Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Top 10 boss fights, and why writing reviews is hard.

A while ago (of course) I wrote a list of the top 10 Boss Fights for GodisaGeek. I'm very pleased with it, and you can find it here. Or by clicking on the picture of handsome loner Kanji, below.

I also wrote a review of the mind-bogglingly epic Skyrim. For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, I'm not so happy with this. I suppose I shouldn't say that about something that appears on another site, but it's true. Normally when I write a review, I avoid reading too much about the game itself, preferring to focus my research on background knowledge, the series' history, its influences and the aims on the design and development team. With Skyrim, I had to read quite a lot about the game itself because it's so massive that it's hard to get a handle on it with just 10 days' play. This meant that I found it very hard to say something original.

Not that being original should be the aim of a review, of course. It's good if you can offer something, a new perspective that no other reviewer can, but really, you should try to convey the experience of playing the game to someone who is wondering whether they should play it. Mentioning specific points of interest such as particularly effective (or not) elements of gameplay is important, but it's most important to express the feeling you get from playing the game. If the reader is after that kind of feeling, they'll want to play it too. If not, they'll go after something else.

I'm not sure I managed that with the Skyrim review. Everyone knows it's huge, it's epic, it's Tolkeinesque, and it will keep you immersed for months. I don't think I really contributed anything new. Never mind. It's functional, and will hopefully help jaded Oblivion players make up their mind whether to play it.

Plus, you know, it's on GodisaGeek, which automatically makes it at least 64.5% better.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

À la Recherche du Jeux Perdus: La Quatrième Partie

Way back in the mists of time, I wrote about how Wing Commander's sense of freedom and power made my childhood self hungry for video games. I finished by saying that I found the next few years confusing as a result. You probably can't remember that. I wish you could do one of those "Previously on Battlestar Galactica" montages for prose.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Deus Ex Human Revolution: The Missing Link Review

It feels odd that I haven't written about Deus Ex: Human Revolution yet. The story of unwilling augmentee Adam Jensen and his gravelly voice have been at the forefront of my mind for the last two months. Something about the game really got under my skin, though whether it's the art direction, the story, the incredible soundtrack or the gameplay, I don't know.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Tomb Raider Debate: Was it Necessary to Change Lara Croft's Biography?

I wrote this article at the request of Katie Fleming, who regular readers will know as the provider of all the Tomb Raider screenshots on this blog. Katie also writes Tomb Raider stories, and has been running her site for over 11 years. You can learn more about it here.

Being a fan isn't always easy. Alongside the great things that come with it is the occasional sense that you're in a one-sided relationship. As attentive as many developers/artists/writers/etc are to their fanbases, they can't possibly take each individual fan's needs into account. So when a large decision is made, it's inevitable that whilst a proportion of the fanbase welcome it, others are bound to be disappointed.

Back in 2006, Tomb Raider fans around the world fired up the long-awaited Tomb Raider: Legend, the first game by American studio Crystal Dynamics after they acquired the series from British studio Core Design. Anticipation was high across the community because of the incredible reviews the game had been getting. The PlayStation 2 version currently holds an 82 on Metacritic, placing it only just behind the first two games in the series (91 and 85 respectively). Yet whilst the elegant controls, beautiful graphics and bug-free gameplay no doubt account for its warm critical reception, the fan response was starkly divided.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Dark Souls Review and the Top Ten Apocalyptic Games

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a review of the magnificent Dark Souls, a preposterously difficult game which is nevertheless an absolute masterpiece of design and execution. You can read it here, at the amazing GodisaGeek.

I also submitted an entry to the GodisaGeek Vault, where we choose the top ten games in a certain category, place them in a vault, and seal them away so that when the apocalypse comes, the games are preserved for posterity. My slightly contrary choice was the Top Ten Apocalyptic games, a selection you can read here.

I hope everyone is have a terrific weekend.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Why I Love Final Fantasy X

This article contains quite a few spoilers. If you are interested in playing the game but haven't yet, you probably shouldn't read it, read a proper review instead. The overall tone of the article can be replicated by drinking 4 cranberry-flavoued Bacardi Breezers, going to bed without taking your makeup off and listening to Tori Amos' tweely-titled greatest hits album, "Tales of a Librarian". Make sure you skip the remix of Professional Widow though, it totally sucks.

I finished school six years ago. Though I would like to say it doesn't feel like that long, in actual fact it feels as though the day I ran from the gates with a crumpled sheet of (disappointing) exam results in my hand was decades ago.

