Classics 5


Super Mario Bros 2

A very impressive game… for the time. Still reasonably fun and worth a playthrough if you haven’t, though playing the GBA version or on the Switch is probably preferable to avoid the game over issues.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +4
Cheats: Yes (savestates on game over)
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 2.5 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-13-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual storytelling is pretty fun here and there, mostly the desert, snow, and cloud levels

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro. It does so much right so quickly and efficiently
  2. In-game tutorialization is fantastic and spot on. The initial drop, the enemy, the screen wrapping, it slowly introduces new ideas and new concepts as you go and it’s fantastic
  3. The game has good visual distinction as usual
  4. There’s good variance in playstyle between the four characters
  5. The level design in general has good escalation of themes and good back-and-forth style
  6. Mid-mission checkpointing is surprisingly good, putting you back to the last ‘load screen’ on death
  7. Aggregate: Music, for what little is there, is good and memorable // The game isn’t super replayable but it does have replayability

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The controls are super squirrely, even more so than the Mario norm
  2. The penalty for failure in this game is just too harsh. Starting over at the world is fine, but having to start the entire game over upon losing continues is awful (especially since nothing indicates where the warp pipes are at all)
  3. Aggregate: No real tutorialization on death pits which is odd considering the game’s vertical nature // The Ninja Gaiden respawn is inconsistent and only occasionally an issue, but it’s there // The difficulty curve is a bit weird, it’s mostly smooth except when it’s not

Super Mario Bros 3

While there are, in my opinion, better Mario titles… the truth is almost all of them sit on the shoulders of this game. Very, very innovative for the time and a true giant of game design, if you somehow have not played it I highly recommend it.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +27
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 4.25 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-16-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual storytelling (especially in worlds 5 and 8) and…
  2. …visual continuity (especially in worlds 5 and 8)

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization is on point, as per Mario standard
  2. Itemization (inventory on the overworld map, mostly optional overworld interactions to gain power ups)
  3. Itemization mk. 2, especially for the end of stage guarantee 1 ups
  4. Itemization mk. 3 for excellent general distribution throughout stages
  5. Music is the usual Koji Kondo excellence
  6. Visual distinction is generally good
  7. World 1 doesn’t have any stand-out levels really, but it’s a good tutorial world overall and a good Intro
  8. World 2 continues the trend of good stage design across the board
  9. World 3 remains fun, if difficult (as the gloves are officially off) and has a huge variety of stages throughout
  10. World 4 isn’t super well designed in terms of challenge or layout but it’s just… fun. It’s a good, gimmicky breather world and likes to play with its concept…
  11. …leading to another plus for World 4
  12. World 5 has good climbing gimmick early on…
  13. …good ‘sky’ gimmicks in the latter half…
  14. …and actual difficult stage layout and design, some of the earliest proper challenges in the game
  15. 7-6 is fantastic in its innovation and design, between the wrapping and the ghost platforms
  16. World 7 is legitimately fantastic in its concepts, innovation, combination of themes, and general design. There’s avoidance levels, vertical platforms, wrapping avoidance, enemy gauntlets, mini levels littered with plant types that reward items, etc…
  17. …which is why World 7…
  18. …gets three positives
  19. World 8 has some limitations in its level design but is still generally good across the board
  20. Overworld design with routing and layout, with multiple paths and shortcuts (mostly for continues)
  21. The Outro is awesome. Bowser’s castle has multiple paths forwards depending on your route and the final boss is unique and fun
  22. Generally good spritework and brickwork
  23. Enemy Variety is, as usual for Mario games, great…
  24. …with a wide variety of enemy attack styles and movements
  25. The power ups are great, if limited, and offer nice Kit
  26. At all times the game is utilizing its terrain in service of level design…
  27. …constantly and in innovative ways
  28. Replayability (one of the more replayable early Marios)

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: No save feature whatsoever in a fairly large game // Difficulty curve is a bit weird. It’s a full smooth curve other than the dip for World 4, with a few spikes in 6 and 7 // Mario squiddidy is very minor here, but it’s here

Super Mario World

Honestly, what can I even add to this one? This is one of the best ‘first video games’ ever made, and a perfect game for someone to enter the hobby. If you somehow haven’t played it, I massively recommend it.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +40
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 5.75 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-17-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The post-castle cutscenes are cute and, honestly, still get a grin out of me
  2. General tone of fun, adventurous romp

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization is… really the best it’s ever been in gaming…
  2. …with constant effort throughout over half the game…
  3. …to constantly introduce, escalate, and explain via very careful level design
  4. The Intro (all of Yoshi’s Island) is, as usual for the Mario series, excellently designed to wean new players into video games as a concept and Mario World in specific
  5. The Star World isn’t designed to be super challenging, but super interesting. Every stage encourages the player to think
  6. Almost all of the special stages are, really, quite legit. Gnarly and its verticality and usage of different climbing gimmicks…
  7. …Tubular and its turning the balloon gimmick into a shmup…
  8. …Way Cool and its ‘maze’ of the platform and having to navigate it via the toggle blocks…
  9. …Awesome and its very careful application of enemy placement and utilization while still giving you tools to deal with it…
  10. …Groovy and its useful and fun presentation of elements…
  11. …and finally Funky, which is a short but sweet victory lap
  12. Donut land and its multi level presentation of multiple paths and of course the ghost houses
  13. Vanilla Dome continues its excellent grouped level design
  14. The bridge segments are probably the hardest, best designed levels in the game…
  15. …easily deserving a second positive
  16. While most of the castles aren’t noteworthy individually, each one serves as a form of a tech demo and advances how you can interact with the game
  17. The Forest of Illusion doesn’t have much cohesive theme going for it, but several fun stages and it plays with the multiple exits thing quite a bit
  18. Choco-Ghost House is probably the best Ghost House in the game; challenging and with three concurrent gimmicks
  19. Mid-mission checkpoints are consistent, well placed, power you up, and stick across levels
  20. Music! While not some of the best, there’s very memorable, catchy tunes in this one
  21. General graphics. While not the best, across the sprites, background, and animations it’s worthy of a positive
  22. Enemy variety is the usual Mario excellence
  23. The game controls quite well, especially for a Mario game, and in general feels like you’re actually in control the entire time
  24. The sunken airship level is great. Love the fading Boos, and love the continuity it adds
  25. Ghost Houses are generally fun, interesting, and encourage you to think in new and different ways… with all but one of them having multiple exits…
  26. …deserving of a second positive
  27. Larry’s castle is probably one of the better non-special stages in the game, with lots of good theme mixing and variety of challenges
  28. Terrain usage is consistently considered at all levels of design
  29. The core mechanics of this game are incredibly solid
  30. Difficulty curve never really stops doing at least something to engage and keep the player moving forwards
  31. The game does a really good job of distributing items throughout every stage across the entire game
  32. The cape is an amazing bit of tech, putting a ton of the control in the player’s hand and offering tremendous utility and tech while also having a very high skill ceiling
  33. A second positive for the general power ups which includes the aforementioned cape
  34. Yoshi is surprisingly well designed for his first entry. He can be recovered, he can double your jump height, he has the different shell and color power ups, and the variance on how you can get hit on him…
  35. …leads to two positives for Yoshi
  36. The Outro does some good stuff, with the multiple paths through Bowser’s Castle, and the fight itself being both unique and well designed
  37. Chocolate Land is, as with previous levels, very well designed in its general layout
  38. Bowser’s Valley has a lot of possible paths forwards, and some well designed interesting stages
  39. The game is in general replayable…
  40. …but between the ability to continue, the multiple paths through the worlds, and the many exits, secrets, and special stages… the game deserves a second Replayability possible
  41. Usual good visual distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: The overworld movement is honestly just too slow and drags the game down on backtracking // The bosses are underwhelming at best, and pathetic at worst, glorified tech demos // Outrageous is aptly named. It’s an enemy bonanza, with parts of the stage being obscured, while having very few recovery mechanics throughout, all on top of careful platforming requiring either the spring or Yoshi to progress

