Your Review Sucks: Donkey Kong Barrel Blast (Mass Failure)

Welcome back to the stage of bitching, everyone! “Your Review Sucks” is a special feature I’ve been trying to find a home for and Hey! Why not! Let’s revive it in my LJ! (Note: This was originally written in my LiveJournal quite afew years ago)

See, videogame reviewers don’t ALWAYS do their job. Though there are many reviewers that actually take their work seriously and get their shit done (like Racewing), a terrifying number of reviewers simply half-ass their work when they’re reviewing a low profile game and as a fan of such games I often have to put my foot down.

This isn’t just differences of opinions as many people think. Not every review that bashes a favorite game of mine “sucks”. No, this is about blatant factual errors that show that someone REALLY didn’t spend much time with a game.

Today we examine an unusual phenomenon that has slowly become more common: The Mass Failure of Reviewing. Sometimes, due to a variety of circumstances, almost every single review written about a game is chock full of failure with EVERY SINGLE REVIEWER screwing up MAJORLY!

Today we examine one of the lighter instances of this: Donkey Kong Barrel Blast.

Though not a praticularly great game, Barrel Blast is an enjoyable twist on the Kart Racing formula. The game, admittedly, starts out slow but eventually becomes rather fast paced and DEFINATELY fun with some of the most responsive controls in a Wii game and some interesting features.

So, needless to say, when I saw Barrel Blast get unanimously low scores (in the red on Metacritic!) with tons of people complaining about the “sloppy controls” and “horrible sound” I really raised an eyebrow. Shoot, this is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played on Wii and one site actually gave it a 1.6/10! Indeed it’s something to examine. So, without further ado, let’s crack into these reviews all at once! They all share common complaints and many of them seem to come from some crazy bizzarro dimension!

“Expect to hit many obstacles – not because you’ve never steered a bongo-jetpack before or because you have much to learn about jungle navigation, but because of the imprecise Wii-motion controls and bad course design. Because you can’t steer, you also can’t tell where you are on the course or predict where you will be. If you see a barrel ahead of you, the auto-steer may steer you around it or it may steer you into it. There’s no way to tell. My advice? Wince and prepare yourself.” -Game Revolution

HUH?! Easily one of the most befuddling reviews, Game Revolution gives Barrel Blast it’s lowest score and this is basically their entire review in a nutshell. There is so much wrong with this statement that I really wonder what game the reviewer is playing! Essentially all that is right with this is that your character DOES automatically follow the course (you merely make them strafe left and right) and that there are alot of barrels on the course. Everything else is wrong. I mean…your character just…follows the course. “You can’t tell where you are on the course or where you will be”?! I mean really that doesn’t even make a lick of sense! You just…follow the course. It gets weirder when the guy mentiones “auto steer” steering you into a barrel. HUH?! Umm…you can see the barrels coming a mile away and the whole POINT is for you to either avoid them or break them. The reviewer never mentions breaking barrels even ONCE in the review outside of Wild Moves leaving me to believe he spent very little time with the game.

The “imprecise Wii motion controls” are just…befuddling. Again, this game has some of the best working controls on Wii since all it does is detect what controller part you’re shaking. I never had a problem with precision.

“It’s especially annoying when you can’t even see what’s ahead of you, which is often the case as you’re goofily pounding your way through the game’s many courses. Because of the amount of clutter onscreen — from menus to other racers to simple elements of the environment — it’s often impossible to make out what’s what, leading to plenty of unintentional crashes and other blunders.” -1UP.com

A unqiue complaint from the peanut gallery at 1UP, I am again left scratching my head. Barrel Blast is no more cluttered than any other racer beyond “you have Barrels to avoid” and “Bananas to pick up”. At no point was it ever “hard to see” in Barrel Blast. Exactly how someone can have difficulty making out what’s going on in this game is beyond me. I mean really.

“It’s pretty awkward and tiring to deal with the control scheme, as you’ll often jump when you meant to accelerate and lean left when you meant right. It would have been better if the developers had left in the option to use the Bongo Drum controller but they didn’t, which is strange because the Wii can accept GameCube controllers.” -GamePro

You know, this is one I’ll almost give props to. It mirrors my early opinions on the game perfectly and indeed, with the game NOT TELLING ME that swinging both controllers DOWN also makes you jump, the random jumping was an early issue. However, this also goes to show that the reviewer seems to have grabbed the game, played it for afew minutes and reviewed it.