Yuna leaves the temple of Besaid after she acquires her first aeon.

It seemed to rain all the following summer. With no place at university, no job and no travelling plans, I did my best to be supportive of the friends whose bedrooms became colonised by IKEA boxes and cellophane-wrapped stationary. As the long holiday drew to a close, a rash of leaving drinks and farewell parties made the already gloomy horizon grow even cloudier.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

À la Recherche du Jeux Perdus: La Troisième Partie

In the last installment of À la Recherche du Jeux Perdu, I spoke about how I wanted to pilot spaceships, and how that dream withered when I realised what that would actually entail.

So imagine how I felt when I first saw this:

This is a screenshot from Wing Commander, which I discovered at a friend's house at some point in the early 1990s. The first time my friend grudgingly stepped aside and let me play* was a watershed moment, as it was then that I realised that computer games could be more than just electronic simulations of board games. They could be portals to another world.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Game review roundup and an interesting turn of events. Also sackboy.

À la Recherche du Jeux Perdus: La Troisième Partie is in production. I made the n00b mistake of writing it in Blogger rather than in an editor than importing it, so a hasty "Ctrl + z" to undo a sentence deleted a my post. Before I had time to wipe the beer off my mouse, Blogger's autosave had forgotten it for good. When this happens, it is so unbelievably demoralising that starting again is physically painful, so I've been putting it off.

Ethan Mars might have lost a son and a finger, but I'm pretty sure he's never lost a blog post.

There is also other news.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

À la Recherche du Jeux Perdus: La Deuxième Partie

When I was growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to pilot a spaceship, Skywalker-style between planets: making friends, saving civilizations on and falling in love under a technicolour sky. I devoured books on space, built rockets out of Lego and wrote stories of adventure amongst the stars on small square leaves of paper from the pad that sat by the phone.

My parents were only too happy to indulge my enthusiasm, and childhood was punctuated by scale models of lunar landing craft (thanks Dad), spaceship-shaped birthday cakes (thanks Mum) and trips to the Science Museum. So it was only logical that when Apollo 13 was released, I was taken to see it at Portsmouth's first multiplex cinema.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

À la Recherche du Jeux Perdus: La Première Partie

Many, many moons ago, I wrote a post about a project I was working on. I'll tell you now (long after you've all forgotten about it) that it was a list of my fifty favourite albums, and it was enormous fun to write. However, I won't be publishing it on Well-Rendered because, well, it's not video game-related. Besides, this blog is also my online portfolio, so I'm just not sure it's the place for baring my soul, or revealing that there's a place in that soul for the musical stylings of Heidi Montag.

And yet I must post something.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Eternal Sonata, the JRPG puzzle and guilty gaming pleasures

Look at me. Waltzing into Well-Rendered as if I haven't neglected to post any original content for the last month. Such cheek. I've been playing Eternal Sonata this weekend. It's a JRPG set in the subconscious mind of the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin as he lies dying of tuberculosis.

Yes, you did read that correctly.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Fable III PC Review

More Well-Rendered is in the works, and it has something to do with this madam.

But for now, here is my review of Fable III on PC for GodisaGeek.

Monday, 16 May 2011

GodisaGeek Podcast

Last week I made my debut on the GodisaGeek weekly podcast, but my desire to self-promote was overwhelmed by my embarrassment at the sound of my own voice, so I didn't mention it on Well-Rendered.

This week's recording went much better, and you can stream it for free from the site.

All the podcasts can be streamed from, so there's no need to download iTunes.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Image manipulation and some excellent news. For me.

I've just been introduced to a great piece of free software called Paint.NET. I'll explain how and why in a minute.

But first, here's a Half Life 2 screenshot I took of Alyx Vance and her father Eli. I played with the "photo soften" options and now it looks like a bad MySpace avatar.

Hours of fun.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Them’s The (Beer) Breaks: What Sex And The City Says About Plot In Gears of War

I guess this is the kind of silly nonsense you've come to expect from Well-Rendered, but GodisaGeek doesn't usually talk about Sarah Jessica Parker vehicles, so kudos to them for having a sense of humour.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

I am in EDGE by mistake

About a year ago, a letter I wrote to EDGE magazine made it onto the back page.

This month, I seem to have made it onto their glossy pages again as part of a promotional feature in aid of the Nintendo 3DS.

The best thing about this is that I had no input into the the creation of the Mii (that's the picture, non-Nintendo people) under the quote. Clearly someone in advertising watched this and decided this is how I look.