Innovator Point: Yoshi Drums

Super Mario 64

Iconic, significant, and important… but the game is only sub-par upon re analysis. The good is great, but the frustration just drags it back. Despite my issues, it’s still a net positive, and if you haven’t played it I still recommend giving it at least a go.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +13
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 15.83 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-19-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The tone, music, and humor in dialogue
  2. The stages have good, varied Visual Storytelling within them
  3. The Outro is yet another good example of a simple but enjoyable ending

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The minigame of the Mario face alteration at the beginning needs to be mentioned
  2. The Castle courtyard is a wonderful tutorial. It’s a nice, big, open, mostly safe space to just play around with the concepts the game was introducing; physics and 3D platforming
  3. The music is, as usual, awesome
  4. The ‘stage select’ for each course gives hints in the star name for how to obtain it
  5. Bob-Omb Battlefield is exactly what it should do as an Intro; It sets up movement, enemies, tech, stars, coins, red coins, etc.
  6. Whomp’s Fortress is very vertical and does a lot to encourage the player to figure out the different ways to navigate the 3D space
  7. Boo’s Mansion uses its space and camera very efficiently…
  8. …and further has an excellent aspect of visual continuity which at all times helps to inform where you are in relation to what
  9. Lethal Lava Land has good recovery, multiple interesting stars, and the mid-mission checkpoint of the volcano
  10. Bowser in the Fire Sea continues the trend of good platforming and interesting jumping puzzles
  11. Dire Dire Docks still has a few irritations (the whirlpool comes to mind) but between the usage of the underwater mechanic and some fun pole hanging puzzles, it’s enjoyable
  12. Wet-Dry World is unique, interesting, and fun with its gimmick and layout
  13. Tiny Huge island still has issues, but honestly between the gimmick and the visual continuity it’s still fun to go through (unless you’re getting 100 coins)
  14. While there aren’t many power ups in this one, Mario himself is given substantial kit in terms of his moveset and a lot of it is anchored on the Z button, using good shortcutting for the most part
  15. Tall-Tall Mountain is a nice escalation from Thwomp Fortress; very vertical, very climbing focused, and with multiple types of platforming and maneuvering required to ascend
  16. Most stages do something very right; they show you something very specific as part of the initial stage direction, so you are ‘inclined’ to certain areas or avenues
  17. Tick Tock Clock is a great example of what a difficult stage should be, short and dense with the changeable speed walking into it
  18. The difficulty curve if you’re just going for 70 stars is quite smooth, with each ‘floor’ serving as an escalation of mechanics and encounters
  19. Outro positive for Bowser in the sky as well as the final boss fight
  20. The hub (overworld) is reasonably well designed
  21. The game goes out of its way to allow you to route your own way through stars, leading to good mechanical replayability
  22. Aggregate: Bob-Omb 1, raising the ship, penguin slide, King Thwomp, Bowser’s Sub, Tall Mountain Slide, climbing the Volcano // Checkpointing, when it’s there, is nice
  23. Aggregate: Snowman’s Land has some interesting concepts and stars // Yoshi Drums periodically // The power ups aren’t that great and aren’t that frequent but when they’re there they’re well designed
  24. Aggregate: Cool, Cool Mountain and Jolly Roger Bay both don’t do much really exceptional, but both serve as guides and tutorials for their respective concepts and still have aspects of decent design to them

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Hazy Maze Cave. First of all it’s visually disinteresting, it’s full of small corridors which compounds the camera issues which already are problematic, made worse by the fact that the camera controls literally don’t work in half the areas, with bad initial stage direction and a near total lack of visual continuity on top of the absolute jank of the arrow platform…
  2. Shifting Sand Land is substantially worse designed than virtually every other stage to-date. The core ideas aren’t bad but the prevalence of the instant-kill quicksand and the unusual physics interactions with weird ledges in the quicksand and the pillars makes the level more frustrating than it has any right to be
  3. The controls in the game are imprecise, at best
  4. The camera ranges from being irritating to being actively antagonistic…
  5. …and are some of the worst camera controls I’ve ever seen. The camera by itself is not good (getting stuck on things, awful random angles) but the controls or lack thereof are even worse
  6. Blast to the Lonely Mushroom is the worst star in the game. It’s a cannon shot into nothing with no possibility of recovery after a small to medium trek to the spot to attempt it again with no actual method by which to see your arc other than trial and error which, of course, involves dying each time
  7. The 100 coin stars are a bit arduous and a bit too many, take away healing potential, and have no checkpointing built in, which also completely kills the pacing and, worse, means it’s quite easy to lose a lot of progress for no good reason to a small mistake…
  8. …and for this reason (most especially the checkpointing issues) it earns a second negative
  9. Rainbow Ride is easily one of the least designed stages in the game. It’s random geometry in a boring skybox with clearly-made-for-2D platforming on top of relying on the long, slow, boring carpet ride which is very easy to screw up and lose all your progress on for no less than three separate stars…
  10. …leading to a second negative for Rainbow Ride
  11. Aggregate: The snowman in Snowman’s Land is a dick, compounded by the penguin being a dick and the controls in general // In addendum to the earlier issues, the underwater and flight controls suck

Codifier Points: 3D Platformers and Collectathons

Super Mario Sunshine

I am… surprised at how bad this game is. The things I remember fondly are still there and still good, but the entire game is marred by awful level design and near constant frustration. You can probably go ahead and skip this one.
Total Story Score: +10
Total Gameplay Score: -5
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 9.83 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-23-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual continuity really helps tie the whole island together
  2. The hub (Delfino Plaza) has fantastic flavor and really helps keep the whole vibe of the tropical island
  3. The game has wonderful NPC set dressing, in pretty much every stage too
  4. Visual storytelling across islands is great, and very well done per stage. The Bianco Hills and its rolling green and nice lake and windmill…
  5. …Ricco Harbor and the, uh, harbor, the workers, the docks, the fishing…
  6. …Gelato Beach and the lounging, festivals, and waves…
  7. …Pinna Park and the, uh, park complete with park-goers and plenty of rides…
  8. …Noki Bay (before and after the poison problem)…
  9. …Sirena Beach and its gorgeous sunset…
  10. Doodads! So many good doodads…
  11. …it deserves a second positive
  12. Pianta village continues the visual enjoyability
  13. The atmosphere of the tropical paradise is awesome
  14. The music almost always adds to the aforementioned atmosphere

Story Negatives:

  1. The Intro is stupid for three major reasons. The first is obvious (the hell is this nonsense?), the second is it’s totally unnecessary (of course Mario would help! Why wouldn’t he?!) and the third is it never comes up again
  2. The ‘big reveal’ scene where Bowser Jr. reveals himself is… not good. The reveal is lackluster, Peach doing nothing is weird, Mario doing nothing is cutscene incompetence, and the… ‘plot point’ of Peach being Bowser Jr’s mother is so weird I don’t even know where to begin
  3. Peach is just… way too airheaded in this one, to an extent that it’s actually aggravating
  4. The Outro is just… weird and bad and awkward, between the weird cheesiness that doesn’t fit the attempts at seriousness, the 1 minute 28 second death of FLUDD, and Bowser Jr’s randomness… no

