Action Button is a recent video game review blog that reminds one of Howard Beale from the 1976 flick Network-- they're mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore! The reviews are honest, harsh, and to the point, if a bit full of florid vocabulary.
Their modus operandi, according to their "about" page, is rather lengthy, but it boils down to being rather refreshing-- "We're going to play games for a bare minimum of two hours each and we'll let you know when, where, and why we stop playing; a great game should make us forget our day job."
Let's take a look at a few excerpts from some of Action Button's reviews. One thing I appreciate about them is that they don't give a good review unless they mean it.
New Super Mario Bros. (DS): "Skipping bits of the game through clever gameplay has always been a staple of the Mario series, but here the options to do so are staring you right in the face, and the whole thing chugs along with mechanical ennui."
Final Fantasy VII (PSX): "Why do they play [Japanese RPGs]? Is it for the immature, sickly narratives? Is it for the dismembered “strategy” gameplay of the random encounter? Is it because they’re working up some immensely pornographic fan comic based around the female leads and the most tentacle-endowed sub-boss? Is it because the joyless grinding of larger and larger numbers to make bigger and bigger damage numbers appear above their enemies provides an utterly false sense of achievement, massaging the same part of the brain that drives a rat to press on a feeder bar for a snack treat? Ding ding ding!"
Altered Beast (Genesis): "It looks like the whole lycanthropy thing was fully thought-out then half-executed. Considering it’s the central premise, this might be a problem!"
The site is well worth checking out. I wonder what our readers think of their style of reviews?
I looked through the site, and it doesn't seem like every review is negative. Indeed, the first one on the page (Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past) is painful fanboyism. When I write reviews, I always try to separate my nostalgic feelings from the game itself, or, when that's impossible, offer a disclaimer. What I've often found is that a game I tremendously enjoyed in the past was not really because of the game itself, but rather the conditions (i.e., I played it with my best friends back in college). For instance, I never player the first Warlords game now (and don't consider it to be a great game), though I played it almost constantly back in college and loved every minute of it. However, I think we could've played E.T. for the 2600, and I'd still look back fondly on that time. On the other hand, I have great memories of playing Bubble Bobble with my younger siblings and having a great time, played it again years later with friends and loved it, and still boot it occasionally into MAME and enjoy it. It's just a great game, period. Warlords, Empire, Ebonstar, Sango Fighter, Ports of Call, etc.--I can get teary-eyed with nostalgia over them, but they're not great games, and I never play them now.
A reviewer has to be careful not to confuse the game with the context.
Just to clarify, Matt, you mean the Warlords series on the PC, right, not the Atari 2600 game? Interestingly, Atari arcade Warlords has been updated with great success on both the Atari 8-bit computer and the Atari 2600, with Castle Crisis and Medieval Mayhem respectively. Both are much truer to the arcade original than the original 2600 conversion ever was (though of course that's still great fun). Regardless, one would think that with the infinity of possible names, we wouldn't see so many of the same titles used over and over again for different games...
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
An interesting site. I don't know about the "intelligent" part of the review... some of them are just downright vitriolic. What scares me is eventually, people who write such reviews become incapable of appreciating ANY game eventually. I've heard the MST3K crew have a problem with movies in that respect.
I do like how all the game screenshots are one-bit-per-pixel bitmaps. Really removes the graphics from the equation.
I think that the sheer level of vitriol on the reviews is part of the site's appeal.
They way they do screenshots are nice.
What I meant by intelligence is that in some of the reviews, specific aspects of the game design are criticized in a decent way. A lot of reviews still fall back on concentrating on the visual and audio splendor and not on the gameplay/design itself.
=- Mat Tschirgi =- Armchair Arcade Editor
Action Button was well worth the click, thanks for the link. They seem to be smart people and entertaining writers, but I had to disagree with their view of one of the few games they looked at that I've actually played. I've often heard criticism of FFVII amounting to a dislike of level grinding in between cut-scenes for the sole purpose of being able to see larger numbers pop up over an enemy's head/s during battle. While I'm not going to argue that winning any of the FFs is taxing to grey matter, to me it is one of those series that gives a player the choice between hacking away with brute force and just drinking all the healing you can carry, or finding "neater" ways of taking enemies down by paying attention to elemental weaknesses, attack patterns or carefully timing chracter limit breaks. There's also a pretty large exploration component involving the "weapons" that I didn't even get into while I was playing it. If they don't like it, fine, but by ignoring a lot of the more involved elements that particular writer came off, to me, as prefering to focus on pissing people off rather than giving a good look at the game. Did anyone get that impression from their other reviews?
They did like Balloon Fight, however, and I think their take on it was accurate.
Regardless of their objectivity, I do enjoy the style of writing, and that's often all I need to keep me reading, whether I agree with their assessments or not.