Actually, they're not far off.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

How Prey Did Not Tackle The Native American Issue, And Why It Doesn’t Matter

The last thing I wrote before I was engulfed beneath a tide of work was an article for GodisaGeek about Native American themes in science-fiction shooter Prey.

It is here.

If you have half an hour, why not have a listen to the podcast?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Watch this space...

I've got a lot of cool projects in the works for Well-Rendered, but right now I'm unbelievably busy. When I get I break, all I want to do is hang out with my buddies or collapse into a beanbag and explore James Sunderland's subconscious.

I'll be back on track in about three weeks, and then there will be nothing to stem the flow of my words, but for now I must press my nose to the grindstone.

Thank you all for your patience, especially if you happen to be a member of the GodisaGeek editorial staff...

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Man Vs Wild: Bear Grylls gets a video game. Oh dear.

There is something profoundly irritating about Bear* "Man vs Wild" Grylls. I think it's the fact that he talks about taking on nature and winning, rather than respecting the natural world and having the common sense to leave it well enough alone when it's shooting poisonous barbs. Here he is drinking the blood of a turtle.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Top Spin 4 review, social networking and saying stupid things on camera.

Right, first things first. Here is my review of Top Spin 4 for GodisaGeek.

If you like it, please consider rating it on N4G.

Asking for this kind of support makes me feel awkward, but it goes with the territory. The internet has opened so many doors for so many people and it continues to provide a dizzying array of platforms for people to communicate and share ideas. Consequently, social networking is emerging as one of the most devastatingly effective forms of advertising on the planet. So if you read something you like online, it really helps if you "like" it or tweet it or share it. I often forget to do this when I read something excellent, but it is so important if people who create good online content are to get the recognition they deserve.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Interspecies Lovin’: How Mass Effect 2 Championed Diversity, Whether You Like It Or Not

Yes, it's Godisageek feature time again!

There are few things more rewarding than working really hard on an article, and then seeing it posted a few days later, proof-read and furnished with lovely images.

I am particularly proud of this one.

It is here. If you like it, be sure to leave a comment or a tweet, because everyone at Godisageek works really hard and your support is greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

What the upcoming Tomb Raider film needs to achieve, and why Roger Ebert needs to crawl back to his cave.

I'm ashamed to say that my first thought upon hearing that yet another Tomb Raider film had been greenlit was:

"Oh please no, not again. The last two films made Tomb Raider fans look stupid."

Before you tell me that it shouldn't matter what the rest of the world thinks, consider the competing representations of video games available to non-gamers, and try and come up with one that is:
  • More insightful than the Tomb Raider films (or in possession of even a smidgen of insight).
  • As well publicised and funded as the Tomb Raider films.
When the highest profile interpretations of video games available to the general public are as stupid as the Tomb Raider films, it is no surprise that the notion that gamers must therefore also be stupid continues to pervade.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Horse Riding in Video Games

I've never been into horses (they are not as cool as spaceships), but last night it struck me that I really, really like horse riding in video games.

Shadow of the Colossus' Agro rears up

In practical terms, horses are just in-game vehicles, albeit a rather small subcategory. But there's just something about a video game horse that really demonstrates the quality of a game's physics in a way that no other mythical beast (I'm looking at you, Chocobos) seems to do.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Review of Persona 4, or how to harness the power of your repressed self...

Trying to articulate the premise of Persona 4 in a single blog post is like trying to explain the plot of The Usual Suspects through the medium of interpretive dance. Although the central mechanic can be boiled down to "JRPG meets Social Simulator", the threads of plot, theme and gameplay are so intricately woven that they cannot really be discussed separately.

Persona 4 Inaba High School
The protagonist arrives for his first day at Insbs High School

That's a good thing for the player, of course, if not the writer. The major gripe everyone (myself included) has with videogame narratives is that plot is all too often separate from gameplay, a meaningless appendage rather than a vital organ. Consequently, when a game comes along that truly makes use of the delicate relationship between the two, we get really excited, but our lack of practice in dealing with such a well-formed entity can make it hard to discuss.

Bejewelled Blitz Live Review

I don't post much about casual games on Well-Rendered because they don't have plots.

Bejewled Blitz Live is no exception, but I reviewed it for GodisaGeek becaue I am a huge fan of developer PopCap's masterpiece Peggle, and I once spent eight cold-ridden hours playing Bejeweled 2 on a plane.