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Bianco Hills doesn’t do much, but it is a good, safe environment where each of the shines helps get you into most of the interactions and movement tech in the game
  2. The hub is fantastically designed, easily one of the best hubs in the series…
  3. …not just visually and audibly, but with regards to the tools and kit throughout that allow for swift and smooth navigation
  4. The music is, as usual, consistently excellent
  5. The game’s use of color and palette is really noteworthy
  6. The spritework is nothing short of stunning
  7. The game’s brickwork is even better…
  8. …really above and beyond, especially for the time
  9. The game is exceptionally visual distinct
  10. Visual continuity in helping to navigate
  11. Terrain design is, sometimes, built around the levels and movement
  12. The game retains the tight movement set and kit of the 3D Marios in general
  13. FLUDD surprisingly adds a lot to the overall kit and mobility of Mario’s moveset, functionally being the ‘power ups’ of the game
  14. As with 64, the game keeps shine hints in title and in the opening pan
  15. Noki Bay is just generally fun, with several interesting and enjoyable gimmicks between the unique boss fights, movable ruins, and enjoyable platforming…
  16. …leading to a second positive for it
  17. While few really stick out, the bosses were generally enjoyable

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. FLUDDless stages. They take away your tool… okay, that’s fine, but they don’t do anything to really add to it. Instant death, wonky physics, no checkpoints, all contribute to them just being more frustrating than they should be
  2. The red coin on the water shine in Ricco Harbor. The shine itself isn’t actually that bad, getting the red coins is fun enough and the timer is generous, but nothing indicates the different controls of the bloopers and, much worse, you can still die (easily) after finishing the coins
  3. The Sand Bird level is legitimately badly designed. It’s very easy to physics to death, doesn’t track your jump properly, is slow and boring, and any mistake results in death and starting over from the beginning
  4. Pinna Park’s ferris wheel shine sucks. It’s several fun, tight jumps absolutely ruined by a camera that’s constantly fighting you and an ease of losing all progress instantly
  5. Sirena Beach in general sucks, without a single enjoyable shine…
  6. …but some of those specific shines suck so badly they literally made me quit the game over it back in the day (manta ray, clean the beach, Bowser Jr)
  7. Pianta Village’s goopy inferno is probably one of the worst stages in the entire game. It’s frustrating, very narrowly railroaded into one intended path, the lava does the exact opposite of what it does in every other 3D game, and the bottomless pit can go to hell
  8. The chuckya secret stage, by itself, is just awful
  9. Lack of info in game on shine requirements
  10. Lives system. It’s normally excusable but here there’s so few lives, and restarting adds a crucial Seconds In Minutes problem to already frustrating shines, compounded by the game over sound
  11. Mandatory progression in the first 7 shines of each course. As usual, something bad that’s bad that’s mandatory is worse
  12. Low health Beedleeps
  13. 100 coin shines are even worse than in Mario 64
  14. Blue coins in general can go to hell
  15. So, so many of the 100% shines are just the worst, entirely too many to list here…
  16. …deserving of, honestly…
  17. …one of the worst 100% games I’ve ever covered, and a full 3 negatives
  18. The difficulty… ‘curve’ is one of the most insanely all over the place I’ve seen
  19. …which deserves a second negative
  20. While some of the game’s secrets and shines are well guided, the rest are… absolutely nonsensical or completely hidden. Worse, some of the primary shines’ hints are just absent
  21. The boat in Corona Mountain is so, so, so bad it deserves its own negative
  22. The Outro in general is lackluster at best. Corona mountain has that damned boat, there’s limited retries on the cloud, and the Bowser fight is disinteresting at best and literally buggy at worst

Zelda Ocarina of Time

While Master Quest does drag the score down a bit, this is still an incredible game with many of the hallmarks of Nintendo’s fantastic game design, wrapped in a very atmospheric story with wonderful implications.
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: +22
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 36.12 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-01-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Intro. The initial section does everything it needs to to establish hooks, tone, and get you invested in both the backstory and the plot… and of course that lovely camera work
  2. Animations in cutscenes
  3. Music across the board really adds to the atmosphere and tone of each distinct area
  4. Camerawork in almost every cutscene is legit
  5. Castle Town after time skip. The lack of music, the wind sound effect, the change of lighting, the redeads in town
  6. Forest Temple. Implications, quiet horror, atmosphere, tone
  7. Dialogue is sparse but good
  8. Background lore in the war, the world, and the setup
  9. Reveal of Ganon in final battle. It’s still an awesome, terrifying scene, and I love it to death
  10. The Outro build up through the tower is fantastic, and the ending is nicely enjoyable
  11. Sheik, aka Zelda (spoilers!) is actually treated reasonably well. The reveal is nice, but ultimately it’s the little snippets of character moments she gets that helps sell it
  12. Generally good visual storytelling throughout

Story Negatives:

  1. The general vibe and atmosphere and tone of the Shadow Temple is so bad I honestly hate going through it everytime I replay the game

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The Kokiri Forest ‘town’ is an excellent example of tutorialization in-design, with very little of it being mandatory
  2. The Intro in general is incredibly well built, from the town to the Deku Tree and how the game (as per Nintendo’s standard) informs through gameplay and level design, camera usage and presentation…
  3. …which gets a second positive for generally good tutorialization
  4. Most if not all dungeons built in ‘shortcuts’ to their design so as you progress you have less repetition
  5. Master Deku Tree. The recurring fire motif, having to be clever about avoiding lo**sing the torch, and frantic gauntlet rooms
  6. Master Dodongo Caverns. The bombs are used to much greater effect overall, and the puzzle routing is generally enjoyable
  7. Master Jabu-Jabu’s belly is as gross as ever, but the re-arranged procurement of the boomerang works quite well and smooths out the whole dungeon
  8. Master Forest Temple. A bit too heavy on backtracking, but still enjoyable overall
  9. Sound design is, as usual, excellent
  10. The interface is smooth and very quick to use
  11. The map is informative and helpful, especially once you get the compass
  12. Controls are good in general, but…
  13. …between the shortcuts and the gyro aiming it gets a second positive
  14. Music is, as usual, excellent
  15. Fast travel in the form of the songs
  16. Good pacing in non-dungeon, dungeon content, followed by the mini-dungeon / dungeon format
  17. While not the fanciest of stuff, there’s still good kit in items and the like
  18. Core combat is enjoyable
  19. Minigames are fun, optional, and rewarding
  20. Animations of enemies are always indicative and helpful
  21. Generally good, smooth graphics
  22. General positive for boss design
  23. Enemy variety in terms of how you’re attacked and general encounter design
  24. The ascent and descent through Ganon’s Tower is legit. Perfect fun, hoype, and presentation along with proper pacing and engagement
  25. The final Outro and final boss fight are just generally awesome, and easily the best boss fight in the game
  26. The difficulty curve remains legit, as it usually is for Nintendo games
  27. Good itemization in drops and distribution
  28. There’s generally good mid mission checkpointing within dungeons, usually keeping all progress unless you quit the game
  29. Game is quite replayable
  30. Generally good visual distinction (except in the Shadow Temple)
  31. Generally good visual continuity with regards to landmarking (especially in the ‘overworld’)
  32. Navi and Saria assistance and guidance
  33. Dodongo’s Cavern is very staggered in staircase design; introduce, introduce, escalate, escalate, and it’s good fun
  34. The Forest Temple is the perfect ‘first adult dungeon’, encapsulating what is required for future dungeons and getting across everything you need to know about routing, mapping, backtracking, and the overall escalation
  35. Spirit Temple is honestly one of the best dungeons in the game. Sure it does a lot right visually and audibly, but the puzzles are interesting and engaging, and nicely mirror each other the two times you go through
  36. Aggregate: Barinade // Twinrova

