SMG- Eurogamer Review of a Review & Player Response
Friday, November 9, 2007 at 4:24PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Critique

http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=86873

This Super Mario Galaxy review by Margaret Roberston stood out from the majority of the other reviews I've read from around the net. Though this particular review doesn't address the game on a critical level or on a technical level, it does a great job of capturing the spirit and energy of the Mario.

"Bright, bold, unrepentantly loony, Galaxy is everything you wanted it to be. It's beautiful and inventive. It's pure-blood Mario without being a retro indulgence. It's a stiff platforming challenge and a free-wheeling romp. It's the best thing on Wii, and the best traditional game Nintendo has made in a decade."

Moving from the singular bold adjectives , to short descriptive statements, the sentence structure mimics jumping. Before proceeding into the rest of the review, the last sentence leaps off the "ground" of the established history of "mediocre games" to prep your mind for a game that will be out of your world.

"The only thing about it which dulls your enjoyment is the memory of all the mediocre games you've had to play in the meantime."

The article touches on many of the areas we have come to expect from a typical game review. Controls. Story. Variety. Creativity. Level Design. Annoyances. Legacy. However, these topics aren't addressed one by one in a linear fashion. Like the open-ended freedom of Mario Galaxy's hub world, Roberston follows her own path through her review. Without being constricted to an overly organized "formal" approach, she's free to interject more personal statements that reflect her own experience with the game.

"Where's the sky? Where's the ground? Dimensions come and go as the game slips in and out of 3D and 2D with little warning and no reservations. Gravity flips and switches - on, off, one way then another way. It would be the game most guaranteed to give you vertigo, if at any point you had any clear idea which way down was. Instead, you just follow the fun, chasing star trails and distant glimmers across oceans of empty sky. Levels form and dissolve under your feet, rotating and revolving. Somehow, through it all, the camera doesn't break sweat. And somehow, through it all, you're never lost and never confused. If you've seen Fred Astaire dance on the ceiling in Royal Wedding, or Jamiroquai sliding into Virtual Insanity, then you're well prepared for Mario's new galaxy. You may also want to schedule another lap of Portal's mind-benders, just to be sure you're warmed-up for his total disregard for the recognised rules of physics. You'll blow bubbles, de-louse giant bees, race rays, skate through the stars, climb towers that don't exist and battle giant robots, all without a second thought."

In this section alone, Roberston describes from the various level elements, comments on the games primary drive and how the level shapes this experience, and the camera all while connecting her experience to the world outside of Mario and videogames too. (Portal & Royal Wedding). While reading through this section even for the first time "somehow, through it all, you're never lost and never confused." To put it simply, when writing this review, Roberston seems to have simply "[followed] the fun" inspired by the experience of play Super Mario Galaxy.

After reading through the review, you should have a pretty good idea of what kind of game Super Mario Galaxy is. My favorite part of the review is that it communicated the spirit and quality of the game without being bogged down with blandly repeating details that most previews have already explicated.

This review most closely reflects the kind of writing in Reader-Response literary critical theory. In a nut shell, this mode of critical theory accepts the readers personal experience with a piece of literature as being guided by elements within the work. In other words, certain words, styles, and or literary devices guide the readers experience/interpretation away from floating off into an cloud of possibilities. After the reader forms his/her interpretation, it must be submitted to a community of some sort. The ultimate goal of this critical theory is to examine "how readers read" or what happens between the page and our minds. The reader is the cornerstone of this critical mode.

I've detailed a mode of critical game theory I call "Player Response." This mode examines how the elements in the game shape the players experience. Once an impression/interpretation is formed, it should be submitted to a community of like minded people (ie. compared to other game reviewers).

If Margaret Roberston were to write in the Player Response critical mode, she would have to find specific elements and parts in the game that clearly shaped her gaming experience. It would be essential (and also very interesting) know to what parts of the game allowed for Roberston to walk away with such an experience that warrants a 10/10 score. And by understanding how she experience the game, we could all learn a little more of how we play any games ourselves.

Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (http://critical-gaming.com/).
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