Here is the review.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Flying Manta Rays, Hovercraft And The Geographical Genius Of Beyond Good & Evil

It is Godisageek feature time again. This week I have written a piece about why Beyond Good and Evil is such a great game.

It is here.

In other super-exciting news, I have finally finished Persona 4. I think two months is the longest time I have ever spent on a game without taking a break. It was brilliant and I'm in the process of writing something about it.

And yes, the fabled project is in the works too. Someone asked me the other day "What is it? It sounds cool." The answer to that (and all other similar enquiries) is: "Oh no, it's actually not that interesting. But I still don't want to tell you what it is."

So there.

Beyond Good and Evil, everybody!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Well-Rendered Changes the Record

Two months ago, I was mooching around the internet reading reviews of Deadly Premonition when I came across GodisaGeek. I read a few features on the site which I really enjoyed. Then I noticed a link at the top.

"Write for Us"

That was two months ago.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Nintendo 3DS impressions!

Last weekend I went to go and play with a Nintendo 3DS. I wrote my impressions here. One of the comments said I was being "negative", so if you are in a sensitive frame of mind maybe get a cup of tea or something.

Although I thought several aspects of the event were a bit silly (something I may have been guilty of exaggerating because I was in a sarky mood on Monday), the 3DS itself is really exciting, especially the augmented reality games.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

God is a Geek, Persona 4 and sporadic writings

I'm sorry there haven't been many posts this month. This is really for two reasons. The first is that I am still only about half way through Persona 4 and it's been consuming all my game time. It's brilliant, and I can't wait to write about it, but it's been clogging my brain's game feed.

The other reason is that I have been writing for God is a Geek, which has meant that I haven't had a lot of spare time for writing here. That's ok. As I explained in September last year, I wanted to concentrate more on writing for other sites. This takes time, so the more I do this, the more Well-Rendered serves the function of an online portfolio, meaning that longer features on this site will become less frequent.

Monday, 31 January 2011

God is a Geek Podcast discusses horror in Dead Space...

This week's God is a Geek podcast discusses the lastest news and releases, but you'll also be thrilled to discover that they spend about five minutes disagreeing with my assertion that Dead Space is not horror.

There's some sort of misplaced British awkwardness that makes me think it's a bit unseemly to post a link to a recording of people talking about something I did, but then I think "what would Becky Sharpe do?".

No, not kill her husband and make it look like an accident.

Go and listen, if only because everyone at God is a Geek is very nice and they deserve your support.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Super Meat Boy vs. PETA, or why videogames shouldn't be used as soapboxes

Super Meat Boy is a two-dimensional platforming game in which you play as a skinless cube of meat who is trying to save his girlfriend, "Bandage Girl", from Dr. Fetus, a foetus (sorry, I'm British) in jar, wearing a tux. Super Meat Boy must evade countless gruesome traps (buzz saws, dirty hypodermic needles, piles of salt) in order to rescue his beloved. He is aided only by the fact that his skinless anatomy allows him to stick to walls.

Super Meat Boy is pleasingly difficult, though the mechanic is simple enough to learn within the first minute or so of play. Consequently, it's extremely good value, offering upwards of thirty hours of play for under £10.

But the best thing about the game is Super Meat Boy himself. Everything about him - from the trail of blood that he leaves in his wake to the delightful noises he makes when he runs, jumps, and slaps himself against a wall - is amusing.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Dead Space – Bloody, Brilliant & Innovative. But Is It Horror?

So I've started writing for

Once you've finished reading my article about Dead Space, stick around for the reviews, the forums and the news feed.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Deadly Premonition Review

Is Deadly Premonition a good game?

Deadly Premonition's Anna, strung up on a tree by the Raincoat Killer

That's the sort of question that a review is supposed to answer, but Deadly Premonition transcends notions of "good" or "bad" to the point where most of the reviews of the game are meta-reviews which point out how impossible it is to review the game. Because this review is talking about meta-reviews, it's a meta-meta-review.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Well-Rendered is on facebook for some reason.

Oh, and I created a faceache page for Well-Rendered a couple of days ago. I had a group before, but now it's a page. I'm not really sure what this will achieve, but I created it anyway.

It is here.

I am pretty sure hardly anyone arrives here through faceache, but never mind. I'm suffering from writer's block today.

Also a blocked nose. Perhaps the two are related.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The woes of the modern gamer

The last month or so has featured an ongoing dialogue upon the "letters" page of Edge magazine. It's to do with the difficulties of combining gaming with parenting.