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Unskippable cutscenes (nice, long tracks of them too)
  2. Kaepora Gaebora (long, unskippable dialogue with the default option being please repeat,which is easy (thanks to how the text is coded) to hit by accident
  3. Low health beedleeps
  4. The Ice Cavern is… not a good dungeon. It has no good puzzles or encounters, is needlessly repetitive in its texturing, has nothing but irritating stun-locking enemies, and ice physics
  5. Walkthroughitis sections in Master’s Quest dungeons periodically
  6. Mandatory double damage in Master’s Quest and unnecessary mirrored thing
  7. Camera woes, as per usual
  8. The Master Quest Water Temple is all the problems of the original but honestly worse, with esoteric dungeon design and weird puzzles but worst of all no possibility of reset, which can lead to being ‘stuck’ trying to figure out how to get back to where you need to be with the water levels
  9. The Master Quest Shadow Temple is honestly the worst dungeon in the game. It uses gotcha! Mechanics, relies entirely too much on platforming for a game that doesn’t support it, and the visual distinction is actively bad between the tight corridors and samey brown and grey terrain
  10. …second negative for MQ Shadow Temple
  11. The Spirit Temple is… tedious. Everything takes too long and the whole thing is honestly just boring
  12. The final spirit trials are the weirdest inclusion in the entire game. They absolutely destroy the otherwise excellent pacing of the game, and kill any momentum prior to the finale
  13. Memes and jokes aside, the Water Temple has issues. The dungeon requires you to keep multiple variables in mind at once, which isn’t bad, unless you skip over any one of them, in which case not only is your progress completely halted but it’s an entire chore to backtrack thanks to the water level thing and figure out what you missed
  14. The Shadow Temple has issues in vanilla as well, mostly the same as the Master Quest version (palette, cameras, corridors), mixed with some questionable layout decisions

Zelda Majora's Mask

This one was even better than I remembered. While it stumbles a bit in the intro, and the weird factor certainly pulls it down for me, this one is still very replayable, still very emotional, still very good.
Total Story Score: +25
Total Gameplay Score: +28
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 25.95 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-04-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Demo does a lot to establish the style and tone of the game
  2. The Intro does a great deal to set up the tone of malaise and gloom, both in the initial tidbit and in the first loop of the town. They also establish the casual racism of Termina, people’s reactions to events and how they change over time, and the reality of what you face
  3. The lead up to Snowhead, with Darmani, the elder, and the son is nicely melancholic and well done
  4. The Skull Keeta moment, the pause before the salute, great scene
  5. Generally good quantity and quality of dialogue throughout
  6. Just a stupid amount of detail in every crack and crevice of the game
  7. Visual storytelling is all over the place
  8. Wonderful doodad utilization
  9. The internal continuity of this game is bonkers, with so much of it referencing and acknowledging itself…
  10. …earning a second positive
  11. Gameplay and story integration
  12. Little moments. Most aren’t worth a plus by themselves, but there’s lots of little moments which are well done. The Gidbo father and his daughter, Lulu’s despondency, the goron worried about his comrade…
  13. …which doubles up for a Characters positive, just for the sheer depth and breadth of the supporting cast
  14. As with Ocarina, the music is always used beautifully and accurately to accentuate each area it’s played for
  15. The general atmosphere, tone, and vibe of Ikana is beautiful. The desolation, the worn-down feeling of the eternal war, it’s all appropriately horrible
  16. Clock Town deserves special mention for being one of the better Zelda towns, not just with plenty of NPCs but each one having their own route, schedule, role, etc.
  17. The game hits themes harder than most games I’ve played. Themes of division, themes of age, themes of experience, themes of powerlessness and helplessness, and over all of it is the theme of death. And yet it takes these themes, weaves them into almost every side story (and main), and at all times promises a point of hope at the end (which we can provide)… for this…
  18. …the themes of the game…
  19. …deserve a full three positives
  20. The big quest. Anju and Kafei. It’s fun, it’s emotional, it’s heartwarming, it’s a positive
  21. Good animations to assist with cutscenes
  22. Second positive for several interesting and engaging characters throughout
  23. Majora (and Skull Kid) are well characterized in their absence, as almost everywhere we go is touched by their influence
  24. The Outro is really good stuff, an absolute smash hit really. The confrontation with Skull Kid, the Majora interactions, the inside of the moon, the final boss fight…
  25. …and the ending, all great stuff
  26. Generally good world building throughout

Story Negatives:

  1. The Intro has some almost unavoidable pacing issues with regards to its waiting around or forcing time forwards as well as general confusion and drugginess (as an addendum, I literally put this game down during the Intro… twice… before forcing myself to play through the game proper years later)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro. Gets you used to the Deku form’s abilities, forces you to learn the town, learn the concepts of the days and the changing schedules, and gets you into the mindset of sidequests = main content
  2. The Bomber’s Notebook is a very good ‘quest log’, with events and people’s schedules tracked automatically, the ability to set alarms, locations on map, as well as useful information and stuff you’ve completed or not…
  3. The interface is, as per Ocarina, good stuff, but it’s made even better with the shortcuts…
  4. …and how that coincides with the Mask mechanics and gimmicks
  5. Controls are, as per Ocarina, good…
  6. …but improved even more via the QoL features and additional shortcuts and gyro aiming
  7. Generally good checkpoints, just like in Ocarina
  8. Woodfall is a nice layered dungeon with good design around pseudo backtracking
  9. Snowhead is very nicely vertical in its complexity, slowly climbing and knocking down parts of the temple in order to progress, with some neat ice and melting puzzles…
  10. The optional fairy pieces in the dungeons are a great way to escalate the difficulty of each dungeon in a rewarding manner
  11. GOHT! Goht isn’t exactly super complex, but it is very fun
  12. Gameplay and story integration
  13. Generally good brickwork
  14. A second positive for the quest log
  15. Transformation kit
  16. With the stones, generally good info in game
  17. Minigames are, as with the previous game, optional and rewarding
  18. The Skulltula houses deserve special mention for being fun minidungeons, very dense but still interesting
  19. As per usual for a Zelda the game is quite Replayable…
  20. …but due to the time loop, mastery, and breadth of side quests and ‘do it however’ gameplay, it earns the coveted second Replayable plus
  21. Between enemy drops and plants, as well as what you can get where (notably the ‘drops’ next to warp points), the game is well Itemized
  22. The Stone Tower Temple is easily the best designed dungeon in the game, though it has some issues it’s very clever and serves (functionally) as the final dungeon concept (a ‘final exam’ of all the other modes and puzzle types)
  23. Anju and Kafei’s quest is quite a fun puzzle to do and easily the best quest in the game, and further even has a Princess Peach segment
  24. Core combat is still enjoyable
  25. Core mechanic of timer and loop is well designed (if polarizing) with lots of options to mitigate it and get through or around it
  26. Good fast travel system
  27. Guidance and flow of exploration
  28. Good map design
  29. While more ambient, the music is nonetheless good
  30. Much better overworld design, with good item distribution, routes, density, and general design
  31. Clock Town also gets a positive for being a generally well designed hub town
  32. It’s fun to get around in this game, between the Goron, Zora, Deku, and of course Epona (and bunny)
  33. Visual continuity is the usual good stuff
  34. Visual distinction is high quality throughout
  35. Sound design is the usual Zelda quality
  36. The final boss fight with Majora is legit. There’s not much else there in the lead up, but the fight itself is multi-phased, multi-tiered, properly difficult, and has the Fierce Deity Mask as an option to absolutely crush it
  37. There’s a good variety and enjoyment to the various side quests in the game
  38. Aggregate: A partial positive for item kit // Animations assist in gameplay sometimes // The fun parts of the Twinmold fight are fun