“Instead the remote combo acts to simulate the drums, though it isn’t exactly an intuitive experience. Drum too fast and the remotes sense a dual drum, launching your racer into the air at random times. In addition, a vertical swipe – be it down-to-up or up-to-down – is taken as a drum, so you can’t even be able to raise a hand while pounding another down without the game misinterpreting it as a dual slam. Case in point; random jumping isn’t fun.” -IGN

I can only say here that someone got alittle TOO into the virtual drumming as I never once even attempted to raise my hand in such a way that it would count as a drum. It really doesn’t take much to drum accurately in this game.

“Trying to navigate tight bunches of obstacles is far more harrowing an experience than it needs to be, and there are times when the game will register you as turning when you’re trying to drum to accelerate. There is simply nothing more infuriating than hitting an object, trying to drum up some speed, only to have the game think you’re turning and drift you into another object to the right or left of you.” -GameSpot

Okay now THAT one is just insane. For the game to register a turn instead of accelerate you would have to be drumming stupidly slow!I have NEVER EVER had a problem with this even early on when I was jumping accidentally like a psycho jumping bean!

“This truth coupled with the rubber band artificial intelligent, which ensures computer-controlled AI will always catch up to you, no matter how much further ahead of them you are, makes it difficult to enjoy Barrel Blast.” -Wii Advanced

“And with the typical rubber-banding that comes in a Nintendo racer like this, one simple mistake can be extremely costly. -1UP.com

“Barrel Blast’s artificial intelligence comes from the school of rubber banding. There’s no way to get an insurmountable lead against them, and they capitalize on every small mistake.” -Gamespot

*sigh* As I mentioned in an earlier post, the AI actually isn’t cheating. This is a grand example of the kind of rubberband fingerpointing that all Kart Racers get. It’s NEVER the fact that the reviewer just sucks. NO! It’s ALWAYS Rubberband AI! Let’s knock off a point for that, guys! Yeah!

I point this one out in praticular as a friend of mine actually proved such a notion was false by nearly lapping the computer on the longest course in the game. This would not be possible if the game had rubberband AI but he most CERTAINLY pulled it off!

“A lot has been said about how the Wii has attracted new people to videogames, and this is certainly true. In plenty of cases, the system has done a great job at reducing the barrier of the controller, making it easier to interact with games thanks to simple motion controls. In a game like Barrel Blast, however, it’s added a whole lot of complexity — not to mention physical exhaustion — to what would otherwise be simple steering controls. Sure, the gameplay is different, but is it necessarily better? In Barrel Blast’s case, certainly not. Would the game have been more fun with the precision offered by a standard controller? Absolutely. If this is the future of videogaming, Nintendo, please count me out.” -1UP.com

What an unusual mix of truths and fails. Sorry, I’m personally attacking this one. Exactly WHAT games have done such a GREAT job of reducing the barrier of the controller? Most Wii games with VERY few exceptions actually have more confusing and awkward control schemes thanks to the massive failure that is the Wiimote. The needless complexity added to the controls I’ll somewhat agree with as if you don’t understand that it’s meant to be played with bongos, they are pointlessly weird. The physical exhaustion, however, is just your own fail. This game isn’t exhausting at all if you’re playing it right. The last line, however, would be perfect in any other Wii game review though.

While I’m tackling personal grudges though…

There have been a few titles for the Wii that began life as GameCube games. Twilight Princess and Super Paper Mario were two of the ones that underwent the transition and came out better as a result. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Barrel Blast. -GamePro

I beg to differ. Paper Mario is the same and Twilight Princess is slightly better on the Cube if you ask me (camera controls and non-retarded sword controls beat out improved arrow aiming).

So as you can see, bad control, rubberband AI, and the on-rails nature of the game are common complaints. However, it doesn’t take much to get the hang of the controls, the AI isn’t rubberbanding, and the on-rails gameplay isn’t that much of a detraction when you factor in all the game’s other features.

Other common complaints were that the game was too slow and that the sound was bad. The sound is personal opinion, but it sounded like Virtual On music and crazy monkey noises so I most certainly liked it.

The speed complaint, however, is valid at the beginning of the game as the opening difficulty and default character roster are both VERY VERY SLOW. Indeed a slow racing game is boring and stupid. However, if given time, the game picks up and gets much better with higher difficulties providing a much more acceptable speed. I can only assume that the forced low speed at the beginning was done to help ease players into the game’s unusual control scheme and obsctacle heavy nature but that clearly didn’t pay off in the end.

Overall, while these aren’t the worst reviews I’ve ever seen, the scores are much lower than Barrel Blast deserves. The game SHOULD have a 7.5/10 if you ask me, not a 4.6/10. It ain’t perfect and it starts slow, but it’s different and one of the more enjoyable Wii titles.

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