Good Games Writing Weekly: April 7, 2021

by Team GGW

The best games writing from around the web.

The Weekly is your round-up of all the best in games writing and related spaces. Reviews, news, features, and more await you each week as the curators of Good Games Writing scour the Internet for the best of the best. Some themes are for older audiences.

We’re coming back from a much needed spring break. As vaccinations roll out across the United States, the outcomes here in Canada have been borderline disastrous. In schools, the measures taken by our governments can be described as ‘paltry’. Our team took the break as a chance to reconnect with our families (albeit at-a-distance) and soak up some fresh air.

We’re glad you’re here with us.

Because we’re playing catch up on many pieces over the past few weeks we’ll release some extra posts with the aim of giving you roughly a dozen pieces to read in each installment. You know…something readable! This is the first of three over the coming days.

REVIEWS

A couple of big releases of late but Monster Hunter Rise has to be the One Game To Rule Them All for the past month and maybe even months to come. Two reviews caught our attention.

First, Jason Coles leads his review by saying “God f— damn, Monster Hunter Rise is a good game”. It’s an evocative way to draw you in and, while we wouldn’t use it constantly, it sets the tone for the rest of the review, which flits by without second thought. If you’ve played Iceborne this review will hit a lot of notes.

Over at Prima, Jesse Vitelli places the focus on the monsters, weapons, and dogs. Yes, there’s a furry companion.

While you’re on a Monster Hunter kick we recommend Diego Arguello’s guides on the game.

Shannon Liao digs into LoL: Wild Rift and finds a game that’s both satisfying and simplified while online harassment has been tamped down–perhaps by the game’s control scheme–compared to standard LoL.

We’ve mixed feelings about Jordan Middler’s Balan Wonderworld review. On the one hand, we find sections of it to be, well, pointed:

But, honestly, there’s no price at which you should pay for Balan Wonderworld. Even if you were one of those unfortunate souls that found themselves with a lifelong Sonic perversion, Yuji Naka has conned you. This is a game for no-one. It’s such a bad platformer that if Shigeru Miyamoto was forced to play it, he might die on the spot. 

On the other hand, the review has elements that stand out as insightful and incisive:

It’s a platformer, a revolutionary one at that, being the first game in the genre, at least to my knowledge, that employs 6 different buttons to make your character jump. 

As a team of curators we haven’t felt this uncomfortable with a review in a long time. Maybe that’s a good thing.

While the reviews for Balan have generally been negative there have been some defending it. The most interesting defence we’ve read thus far comes from Matt S:

The aesthetics and theatrics of it all are to be desired – they’re impeccably evocative and inviting. So the best way to play this game is to let that sink in and don’t care about the rest. Let it be a whimsical, pointless exercise, and its many flaws around its inability to make sense or offer compelling gameplay simply stop mattering. Meaning doesn’t matter. This game is at its best when you can simply enjoy it as a wash of energy.

Over on Polygon, Nicole Carpenter’s impressions of Field Guide to Memory made us want to download the “narrative journaling game” immediately. (We did.) Previously, we’d never heard of keepsake games, but it’s an area we’re keen to explore moving forward. Carpenter weaves around the game’s narrative masterfully–this is the type of game, we sense, where spoilers matter–and the piece is enhanced by the author’s photos.

& CRITICISM

A host of interesting criticism has dropped in recent weeks.

We’ll start by highlighting a piece on our own site: Zsolt David explores the systems present in Among Us and finds a deeper meaning that help explains both economic and political systems:

As a consequence, children of blue collar workers have a smaller chance of participating in higher education in contrast with children from white collar families. The effects of work ripple through generations; that is to say, work’s implications become explications that lead to further implications and explications. In Among Us, everyone is shaped to the image of a blue collar worker who must work even after death, mirroring neoliberal ideals that imagine everyone to be similar. But it’s an illusion that depends entirely on chance, given that it’s random whether one comes to life as an impostor or as a crewmate. This birth into a crew is marred with deception that concludes to exhaustion and death.

Speaking of space horror, Super Metroid is examined through a gothic lens by Luke M, a stirring piece that weaves in critical theory and delivers a hearty conclusion involving Samus’ duality in respect to her relationship to the titular Metroid.