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Intro. There’s other things they could’ve done to smooth it out the general lack of guidance and understanding of the tutorial loop, such as allowing us to actually progress or more clearly indicating the ideas of the townspeople and the ‘instances’ of time, alongside the obvious problem of not being able to get anything ‘real’ in the first loop except some rupees and a few heart pieces
  2. Low health beedleeps
  3. …Snowhead has some serious issues with lack of shortcutting. Normally the Zeldas are good about this, but Snowhead it’s exceptionally easy to lose some, a lot, or a huge amount of progress due to no shortcutting in the layout or design
  4. Unskippable cutscenes
  5. The entire section leading up to the Great Bay Temple kind of sucks. The extended stealth sequence is pretty easy to lose progress in and not helped by the camera, the eel section is pretty slow and boring and repetitive, and the water controls in this version don’t help anything
  6. The Beaver race can honestly go to hell. Bad controls on a timer through rings that have physics while dealing with water physics and wobbly visuals and a bad camera barely keeping up… no
  7. Twinmold. It’s actually pretty awesome, but takes so long it destroys its own impact, going from fun to actively boring (a common problem in this kind of thing in gaming)
  8. The final Goron and Zora sections in the moon suck. Between too-tight controls and unforgiving start-over-from-scratch difficulty
  9. A second negative for the final Zora segment in the Moon
  10. The camera has the same issues that Ocarina did

Max Payne 2

The game is quite overt with its tone and style; noir cheesiness. If you’re into that, it’s a blast. If you’re not, it probably isn’t for you. But it’s still fun to slow-mo leap around shooting mobsters.
Total Story Score: +16
Total Gameplay Score: +4
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 7.5 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-21-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Atmosphere and tone of cheesy noir is prevalent throughout
  2. Mona and Max have good chemistry and banter with each other
  3. Generally enjoyable characters throughout
  4. The comic book style approach to the cutscenes is good…
  5. …but the audio design of said scenes is just fantastic
  6. The dialogue is beautifully noir
  7. Doodads remain good in most areas
  8. There’s small but critical points of foreshadowing throughout
  9. The television shows are, honestly, just hysterical and always worth a watch (and advance as you go through the game!)
  10. Game, as per Remedy standard, has great internal continuity
  11. The Intro is risky but rewarding, and not only sets the tone and characters immediately but has some great hook straight of the bat
  12. Well written dream sequences (each one is Max putting together pieces already laid out in the previous section, and a proper insight into his mind)
  13. The narrative beats follow a good beat and pattern of pacing throughout
  14. Max’s narration is cheesy, tone-setting, and honestly somewhat required for the overall vibe of the game
  15. The brickwork does an excellent work of selling the setting
  16. Most of the characters were well voice acted and did a good job with their lines
  17. The writing is, let’s be honest, very high quality throughout almost the entire work

Story Negatives:

  1. The confrontation of Mona, Vlad, Max, and Woden is… honestly very ham-fisted and not well blocked, especially weird in an otherwise excellently written story

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Save system (autosaves, quicksaves/loads, multiple easy to access manual saves)
  2. Shoot dodging is honestly just fun to do, leaping and diving around while dodging and shooting, what else to add
  3. The Intro was well done tutorialization without being overbearing or undercooked
  4. Itemization, primarily in drops but also in locations (mostly for pills), ensuring you have a good variety and flow of ammo and pills
  5. Part 2, Chapter 2 (explosives factory) is noticeably better designed than the other stages in the game. The layout, looping route, enemy placement, it was good
  6. The Part 2 Chapter 5 (escort mission with Mona) is actually quite fun, and shows off the sniper gunplay well
  7. Game is generally well paced, rotating between exploration, combat, and mild platforming
  8. General fun in ragdolling, janky physics, and entertainment in kill cams

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Absence of music for action sequences
  2. Lazy difficulty (health and damage) which…
  3. …you also have to beat the game to even unlock the other difficulty options (and dynamic difficulty doesn’t really mitigate the issues)
  4. The Vinnie escort was frustrating, irritating, and … honestly a typical bad escort quest

Resident Evil 4

The classic holds up for a reason, still being an enjoyable romp with great design and fun story. Even if you aren’t particularly into the series or horror in general, I could easily recommend this one.
Total Story Score: +14
Total Gameplay Score: +22
Cheats: Yes (for the Separate Ways DLC)
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 16.65 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-23-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Intro. The game does a pretty good job of establishing the cheesy tone with the creepy village and (while it does get a bit irritating later) the dull brown village really sets the mood
  2. The entire Village sequence has generally good, appropriate visual storytelling
  3. Doodad placement and utilization is pretty good
  4. Lovely atmosphere as usual in the Castle section
  5. The game has generally good voice acting
  6. Cinematics are reasonably well presented in terms of camera
  7. Salazar is probably the best character in the game overall, make of that what you will
  8. The cheese is embraced, as it should be, and it adds to the game’s enjoyment substantially
  9. The narrative pacing is actually quite tight, with no real issues in its flow
  10. The sound design is absolutely on point narratively, really selling the scenes
  11. The knife fight between Krauser and Leon is honestly probably one of the better cutscenes in the game, cheesy and ridiculous and just the right blend of camp and stupid
  12. Mike and his big scene were, honestly, kinda awesome
  13. Usage of the enemies as a storytelling mechanic. First we have the villagers, then we see the plagas, and we see quite a few other examples but special mention goes to the regenerators
  14. The cutscenes and QTEs had a lot of ridiculous / fun animations (dodging lasers and the like)
  15. Aggregate DLC: Separate Ways did add some neat stuff and flesh out some things (puzzles, characters, etc.) and of course Wesker

Story Negatives:

  1. The Outro is honestly one of the only narrative beats that just doesn’t fit. It’s not weird or cheesy or awesome enough for the tone of the rest, and it’s not serious or interesting or engaging, and it has that awful line with Ashley

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro and tutorialization in first Village (teaches you about the flingers, slow advance vs. charge, barricading in houses to survive, and has good distribution primarily of healing items with little ammo encouraging you to mainly just live)
  2. Generally good checkpointing regardless of saves
  3. Tetris inventory and making inventory management an actual mechanic which ties into…
  4. …the itemization, which is not only good in general but…
  5. …is actively dynamic based on what you need and what you’re using
  6. This is on top of the treasure you can garner which functionally serves as ‘exp’ aka ways to upgrade and gear up
  7. The first three bosses aren’t super special, but they are enjoyable for what they are in terms of arena design and ‘phases’
  8. The entire Village segment is well constructed and well paced, dipping in and out of heavy combat, light combat, ‘empty’ areas, puzzles, and of course loot distribution
  9. Village encounter design
  10. The Castle adds some nice variety to affairs, really mixing it up between the maze, the tunnels, the dungeon…
  11. …and of course a surprisingly fun Ashley Princess Peach section
  12. Castle encounter design
  13. The enemy variety is, of course, quite good
  14. Music is, when it’s there, quite good
  15. Weapon variety is not just good, but…
  16. …between the upgrades (especially the Exclusives) just about any combo of guns is feasible as a ‘build’
  17. The terrain is almost always designed around the manually thought-out encounters
  18. The game’s pacing is really excellent, deserving a second positive
  19. The Krauser fight (the actual one) is legit. Nice, complex arena with multiple paths and items, and a good variety of things to fight through or avoid, while dealing with Krauser himself
  20. The Outro (mostly the final boss fight with Saddler) is legit. Good arena with lots of options for how to damage and defeat and bring him down
  21. QoL Features: Use items on loot, visual distinction on interactables and items, ‘push’ mechanics on enemies, etc.
  22. Generally good animations on the various deaths, attacks, and reloading
  23. Mercenary Mode is a fun little Horde mode, with unlockable characters that play differently and a nice quick repeat loop
  24. As usual, good new game plus is a plus
  25. The game does a lot to encourage you to enter, see, or explore for treasure, items, and routes
  26. Between unlocks, difficulties, and new game plus (and general fun factor) the game has good replayability
  27. The sound design is always informative on what you’re fighting and relatively where it is
  28. Aggregate: The Regenerators // The claw minigame // Enemy variety bonus

