Ooh somebody get me a salve or a tincture for my aching head… the chocolate hangover is not to be trifled with! In the meanwhiles, I’ll progress my recovery by breaking down our adventures in the month of October. Theme of the month: “Indies for days!”
The previous month saw The Well-Red Mage beginning to stick our tentative toes in the unknown waters of review key requests, and that venture led us to an October full of amazing indie games. It was also a pleasure to be able to undergo this process of requesting keys on behalf of our contributors, who joined in the merrymaking by publishing reviews of their own based on the aforementioned keys.
It’s an exciting time to be alive and certainly it’s a great time for gaming with a lot of incredible games to play! Odyssey, for example, has really sucked me in. These are the titles we reviewed in October…
As always, I owe a debt of gratitude and enthusiasm to the contributors who published their work with us this month. It’s quality writing like theirs that I am more than happy to host.
The Iron Mage (youtube.com/user/RussellGHello) opened October with our first review, a great example of constructive criticism. This is something I’ve really been thinking a lot about lately. I’m all for pointing out the woes of score inflation in the world of gaming critiques today but the fact is that people are more willing to write about games they enjoyed than games they didn’t. In short, it’s easier to gush than it is to evaluate. If gaming criticism is to rise above a mere “I liked it” for every written review, then we’ll have to get beyond mere gushing. I think the Iron Mage did a great job of providing feedback on Original Journey without the review reading like a black-and-white essay.
The Moronic Cheese Mage (Mr. Wapojif of professionalmoron.com) tackled two reviews in October: one for Half-Life 2 and another for The Flame in the Flood. These are two different kinds of reviews and they both underscore the unique challenges which come with their different approaches. On the one hand, Half-Life 2 is a well-received classic for many. Describing why exactly that is can be quite the test of one’s analytical skills. On the other hand, The Flame in the Flood is a relative newcomer to the gaming industry, so while it’s easier in that sense to be critical, more emphasis has to be (and was) paid to the content of the game and how it functions, since these are far less known than in the case of Half-Life 2. Plus with a new game there’s a greater temptation to try to “sell it”, especially if a review key is involved, but I didn’t sense that the Moronic Cheese Mage (despite his self-deprecating moniker) bumbled into that snare.
A new contributor has appeared! The Wonderland Dragoon Mage published their first review this month on a title I have not played, but which was evidently a gem: Kingdoms of Amalmur: Reckoning. If we’re to be honest, we rarely read reviews about games we wouldn’t normally be interested in. Likely, if you don’t play much Xbox or PC, you don’t frequent reviews for games on those platforms. Same thing if you aren’t into Nintendo. Through these contributors I’m able (and required as their editor) to read their reviews on games I probably wouldn’t get to if left to my own devices. It can certainly be eye-opening. I do cherish the opportunity to feature different points of view on this blog and sometimes these different points of view differ from my own and turn out to be enlightening, as was the case here.
It just wouldn’t be October without The Midnight Mystic Mage (of sublimereviews.wordpress.com). Our resident sommelier of horror produced a review of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth just in time for Halloween. What’s scarier than Cthulhu? Maybe game-breaking bugs and glitches. As it turns out, this game was full of them, so much so that our dear spookster mage was unable to complete the game. Finishing a review on what turned out to be an abrupt and disappointing experience isn’t easy but it’s a mark of dedication to report on a game like this. The MMM also produced a Let’s Play for this game, so follow the link in the review to check that out, as well.
The Hopeful Handheld Mage (of retroredress.wordpress.com), our retrocentric writer, took it upon himself to bring some Sega flavor to this place. That’s very much appreciated since I didn’t grow up playing much Sega at all, as you can probably tell from the reviews I myself put out. HH Mage is working his way through reviewing the Golden Axe trilogy and that means diving headfirst into Golden Axe II, for better or worse. Fighting back the taint of nostalgia can frustrate any reviewer, as providing a clear and objective take on a game from some decades ago provides its own unique challenges, but this review isn’t about gushing over some sepia-toned classic. It’s about taking a hard look at the degradation of a beloved series, perhaps due to the whims of sequelitis. We can’t completely free ourselves from biases as writers or journalists, but by golly the Hopeful Handheld Mage gets further than most of us do!
If you (yes, you) are interested in becoming a mage and contributor of this writing community, then feel free to check out our Join the Party page for more info on what our standards are and how to contact me!
I had the pleasure of participating in NekoJonez’s Zelda project at the start of October. I discussed open-world game evolution and the Legend of Zelda franchise specifically through the lens of A Link to the Past. This project was a community-wide endeavor to complete an article on every Legend of Zelda game ever released. Ambitious but we got it done, together! It was so inspirational to see so many pool their talents together that OverThinker Y and I hastily began a sister project which is now going to be called Final Fantasy: A Crystal Compendium.
Same idea: we’ve brought together writers from across the internet in order to create articles for (nearly) every Final Fantasy game there is. In case you’re unaware, there are a lot of Final Fantasy games, too many for even an unprecedented thirty plus writers to handle! As it stands, we’re planning to complete our project mid-December (-ish) and it’s slated to be something I’ve never seen the likes of before. Every major Final Fantasy game will be covered, sometimes covered multiple times, and we’re including some spin-offs and sequels. The Well-Red Mage will be featuring a hub article that links to every post that’s part of the project. I’m looking forward to it with great anticipation!
Tidying this summary post up to keep things uncharacteristically short but sweet, you can read the Hardware Inklings review I did on the SNES Classic Edition (I was one of the few who got a SNES mini during a late night preorder window of about 45 minutes) and you can check out a rather rambling opinion piece I wrote about Nintendo’s place in the modern gaming world. I don’t like to ramble and I don’t care for when writers depreciate their work when they use the word ramblings but that article felt off-the-cuff to me. I didn’t intend it to read like a fanboy apologetic for the company. I am and have been critical of some of their bizarre mistakes (the Wii U foremost and most recent in my mind), but the point of the piece was that we get some incredible games from Nintendo, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone (see Odyssey). Putting up with Nintendo’s ridiculousness, alienating third party support, and their occasional mis-marketing is a price I’m willing to pay in order to get the kinds of products we see out of them on their better days.
On the Patreon front, our crowdfunding is slowly growing! That takes us ever closer to establishing a platform that’s able to pay writers for their hard work, providing an alternative to having to freelance and prostitute one’s talents to the gods of the mainstream. In October we put out an Audio Review for Super Metroid, which you can find on our Patreon page. All Audio Reviews can be accessed for $1 a month, oh and my voice is like cashmere. More importantly, your contributions take us closer to redefining the way that games writing functions.
My final recommendations from October are Axiom Verge, Golf Story and Wulverblade for different reasons. Axiom Verge is a haunting game I’m glad I finally played but it may put off people who aren’t into intense Metroidvanias. Golf Story is a sports riff on EarthBound but it may put off people who aren’t too into golf. Wulverblade is a gritty, arcade-style beat ’em up but it may put off people who find it much too difficult. They’re great games and I enjoyed all three of them, but the beautiful thing about gaming is there’s a lot to choose from. There’s something out there for you.
Happy November and good luck to all the NaNoWriMo contenders!
In your service,
-The Well-Red Mage
Ranked best to worst:
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Categories: Monthly Summary