Similar themes are explored by Cole Henry as he lambasts the trend of media talking at viewers instead of allowing them to ruminate. Why that isn’t inherently a Gothic take the fact that horror, proper, can cause deeper reflection isn’t lost, with The Evil Within 2‘s nightmarish world where enemies simply cease being.

At Uppercut, Brady Grabowski reflects on what tanking in a game like Overwatch can mean for players, and how the author’s size is an “inescapable” observation, the first made of them. As a result, Grabowski finds himself gravitating towards glass cannon characters in many games, but in Overwatch, tanking has led to a change in perspective. (We love their take on what tanking actually is, too: it’s “positioning yourself for success, thinking ahead to protect your vulnerabilities, and not allowing yourself to be cut off from your support system”.)

While not strictly about games, Shane Ryan’s experiment/analysis of recent New York Times crossword puzzles suggests they’re getting progressively easier as time marches forward. By no means is it a scientific measure–the piece in question features the view of a handful of regular crossword aficionados–but we’re more interested in the discussion and merit of difficult crosswords. Are they really more fulfilling if they’re difficult? At what difficulty do you turn off potential players? And just how many four-letter rivers are there?

Finally, Nick Pino’s impressions of It Takes Two manages to express the game’s difficulty (there’s no way to tweak the difficulty if you’re playing with a less experienced gamer) while embracing its narrative themes, including potential “wish fulfillment” for children of divorce. And, yeah, we’re here for the Ted Lasso analogy, as you’d perhaps expect.

Quick Hits:

Carpenter, Nicole. “Field Guide to Memory is a ‘keepsake’ game written inside your own personal journal” (Polygon: March 26, 2021) <www.polygon.com/2021/3/26/22352414/field-guide-to-memory-keepsake-game-impressions-interview>.

Coles, Jason. “Monster Hunter Rise Review: Switch Exclusive Rises To The Occasion” (G-Finity: March 29, 2021) <www.gfinityesports.com/reviews/outriders-review-great-loot-shooter-fun-that-doesnt-move-the-needle/>.

David, Zsolt. “UNCOVERING AMONG US’ IMPLICIT SYSTEMS” (Liftoff!: March 31, 2021) <liftoffmag.com/uncovering-among-us-implicit-systems/>.

Grabowski, Brady. “How Tanking in Overwatch Has Helped Me Love My Giant Body” (Uppercut: March 29, 2021) <uppercutcrit.com/how-tanking-in-overwatch-has-helped-me-love-my-giant-body/>.

Henry, Cole. “It is all a horrible dream.” (March 26, 2021) <inthelobby.medium.com/it-is-all-a-horrible-dream-427f7b49fe93>.

Liao, Shannon. “‘League of Legends: Wild Rift’ is ‘League’ Lite, targeted at new players” (The Washington Post: April 2, 2021) <www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/reviews/lol-wild-rift-review/>.

M, Luke. “Alien Bodies, Alien Worlds: ‘Super Metroid’ and Gothic Space” (March 12, 2021) <lmwpb.wordpress.com/2021/03/12/metroid-gothic/>.

Middler, Jordan. “Balan Wonderworld review” (Overlode: March 28, 2021) <overlode.co.uk/balan-wonderworld-review/>.

Pino, Nick. “Josef Fares’ It Takes Two handles divorce in the sweetest way possible” (TechRadar: March 2, 2021) <www.techradar.com/news/josef-fares-it-take-two-handles-divorce-in-the-sweetest-way-possible>.

Ryan, Shane. “The New York Times Crossword Puzzle Is Getting Easier. Is That a Good Thing?” (Paste: March 29, 2021) <www.pastemagazine.com/games/crossword-puzzles/new-york-times-crossword-getting-easier/>.

S, Matt. “Review: Balan Wonderworld (Nintendo Switch)” (Digitally Downloaded: April 4, 2021) <www.digitallydownloaded.net/2021/04/review-balan-wonderworld-nintendo-switch.html>.

Vitelli, Jesse. “Monster Hunter Rise Review | Sound The Hunting Horn” (Prima Games: March 31, 2021) <primagames.com/review/monster-hunter-rise-review-sound-hunting-horn>.

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