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls are… just kind of bad
  2. Port Issue: The controls have issues on any version but they are just actively awful on the PC port
  3. The Krauser QTE fight is easily the worst QTE in the entire game. The window for hitting the buttons is far too short, any failure means death (and restart), and worst of all (and what prompts a second negative), there’s no real indicators of when QTE’s pop up in the cutscene itself other than the actual button prompt
  4. DLC Assignment Ada is honestly thrown together a bit, lacking most of the polish and level design of most of the other parts of the game, but worst of all it’s just kind of boring. It’s just going through, looting the things, and leaving and that’s it
  5. DLC Separate Ways was honestly pretty padded in terms of design. Too many enemies with too little encounter design and too little enjoyment
  6. The music in Ada’s sections was so repetitive I almost pulled my headphones out

Tales From The Borderlands

Easily the best Telltale game I’ve played, and absolutely worth a playthrough if you like Telltale, Borderlands, or just good storytelling.
Total Story Score: +57
Total Gameplay Score: +4
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 9.68 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-25-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Intro does everything it needs to to quickly establish the characters, the setting, the villain, and is amusing to boot
  2. There is a large amount of foreshadowing, brick laying, and general construction of events well in advance
  3. The entire Loader Bot duel in town is well storyboarded, written, and awesome
  4. The deal scene, seeing it from both angles, brilliant and fun stuff
  5. Rhys’ plan montages
  6. The entire roller derby sequence is, as usual, awesome (and a surprisingly good action sequence)
  7. The Intro for episode 2 is, as usual, legit. Starts with an action scene, great credits sequence, push the stakes forwards, and of course pulls the tone down to keep the pacing good
  8. Bro bro bro bro bro.
  9. The entire Hollow Point sequence does a lot of great stuff, establishing their past, re-establishing perspective, and emphasizing how much the sisters are hurt by what’s been happening
  10. The finale of Episode 2, the musical build up, the escalating threat, de-escalating, re-escalation, and overall vibe of the scene is great
  11. The narrative is very well paced, usually dipping up and down pretty smoothly throughout…
  12. …easily earning a second pacing positive
  13. The proper usage of unreliable narrator
  14. General banter in the exploration segments
  15. The entire Sasha / Rhys ‘I’m gonna let go!” sequence
  16. The friendship between Rhys and Vaughn is just legit
  17. The camaraderie between Rhys and Fiona is amazing
  18. Face pizza… it’s amusing, but more to the point it’s a great scene for Jack and his growing accustomed to his new environs
  19. Scooter’s final send-off. Catch a riiide…
  20. Honestly, Scooter’s final scene is arguably the best scene in the game. Second positive for it
  21. The finger-gun scene is really just all kinds of hysterical and awesome…
  22. …and worse, really says so, so much about Hyperion, the setting, and the people therein
  23. The finale of episode 4 really, really shows the kind of person Jack is
  24. The final death of Handsome Jack is a powerful, emotional, incredible scene…
  25. …easily deserving two positives
  26. The honest, smile-inducing, heart-warming scene of Loader Bot’s reveal
  27. The entire Traveler fight is legit
  28. Camera-work really adds to the scenes
  29. Humor. The game gets a laugh out of me…
  30. …sufficient to warrant a second positive
  31. Rhys is just an awesome character, with a full arc and a wonderful showcasing of what Jack could have been…
  32. …and his voice acting is just fantastic
  33. Vaughn is a great bro, well voice acted, and a great presentation of the person wanting to break out of their mold
  34. Vasquez is one of the best written ‘Krennic’ character types I’ve seen in fiction
  35. Loader Bot isn’t just a meme, he’s actually a pretty awesome character who has his own motivations and struggles
  36. The theme of ‘the ants as they struggle amongst the giants’ and the constant perspective usage
  37. Scooter is at his best here, and manages to be sweet and hilarious at the same time
  38. Gortys is adorable, cute, and fantastic…
  39. …in addition to being amazingly well voice acted
  40. Fiona is, of course, a very well done character…
  41. …and special credit to her voice actress
  42. Generally good sound design, especially in the space sequence
  43. General storyboarding throughout, especially in the action sequences
  44. The game is fairly consistent about following through logically on the consequences of its own storytelling
  45. The dialogue is tightly crafted, well presented, well written…
  46. …easily deserving a second positive
  47. Doodad utilization is surprisingly good throughout
  48. The external continuity is fantastic. It connects seamlessly with the rest of Borderlands, changes the status quo thereof, and does a better job with the setting than the ‘main’ games do…
  49. …earning a second positive
  50. Internal continuity is good when it’s there, and totally absent when it’s not
  51. The Outro is a nice balance of serious and silly and is a good capstone for the whole work
  52. The Plot is, as so correctly put by Pillarsofsnow, a comedy of errors
  53. The story is very well sequenced, with few (if any) holes in events
  54. Voice direction is generally great across the board
  55. The game does more and better world building than the main Borderlands games do
  56. Handsome Jack. He is easily the most dynamic, well written, well presented character in the entire game. He’s brilliantly voice acted, manages multiple tones and styles, and is integral to the entire piece…
  57. …easily earning…
  58. …the coveted three positives

Story Negatives:

  1. Yvette suffers the most from the writer change-off, and is honestly just kind of… inconsistent

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The choices and how they affect the flavor of the story are well designed consistently
  2. Music is very well selected and suits the scenes
  3. Death animations are varied and multitudinous
  4. The exploration sections offer good connective tissue which is in service of feeling like you’re playing the game (and offer some small cosmetic changes throughout the work depending on your choices)
  5. The usage of ‘combos’ in QTEs is honestly inspired (I’m amazed no other games do this) and helped make the last boss actually fun
  6. Despite the lack of a load option, the ‘choose your lane’ linear adventure is built for replays and the game is good enough to support it

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. No ability to load, rewind, or otherwise try out other choices without just starting a whole episode (or the whole game) over
  2. Once you ‘succeed’ you miss out on all the other text during interaction segments

Portal

If you somehow haven’t played this game, I highly recommend it. Even if you have, I recommend playing through with developer commentary on, watching my VoD, or both. There’s so, so much good design on display here.
Total Story Score: +14
Total Gameplay Score: +26
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 1.95 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-30-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Intro is astonishingly well done on how it gets you into the mode, tone, and vibe of the game
  2. Visual storytelling in ‘blank’ design
  3. Ellen McClain as GlaDOS…
  4. …and GLaDOS herself
  5. Knock at the door approach to horror…
  6. …mixed perfectly with the horror
  7. Level 16. It’s our first REAL look into a lot; The test malfunctions, we see our first Ratman area, it gives us an idea of the rot underneath the pristine, and we see portions of the test chamber literally malfunctioning
  8. The turrets in general
  9. Level 19 and everything to do with it
  10. Brickwork from level 19 and onwards really helps sell the nature of the underbelly of the test chambers
  11. The Outro in general is excellent, but most notably for the way GLaDOS just sort of descends throughout the fight as we destroy her cores. Her dialogue sells it (especially the part about what’s going on ‘out there’)
  12. The general atmosphere and how it changes throughout is legit
  13. The dialogue is generally awesome, between the Turrets and GLaDOS, it’s legit
  14. Doodad utilization is, ironically, on point

