually negative though sometimes not, on Gameplay, when visual elements affect your ability to actually play the game.. Presentation is very lightly affected by Music and Sound, as all three elements effectively make up a games presentation, but for the most part remains an independent scoring matrix.
General Scoring Philosophy:
- 10 – Game looks incredible for its time, or any time really, with a friendly UI to boot.
- 9 – Game looks great for its time, nothing phenomenal but definitely in the upper end.
- 8 – Game looks great, few to no graphical hiccups, and friendly UI. Could be better, still very good.
- 7 – Good presentation, maybe some lag, flickering, or other noticeable issues. Decent UI.
- 6 – Game looks average for the time. Some UI and graphics issues. Still playable.
- 5 – Not much to look at. Game is graphically functional but only just.
- 0-4 – Visual elements are so bad they hinder your ability to actually play the game.
Presentation is scored almost entirely based on its era. Super Mario Bros 3 is just as visually impressive on the NES as Ocarina of Time is on the N64. Stylized graphics are taken into account, such as when a game looks a certain way due to a stylistic choice, even though the hardware is capable of more refined visuals. Additionally, hardware limitations are considered when it comes to interface design.
Music was originally bundled with Sound, but after a lot of consideration and forward thinking, I decided the two really needed to be separate. There’s not much to explain really, Music is music, and it’s easily one of the most powerful memory associations we have when it comes to nostalgia. When someone mentions Secret of Mana the VERY FIRST thing that enters my brain is that opening piano sequence. Additionally, Sound had other roles it would need to fill down the line, such as when it came to atmospheric noises or, more importantly, voice acting.
General Scoring Philosophy:
…Music is so subjective that it’s nearly impossible to provide a per-point breakdown. Sometimes I’ll drop into message boards and type “Chrono Cross has a better soundtrack than Chrono Trigger” and watch the sparks fly. Additionally, some games are expected NOT to have music at all, such as in some racing games and most sports games. For that reason, this breakdown will mostly be in score ranges.
- 8-10 – Music is good and memorable. I can hum tracks when I’m done playing.
- 7 – Default score for games expected to not have music.
- 6-7 – Music is not offensive, but easily forgettable.
- 5 – Music is bad, or at least annoying. My ears aren’t bleeding but I’ve turned the volume way down.
- 0-4 – Music is so bad it’s distracting from the game, possibly even affecting gameplay.
Music is era agnostic, though hardware limitations are obviously considered. Not expecting orchestral arrangements from the NES or anything, but tunes from Mega Man 2, Super Mario and other 8-bit classics have made a permanent home in my mind.
A game’s sound effects, at least early on, can trigger memories just as easily as a game’s music. The spring from Sonic the Hedgehog, the 1-Up from Super Mario, the fanfare from Final Fantasy. As time went on, we kind of reached a point where all general purpose sound effects just kind of sounded how they were supposed to sound. For this reason, the Sound category’s purpose is intended to change as the project moves forward. While the category will always apply to how good a game generally sounds, its scoring will adjust to primary focus on the most appropriate aspect of a game’s sound. Older games are scored on their general sound effect, while newer games are scored primary on ambient noises, and voice acting.
General Scoring Philosophy:
- 10 – Memorable and distinct sound effects, top notch voice acting, atmosphere-created sounds.
- 9 – Great sound effects and/or voice acting. Very good ambiance.
- 8 – Very good sounds and/or voice acting. Sound effects prove informational in addition to functional.
- 7 – Sound effects are as good as expected for the time. Voice-overs are at least present.
- 6 – Sound effects are… there. Not distracting but not memorable. Functional.
- 5 – Sounds are subpar for the time. Voice acting should have been rethought.
- 0-4 – Sounds are so bad they hinder gameplay. Strider for the Genesis comes to mind.
The Sound category is mostly catered to the game’s era, with more and more generational overlap as time goes on.
When I first set out on this project, the intention was to go in as bias as possible. My games, my opinions verses general opinions. Rawr! As time went on, however, I realized this way of thinking wasn’t particularly sustainable, interesting, or frankly useful. It’s because of this that I’ve ended up with the metrics I have now, resulting in what I think are more objective and interesting reviews, that actually have the right to call themselves reviews. Still, I need my bias to play some sort of role somewhere, and that’s where Fun comes in. It’s simple, it’s short, it’s what’s on the tin. How much did I actually enjoy playing the game I played? It’s my wildcard metric, and it’s generally affected by all five of the others, but is still allowed to stand on its own.
General Scoring Philosophy:
- 10 – I loved this game more than I probably should. Friends of Mineral Town is the best thing on the GBA period!
- 9 – I had a blast playing this game and I’ll probably find time to play it again outside of the project.
- 8 – This was a great game that I’m glad I had the chance to play.
- 7 – Okay game, may itch to play it again someday. Mind is not blown.
- 6 – Average. Not horrible but I don’t see myself playing it again any time soon.
- 5 – Mediocre, time would have been better spent playing something else.
- 4 – Planning on giving this one away as a Christmas gift to someone who doesn’t know better.
- 3 – Not putting this one back on the shelf, there’s a box under my bed for these games…
- 2 – Selling to that one pawn shop I don’t like.
- 1 – It’s my wife’s game, I swear!
- 0 – Time would have been better spent going outside and interfacing with people.
So that’s basically it! Hopefully having this pinned here will provide some much-needed consistency moving forward, and possibly shed some light on what goes through my head as I’m writing these.