Pwned by my controller
Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 14

Gamespot - tough crowd for the Wii

Critic I mentioned in my last post that I've been spending a lot of time playing Wii games lately. Among the mostly forgettable spate of recent releases (Deca Sports, Emergency Mayhem, Iron Man), games like LostWinds and Boom Blox have delivered far more delights than I expected. And, of course, Wii Fit arrives tomorrow, hotly anticipated by family and friends.

Normally I don't give much thought to review scores, but I'm often curious to see how reviewers write about games that veer off the path of the tried and true - or even stretch the very definition of "game." I've been struck, in this regard, by the relatively low scores and lukewarm reviews that Gamespot has assigned to recent Wii games. I'm not suggesting a conspiracy, nor do I think Gamespot hates Nintendo or any other such silliness. But I do find the rather stark discrepancies interesting, and I wonder what they mean, if anything.

Looking only at the most recent releases, here's how the scores break down among the three major online outlets, Gamepsot, IGN, and 1UP:

Boom Blox - IGN 81;  1UP A+;  Gamespot 7.0
LostWinds - IGN 82;  1UP B;  Gamespot 5.5
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles My Life As A King - IGN 75;  1UP B+;  Gamespot 5.0
Wii Fit - IGN 80;  1UP 83;  Gamespot 7.0

My first thought was to consider the possibility that Gamespot has decided to tighten up review scores across the board. But a look at their scores for other games released during the same period (Dark Sector, Iron Man, The World Ends With You, etc.) shows that Gamespot tends to fall near the middle of the pack - or in the case of the three games listed, slightly above the average.

I don't have a theory to explain this, and it probably doesn't matter very much. But I confess it bugs me to read that one of the fatal flaws of LostWinds is that it "lacks personality." I love this little game, but I'll admit it has some repetitive gameplay issues, a few bugs, and somewhat less than inspiring level design. But no personality? That's the single most distinguishing feature of the game.

Similarly, the review of Boom Blox misses the core experience that sets the game apart: its tactile, physics-based 3D puzzle-solving. It's fair to dismiss the game's cutesy shell as potentially unappealing to adults. But the uniquely defining characteristics of the game deserve more consideration than they received.

I said I don't care about review scores, and here I am all worked up about a few review scores. Oh well. Maybe it all boils down to a feeling I've had for some time that Gamespot - and quite a few reviewers from other outlets - don't "get" the Wii and haven't properly understood it from the beginning. Wii Sports, a game with a greater impact than just about any other game of this generation, was described by EGM as "an overly publicized demo" and rated a 63. Mercury Meltdown got a 72.

I don't pay attention to review scores. Much.