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization is, really, some of the best in gaming…
  2. …establishing concepts and allowing you to play with them…
  3. …before naturally, seamlessly, escalating them
  4. Many, many little things are done to add to visual distinction…
  5. …each one helping the player in what and how to do
  6. There is an astonishing amount of work done in designing the cameras, the corridors, and the flow to guide you in what and how to do…
  7. …earning a second positive
  8. The core portal mechanic needs its own positive to really emphasize how genius it is and the impact it has, really branching out with what you can do and how you think about puzzle design…
  9. …easily earning a second positive
  10. Checkpointing is on point
  11. Lighting design is legit
  12. Level 15 and the introduction of dynamic puzzles
  13. Level 16 does such wonderful, beautiful things with the introduction of the turrets
  14. Level 17 serves as a wonderful final exam level, and really challenges you on everything you’ve learned throughout
  15. Level 19, the real one, is an even better take on the puzzles… because it’s suddenly non-standard, and effectively serves as a mutator on top of the existing game design
  16. The entire sewerish / pumps section of the game…
  17. …and the big ‘combat’ arena with the turrets
  18. Sound design is generally good, especially at warning you about what is where
  19. The Outro is surprisingly engaging and ultimately a good snapshot of the game as a whole; It starts off completely safe and contained, slowly escalates as we progress, and adds a stressor (the timer) to make it seems more complex than it is
  20. Meaty post-game with mutator maps and time trials
  21. Developer commentary and all that it adds to the game
  22. The difficulty curve is wonderfully staircased, always adding new concepts and letting you play with them before really throwing them at you
  23. The game’s graphics honestly hold up quite well
  24. The entire Intro is, of course, very well designed
  25. The game, of course, gets a Replayability positive
  26. The save system is, of course, quite good
  27. Between manual, auto, and quicksave and load, it’s pretty much the Valve standard of save system

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Honestly the radio is just irritating, and there are surprisingly large swaths of the game where you just hear it audio spamming you

Portal 2

This is one of the best games. Just, in general. Go play it.
Total Story Score: +41
Total Gameplay Score: +43
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 13.52 Hours
Time Reviewed: 01-01-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Wheatley. ‘Nuff said
  2. Second positive for Wheatley
  3. Stephen Merchant really just nails his role as Wheatley, it’s silly…
  4. …to the point of earning a second positive
  5. Intro is fantastic, it establishes tone, sets up the setting, and gets us into things very efficiently with so much info dumped so quickly
  6. The game constantly uses its graphics and brickwork to really sell what’s going on at all points and time
  7. The animation on Wheatley is just weirdly good
  8. The game is hysterical…
  9. …easily earning two humor positives…
  10. …and the unprecedented three positives
  11. The game is beautifully horrifying
  12. …and just gets worse the further in you get
  13. There’s a weirdly large amount of foreshadowing leading up to the fall (and the potato)
  14. The dialogue pops in almost every single section of the game
  15. The banter between first Wheatley and later GLaDOS really adds when it needs to, and is absent when it shouldn’t be
  16. The writing is top notch in general
  17. GLaDOS is, as usual, awesome
  18. …more so than in the first game
  19. Ellen McLain is, as usual, incredible
  20. Chapter 1 in its entirety
  21. Chapter 2 and GLaDOS’s attempts at hurting you while rebuilding the rooms as you go
  22. The pacing of the story is just fantastic…
  23. …easily earning a second positive
  24. The big confrontation between GLaDOS and Wheatley at the fulcrum of the story is a great scene
  25. Music direction is spot on
  26. Cave Johnson is just absolutely horrifying and brilliantly done
  27. Made even better by JK Simmons and his incredible voice acting
  28. The slow descent of available test people and the Background Lore of Aperture’s fall
  29. The visual storytelling of the salt mines depth
  30. Visual storytelling of the Wheatley Laboratories
  31. Banter between GLaDOS and Wheatley
  32. This Is The Part Where He Kills You
  33. The final boss fight is just an awesome scene, between the cores, Wheatley’s falling apart, and of course the moon shot
  34. Co op campaign is, let’s be honest, amusing
  35. The overall atmosphere and tone of the game’s dark humor is, as usual, spot on
  36. Doodad utilization is just spot on…
  37. …to the point of being worth a second point
  38. Turrets are still cute, the Prometheus Turret is neat, but the Frakenturrets are just awesome
  39. The External Continuity from Portal 1 really helps the work
  40. Internal Continuity is tightly crafted and constantly tracks its own events
  41. The sound design constantly adds to everything
  42. The story events are always sequenced logically and brilliantly

Story Negatives:

  1. The opera ending is, honestly, tonally jarring and comes out of no where and just feels weird and out of place

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The Intro, as usual, does a wonderful job of all that it needs to and getting the player into the game smoothly
  2. Tutorialization is, as usual for the franchise, fantastic..
  3. …easily earning a second positive
  4. The game’s graphics have aged brilliantly and look good to this very day…
  5. …but more to the point, are actively part of the experience (seeing through portals, color distinction, etc.)
  6. The game actually has music, and uses it well
  7. The game has proper ‘mod support’ in the map making, TTS, and campaign design tools…
  8. …easily a second positive for mod support
  9. Visual distinction is everywhere, in fact…
  10. …it’s a central theme of the game (dark grey vs. light grey, orange, blue, etc.)
  11. Sound design is on point (indicators of danger, whether something turns on or off, is activated, etc.)
  12. The game uses its Lighting insanely well, between the indicators of what is facing where…
  13. …as well as in the darker segments of the game, to indicate where you should go, and help you progress
  14. The game, as usual, has excellent checkpointing…
  15. …easily earning a second positive
  16. Chapter 1 in its entirety
  17. Chapter 2 in its entirety
  18. Chapter 3 in its entirety
  19. Chapter 4 in its entirety
  20. Chapter 5 is brilliantly constructed and does wonderful stuff with the lighting and puzzle design
  21. The difficulty curve is fantastic, not only does it build smoothly but it actually lowers when new mechanics are introduced before escalating again
  22. The core mechanics of the portal gun remain interesting and fascinating…
  23. …and are used to brilliant effect
  24. The hard light, laser, and launcher really add to the depth and complexity of the puzzle design throughout
  25. The pacing of the game is brilliant. At no point does it overstay its welcome in any given tempo or tension level…
  26. …easily earning two positives
  27. The save system is, as per Half Life usual, just excellent…
  28. …between manual saves, autosaves, and quicksave/loads
  29. While it’s mild, the Yoshi Drums are used to good effect
  30. Easily one of the best tutorialized games ever, third positive
  31. Special praise, as usual, for the developer commentary
  32. The repulsion gel by itself really adds to the core mechanics, alongside the movement beam…
  33. …the propulsion gel and moon rock gel
  34. The early salt mine levels
  35. The mixed orange and blue levels
  36. The first Wheatley levels
  37. The final boss fight is actually pretty fun and well done, making for a good Outro
  38. Full campaign co op…
  39. …which as usual is two positives
  40. Two general positives for the high quality of the co op levels…
  41. …because they’re very challenging and very fun
  42. Guidance and Flow of Exploration is, usually, good
  43. Replayability, of course

Gameplay Negatives:

Metal Gear Solid

While it shows its age in many ways, it holds up better than expected. Definitely worth a playthrough if you haven’t.
Total Story Score: +13
Total Gameplay Score: +10
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 10.55 Hours
Time Reviewed: 01-06-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Opening briefing (VCR segment)
  2. Roy Campbell is, honestly, probably the second best character in the piece, with layers and nuance to him but managing to remain relatable throughout…
  3. …especially in part thanks to Paul Eiding’s voice acting
  4. Babylon 5 Effect is on full display
  5. The game has a surprisingly large amount of competent foreshadowing
  6. The animation, while a bit canned, does work quite well to add to the scenes
  7. The game is hilariously ridiculous
  8. Hal is, honestly, pretty awesome and while he absolutely races through his character arc…
  9. …his almost immediate connection and chemistry with Snake is just awesome
  10. CODEC as a storytelling mechanic (extra bits of dialogue and storytelling)
  11. The expressions and usage of the CODEC faces during CODEC ‘cutscenes’
  12. Wolf’s death has some issues, but is overall well done and well presented
  13. The plot point of a stealth nuke is, unlike several other things in the game, treated without a shred of cheesiness, melodrama, or elsewise, and is just as terrifying as it sounds
  14. Generally good supporting NPCs
  15. Generally good voice acting
  16. Outro is, in general, enjoyable
  17. The overall plot is, let’s be honest, actually pretty interesting and engaging
  18. Liquid is surprisingly charismatic and engaging, despite everything…
  19. …honestly helped tremendously by Cam Clarke and his wonderfully hammy voice acting