More on this later. Here's the credit, by the way.

The main source of woe seems to be unpausable cut-scenes, leaving parents in the lurch when they are torn between attending to a screaming child or following the plot. I'd like to assume that the child wins out, but that's not really the point. The point is that the ever-aging demographic of "core" gamers are going to need games to adapt if they are to continue to devote their time (and more importantly, to to developers and publishers) their money to gaming. Parenting is (so I've been told) an exhausting activity which requires constant vigilance, and the ability to stop what you're doing at a second's notice. It also means that parents are often only able to devote blocks of ten minutes to a game, so save-points may have to become a little more forgiving.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Super Smash TV and the burning of the videogame libraries

This may well be a blogging faux pas, but I'm going to reproduce a comment as an actual post.

You may remember this recent post in which I talked about my fears for the future of older console games. I rather melodramatically compared the lack of backwards compatibility in newer consoles to the burning of libraries. I then made a slightly scatterbrained case for legal emulators or better backwards compatibility.

Because I'm not a developer, I'm not really equipped with an understanding of the practical issues that stand in the way of creating really good (legal) emulators for older games consoles. I know, I know. What I lack in "knowledge" I make up for in scatterbrianed idealism, but you really need both to solve a problem.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness... Board Game?

Someone who reads Well-Rendered very carefully bestowed upon me the most wondrous birthday gift.

It is this.

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness Board Game

The history of video game adaptations into other media is troubled. It doesn't tend to work as well as adaptations in the other direction, from other media into video games.

Friday, 7 January 2011

A Gamer's Year Part 7: December


December was utterly exhausting. Most of it was taken up learning XHTML and CSS for my Open University course. Fascinating, challenging, exciting.

But it left little time for gaming. On December 22nd I began playing the excellent Baldur's Gate, an adaptation of Dungeons and Dragons for the PC. Complex, amusing and extremely challenging, Baldur's Gate deserves a lot more time than I was able to devote to it in 2010. 

2011 looks amazing already. I already have so much to write about, but I don't want to spoil the surprise.

A belated happy new year!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A Gamer's Year Part 6: October and November


Enslaved was released in October. It fills a gap in the XBOX market which became apparent when the Uncharted series arrived on the Playstation: a game which aimed to tell a story through the medium of spectacle and a great script. And I think it did the job nicely, even though I still think it might have benefitted from an extra playable level set in the final area.

Following my journey West with Monkey and Trip, I covered the wonderful Nintendisco gaming night for 412limited. It was really good fun, but I'm not sure I have the stamina for events covereage.

Ha ha. "Events coverage". It was a SNES in a pub.

Nicky and Dave, if you're reading this, I'm laughing at my own pretentions, not your delightful evening. Sometimes all you need is a SNES. In a pub.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A Gamer's Year Part 5: September


As a child of the 90s, I owned almost all the Disney films on VHS. As anyone of a similar vintage will know, these videos always contained an advert for Disneyland. No matter how much magic you are experiencing right now, it's always possible to pay for more.

Now I am and have always been fascinated by space. I would read books about space, and imagine myself piloting spaceships. For three years' running, my Mum made me spaceship-shaped birthday cakes (my Mum is a whizz with the icing). Everyone knew about my space "thing".

So when my house finally got a copy of Beauty and the Beast (a wonderful film that has overtaken The Little Mermaid as my favourite Disney film, probably because of the scene with the library, sigh), I was very excited to see the following trailer:

I was really excited, because this looked like the film I had been waiting my whole life (9 years!) to see. I remember the moment of crushing disappointment quite clearly. I was watching the video for the first time with my family, and when this trailer began my Dad ruffled my hair and said something along the lines of "this looks like a film for Mary!"

A Gamer's Year Part 4: June, July, August

It looks like the 2010 gaming retrospective will continue into January. Heigh ho!

This section contains an impassioned rant about piracy and videogames' "artistic legacy". Never let it be said that I take blogging too seriously.

Delightful though my shiny new PC is, it's mainly a tool for learning Web design and playing retro games. And by "retro" I mean "released before 2006". I can turn the graphics on these games up all the way. My mouse/keyboard setup isn't quite optimal for playing FPSs either. 

So when Well-Rendered towers' other occupant decided to spend a weekend doing mysterious things in a field in France, I took the opportunity to clamber aboard his monolithic PC and play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and its imaginatively-titled sequel Modern Warfare 2. I wasn't disappointed.