That’s the thing with new years, no matter what you do, it’ll be the first time you’ve done it that year. With newness comes freshness and excitement but also new opportunities to both succeed and fail, yet trying new things is better than stagnation, even if newness doesn’t lead as far as you thought it would.
Enough gibberish. This is still a review site, right? Well with a bunch of monumental tasks completed this month, reviews took somewhat of a back-burner position but we did our best to put forth six of them! Two of these took a lot out of me personally and one of them was a figure of controversy! You know how I appreciate moderate amounts of controversy.
First off I have the mages to thank for supplying half of this month’s diet of reviews!
The Hopeful Handheld Mage (of Retro Redress) stepped into the fray of 2018 first this month with an excellent retro-review on Alien Storm. Remember that one? Me too, actually! That’s because I played it recently in a compilation but I never played it back in “the day”. Beat ’em ups were the word of the day in that time and this looks like one of the stranger ones. Reminds me of John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The next magely review came courtesy of our monthly fixture here, the Midnight Mystic Mage (of Sublime Reviews). Kingdom New Lands is a pixel-art indie monarch simulator, which is a power fantasy simulator I could get into. If you’re looking for info on something a little more passive to play, check out his take!
Heuheuheuheu! The Final Fourteenth Mage (of Cilla vs. Games) reviewed Hue this month, which is a game I’ve never heard of but looks really innovative for the platformer genre. The developers apparently took color blind players into consideration for this palette-based game, and I think that making games more accessible to everyone is a really cool thing.
We also have a new column up and running. With an article every Wednesday, you can follow the Infernal Accountant Mage through Accounting the Years. This is his take on the “Asking Big Questions” post we featured (more on that in a bit) and it’ll involve tackling a game and a specific subject alongside it beginning with 1986 and Dragon Warrior! It’s sure to be a very personal series.
Interested in becoming a mage, getting your own slick mage icon, and writing alongside a magical group of wordsmiths? Writers retain authorial rights and links to their exterior work is guaranteed. We’re working toward constructing a crowd-funding frame that will allow us to pay writers for their pieces, so that’s down the pipeline some time in the future, hopefully to make games writing a little less about freelancing and more about contributing to a hub.
You can Join the Party and contact me if you like. We picked up a new mage this month and we’re eagerly awaiting their coffee-infused debut!
A number of sizable projects took place in January, including the start of another new series: Anatomy of a Game Review, which I began in view of not finding enough talk about games criticism so I decided to start my own set of entries on it, due monthly. This first post “What People Look For” featured takes from many talents across the internet: hungrygoriya, Adventure Rules, Falcon Game Reviews, Jon Spencer Reviews, I ❤ OLD GAMES!, Darkrast, Later Levels, Player2Reviews, AmbiGaming, Power Bomb Attack, ABXY Reviews, Shoot the Rookie, Sheikah Plate, TriformTrinity, TheDeviot, Mr. Panda, NekoJonez, The Shameful Narcissist, Cheap Boss Attack, The Valiant Vision Mage aka Lodestar_Valor, The Evergreen Sage Mage aka Wakalapi, The Hopeful Handheld Mage aka Retro Redress, The Spoony Bard Mage aka Nerd Speaker, The Moronic Cheese Mage aka Mr. Wapojif, The Infernal Accountant Mage (Popzara), The Badly Backlogged Mage aka Mr. Backlog, The Livid Lightning Mage aka Lightning Ellen, The Midnight Mystic Mage aka Sublime Reviews, The Purple Prose Mage aka Alex Sigsworth, The Timely Mage, and The Brave Blue Mage aka 924COLLECTIVE. Whew!
A huge thank you to everyone for being open to sharing their thoughts about what they look for out of game reviews!
Our fifth “Asking Big Questions” post originated on Twitter where I encountered it through @evry1knowsdave and @Pariah_Layne. The question was “What is your favorite game for every year you’ve been alive?” Participants were tasked with naming a favorite game by year of release, not the year they played it. These didn’t have to be the best games of that year, just your favorite.
A lot of people responded which was great to see! It was nice to know that it helped people relive some memories they might’ve forgotten. You can check out who shared their own lists by seeing the comments and pingbacks in the Big Questions article.January was also an important month because we launched our new YouTube channel! This was something that I’d be yutzing about for a while now and to finally get it up and running took a lot of work but I’m happy to be able to feature a supplementary audio format for our reviews. Our channel will feature well-read reviews uttered by yours truly as well as whatever else tickles the fancy, including but not limited to magesplaining videos (short explanations on games and game subjects). It’s very much something I need practice on, so your patience with me on that front is much appreciated. I hope that these bring you some decent auditory stimulation.
If you’re so inclined, subscribe! I ensured we had an assortment of videos up for the first month and now we’ll be settling into a Monday uploading schedule. Since we’ve now crossed 100 subs, two associates and myself put together some celebratory video challenges you can check out: Magesplaining 100 games.
On the Patreon front, there are a bunch of lovely people I am happy to thank for their support! In January I constructed a post about brand consistency as part of our tips and tricks series. It was just something on my mind in talking with someone over Twitter. While this series is available as an aid and would-be guide to Black and Red Mage patrons, I’ve encountered multiple Patreon creators who have said that the backbone of their support are the $1 monthly pledges, how there’s no shame in pledging someone $1. I’ll affirm that sentiment.
If you’re interested in helping build a future for games writing away from the nonsense of mainstream games journalism, then consider supporting our work toward a crowd-funded system that can pay writers for their writing. Our culture tends to value the visual arts above all else but we can all agree that writing is a lot of hard work and writers deserve more opportunities in an industry that’s tough to break into without capitulation.
I am also happy to thank three great exemplars who nominated TWRM for awards in January! They are Moe Gamer, Home Button, and Retro Redress. These three are each wonderful writers bringing more light, laughter, and beauty to the field of games writing. You should follow each of them if you haven’t already! I’m not great at keeping up with these awards but I’m delighted to bring some attention to these three for nominating us! If I missed anyone else for nominating us, I’m terribly sorry!
I usually round these out with some recommendations but in this case I just want to highlight two pieces I wrote this month on Super Mario Bros. and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. These are pretty night and day with one being largely positive and accepted by readers, with the other being much more critical and controversial. I attempted to show how SMB impacted the industry, then I wielded my thoughts I gained through 120 hours in Xenoblade 2 to discuss what I think open-world games need to work on. Both of them were quite taxing to write but in their own ways I recommend them to you.
Thank you for reading, NPCs! Together let’s make February the best we possibly can!
In your service,
-The Well-Red Mage
Ranked from best to worst:
Hue (2016) 7.4
RiME (2017) 7.1
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