Story Negatives:

  1. Repeating exposition with unnecessary questions
  2. Exposition pacing
  3. The dialogue really has issues at times, flitting from topic to topic without proper segway and jerking about in tone wildly
  4. Preachiness. I get the message but the game doesn’t handle it well and beats you over the head with it in a way that defeats its own point
  5. The game feels the need to repeat a cutscene we just saw 20 minutes ago for no good reason, then tries (too hard) to make us feel sad about it, then immediately does a very awkward segway into setting up a ‘twist’ with Naomi
  6. The game overall has a pretty bad padding issue with dialogue and scenes

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The music is, of course, quite good
  2. For an early PS1 game the Brickwork is surprisingly well designed
  3. Similarly, the checkpointing is better than expected
  4. The Psycho-Mantis boss fight is probably one of the better designed ones in the game
  5. Minimap is very useful in determining what and where in the immediacy, exactly like a minimap should
  6. Itemization and spread thereof is always thought out and well designed
  7. Vulcan Raven boss fight is pretty legit
  8. There are multiple bosses where there’s different tactics and strategies you can use to take said boss down
  9. The Grey Fox fight isn’t super amazing, but it’s interesting enough and varies things up from the rest of the encounters of the game
  10. Avoid / Evade mechanic, while simplistic and obviously just getting started really, actually works pretty well
  11. The difficulty options change quite a bit other than just health and damage
  12. The Intro is, at the very least, well designed and a good intro to what this type of game will be
  13. The final boss fight with Rex is at least fun, despite issues
  14. Surprisingly good visual distinction despite color issues
  15. Aggregate: Sound design, while not super well used consistently, is good for when it’s there // The grenade fight against the tank is reasonably fun

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. This particular version of the game has several issues with the port. Graphics not rendering properly, issues with cutscenes, controls being honestly pretty terrible, etc.
  2. Backtracking issues during the Sniper Wolf fight
  3. The PAL padding. It’s straight up dull backtracking for no good reason
  4. The final fights with Liquid and the turret section aren’t… great, especially in this port
  5. Aggregate: The entire Meryl codec number problem // The run up the communications tower is just a little it too padded

Super Mario RPG

While there’s some substantial issues on the Gameplay axis, the story holds up firm, making this game absolutely worth a playthrough. Might want a walkthrough handy just in case though.
Total Story Score: +27
Total Gameplay Score: +2
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 12.47 Hours
Time Reviewed: 01-07-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Intro starts off classic, but almost immediately subverts it, but also does two important things; it establishes tone (humorous) and it establishes tone (horror)
  2. Animations. It’s actually silly how good the animations are in this game…
  3. …not just in general, but giving ‘voice’ to Mario and the various puppetry sequences
  4. The light-hearted tone still gets a smile out of me to this day
  5. Bowyer’s scene leading up to his boss fight is awesome
  6. The dialogue is really well crafted overall
  7. The localization is really on point (especially for the time)
  8. NPC Set Dressing is on full display
  9. The storyboarding for cutscenes is weirdly well done
  10. Bowser is just plain awesome
  11. Mallow has a weirdly engaging story arc across the game
  12. Peach is, similarly, awesome
  13. There’s a large amount of internal continuity as the game builds up to its eventual payoffs
  14. There’s a lot of visual storytelling in general…
  15. The game still gets a laugh out of me, to this day
  16. Especially with Booster! Booster’s awesome
  17. Doodads are on point for almost every area
  18. The entire Marrymore sequence is hysterical, and probably one of the more memorable parts of the game
  19. Nimbus’ section kinda rocks, with great dialogue and general amusement…
  20. …and special bonus points to Valentina and Dodo
  21. There’s so, so, so many tiny details and fluff and general tidbits that add to the flavor of the game
  22. The visual storytelling and honest horror of the final dungeon is beautiful…
  23. …between the dead world, the Machine Made enemies, the assembly line, the broken and the damned
  24. Smithy is a very well done example of a negative-space villain, we don’t even see him until the very end but we’ve built him up and characterized him in his absence
  25. The Outro does some wonderful stuff, the final boss fight by itself is fantastic and psychologically horrifying…
  26. …but then the ‘here’s where they are now’ ending and parade really cap it off
  27. Supporting cast is good across the board
  28. Mario is surprisingly well characterized in a game where he has no dialogue

Story Negatives:

  1. The game is just… weird at times, and usually for completely random, pointless reasons (Punchinello? Bowyer??)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The Intro does everything it needs to and properly, giving you time to get used to combat, movement, etc.
  2. The shortcut menu system is great, as it actually reduces unnecessary padding in menuing and selection, keeping combat and the game flowing smoothly
  3. While one of her first full games, Yoko Shimomura’s music does some great stuff in this one
  4. Gameplay pacing is on point, bouncing between dungeons, towns, and using minigames as ‘breather’ segments
  5. Bowyer. Aside from being generally well balanced, his gimmick of cancelling out menus (and changing his pattern to suit) is cool
  6. Encounter avoidance design (can just dodge enemies in areas)
  7. Staircase leveling (each stat and level matters, gear can overcome levels)
  8. General QoL features (memory cursor, equip convenience, equip in shops, etc.)
  9. Bowser’s Castle is probably the best dungeon in the game, with the Bowser-makes-enemies-flee mechanic, multiple paths forward via the doors, and generally better than average layout and itemization
  10. Itemization in the game is actually quite good, both in consumables and in equipment, always pushing you towards upgrades
  11. The Outro has some stumbles, but really nails it where it counts; in the final boss fights
  12. Enemy variety is reasonably good across the game
  13. There’s surprisingly enjoyable viscerality to the animations of the various weapons and spells
  14. The game is short (and funny) enough to warrant a Replay positive

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Some of the songs (not all of them) are honestly just way, way, way too repetitive (in an extreme case, one song’s loop is literally 14 seconds)
  2. Unskippable cutscenes
  3. Croco. Both encounters are unbalanced, in terms of stats and moveset
  4. The sunken ship isn’t a good dungeon to begin with (crammed hallways, status effects everywhere) but the Johnny fight really pushes it into negative territory
  5. There are several bosses that are clearly lacking the polish of others, either in terms of overtuning or the stats being ‘off’ or their placement making no sense
  6. Generally bad Info In Game
  7. Platforming is not good in this game, between perspective and lack of depth at multiple segments
  8. Nimbus’ section kinda sucks. It’s very tight hallways with very hard to dodge enemies who are irritating to fight, but what really takes the cake is the RNG solo fight with Dodo with no warning
  9. The game likes to just bucket-dump encounters in dungeons… in a way that would make sense if they were Mario enemies, but each one involves a full encounter, and they don’t give enough reward to really be worth doing all of them, making the whole thing unnecessary and irritating
  10. There is a huge amount of secrets with no indication where or what they are, ranging from neat to actually useful
  11. Timed Hits issues. Hitboxes vary, sometimes they’re outright deceptive, and nothing indicates this other than trial and error
  12. The Bundt fight has several issues (difficulty spike, unclear directions, mean if you’re not ready for it) but what really pushes it into negative territory is the long, long stretch between the last save and the boss (multiple cutscenes, a minigame, and a fight)