Podcast Episode 1: GDC Europe & GamesCom

Finally! We are happy to announce a new feature: the Game Design Reviews Podcast Show! We try to podcast every two weeks. Here is episode one:

Download Episode 1 (46MB, 99 Minutes long)
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This episode we sat down together, did a small introduction of who we are and went on discussing the recent GDC Europe and GamesCom. Here is a more detailed breakdown:

  • 0:00:00 Introduction
  • 0:01:49 About us
  • 0:08:13 First games we played
  • 0:23:20 About the Blog
  • 0:28:51 GDC Europe: Organization & Pricing
  • 0:42:26 GDC Europe: Crytek & Technology
  • 0:55:57 GDC Europe: Alan Wake, Heavy Rain & Narration in Games
  • 1:24:04 GamesCom: Scribblenauts, News Super Mario Bros
  • 1:32:24 Games Nobody Played: Anno 1701 DS

Some links and additional show notes:

Feel free to leave a comment. We are very eager to hear your opinion.

Ninja Gaiden 2: Freedom is good, control was better

I’ve prepared some thoughts on Ninja Gaiden 2 (henceforth “NG2″), which I finished just recently. For brevity’s sake, I’ll make two separate posts. This first one is on pacing and weapon distribution.

Some words before we dive in so you can better frame my perspective.

I’m a big fan of the predecessor, but had realstic expectations when getting this game. I knew from reviews that this is less good than the predecessor, and the consensus seems to be that ‘it’s still the best of its breed”. (Which turns out to be a sad testament to the genre, considering its shortcomings).

On the other hand, this is actually a good opportunity for game design as we have two games that are in principle the same, but with a notable difference in quality. By comparing the two, one should be able to find out what ‘broke’ it, and maybe how it could be improved.

Continue reading “Ninja Gaiden 2: Freedom is good, control was better”

Welcome to the new and improved Game Design Reviews

Hello Dear Readers!

We, the Game Design Reviews Team have decided to move our Blog here. It is finally our very own webspace with our very Wordpress installation. It has taken us quite some time to do the jump, which is why you haven’t heard from us for so long. But now it seem like most changes are complete and we are ready to welcome you to the new and improved Game Design Reviews. No worries, you will find all of the old post & comments here.

We are still ironing out the last details. Meanwhile, if there is something you don’t like or something you would like to comment on, please don’t hesitate! We are eager to find out what you think of our new interface. It look similar to our old one but we polished out some of the details and added some functions that we just couldn’t do on Blogger.

Stay tuned for more frequent posts in the very near future and maybe even some more exciting developments (*cough*podcast*cough*).

If you are a recurring visitor, thank you for being loyal to us. Please update your bookmarks & rss feeds. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Braid: Understanding Difficulty

It’s my turn to take upon Braid. So far I’ve read some great articles about it. However, I often had the impression that people were more keen on discussing some quite superficial qualities of the game and made some very broad statements about it’s meaning. When they discussed details, they mentioned them often just brief examples. In the this article, I would like discuss in specific detail some of the game’s puzzles. Obviously, the game is very spoiler-sensitive. I must admit that even though I read a plot summary beforehand, the ending still caught me off-guard so I would advise you to read on even if you haven’t played it yet. Otherwise, you might just as well quit reading now and play it yourself.

Braid - Time and Forgiveness

If learning is not rewarding by itself, then maybe the lesson is flawed to begin with. Adding external punishment and rewards will just increase frustration

To give you a heads-up on what I would like to get across: I think the game is too hard. I do understand that there is a reason why the game is supposed to be hard. However, I think that the game hard in a SPECIAL way that doesn’t quite match the reason why it was supposed to be hard in the first place. It’s a milestone nonetheless exactly because it so successfully draws attention to an important challenge for game designers: to understand what difficulty means…

Continue reading “Braid: Understanding Difficulty”

GTA4: Devolution and Story

Most of the time, we have not been reviewing too many mainstream games. There are two reasons why. The first one is because those games already receive a lot of coverage in other media. The second is that mainstream games often focus on a high ROI and tend to avid interesting but risky design choices which may result in the game not having a wide appeal.

GTA4: During the war
“You see, Dimitri, I’m not just all about big American tee tees. I have feelings too!”

However, there are surprising exceptions. I have recently played (and finished!) GTA4 and I’m compelled to mention a few things because – and it was also a surprise for me – it is a … GOOD GAME. It was able to transcend the notion of being yet another sequel in a popular series and caught me off-guard a couple of times. It is hard to put a big game like GTA4 in a nutshell. I will try nevertheless and will I focus the two most important things you might want to know about GTA4 if you haven’t played it yet:

Continue reading “GTA4: Devolution and Story”

Excit: Post-Mortem

There is an interesting custom among game designers to write so-called “Post-Mortems” about the games they made. So far I know, filmmakers, musicians and writers do not handle their work in such a scientific manner. I find Post-Mortems an excellent tool to establish a systematic and reflective approach to design, especially game design. So for a change, this time I would like to talk about a game I made: Excit.

Excit: Level 16
One of the more eccentric Excit levels.

Excit is a very simple and quite small flash game. It is not a pinnacle of game design but it was a very interesting project nonetheless. I’ve learned a lot about game design through Excit and I would like to share some of the findings:

Continue reading “Excit: Post-Mortem”

The Moment of Silence: Lebensrelevanz

The last time, I was talking about the German adventure game Secret Files: Tunguska and how it is extremely polished but lacks value. This time, I would like to discuss another German adventure game called The Moment of Silence by the studio House of Tales.

The Moment of Silence: Liquify Tool is the FUTURE
In the Moment of Silence you control Peter Wright: a designer, who lost his wife and his kid because of his uncontrollable passion for the Photoshop liquify tool.

Comparing the two games is really fascinating because The Moment of Silence is in many ways the exact opposite of Tunguska. This has both: advantages as well as devastating consequences.

Continue reading “The Moment of Silence: Lebensrelevanz”

Tunguska: Polish and Value

As a preparation for my thesis project I had to get an overview of the current adventures games. So I bought a couple of popular titles, installed them all and played each game for a couple of minutes first to get and idea what it is about. At that time, one particular game stood out of the crowd – Secret Files: Tunguska. It is a German game by the studio Animation Arts and I heard frequently that this particular Title sets the standards as far as modern adventure games go. Even though I was prepared for a treat, I was still quite impressed by the game’s quality and amount of polish evident from the very first minute on.

Tunguska: Use iPhone with Cat
Point & Click Adventures in the Year 2008: Use iPhone with duct tape with cat. (oops, I hope I didn’t spoil this one)

I’ve finished the game and although the quality remains high even up to the end, Tunguska is a good example that polish is a tricky thing.

Continue reading “Tunguska: Polish and Value”

Apollo Justice: Not-so-beautiful flaws

Playing the latest installment of the Ace Attorney franchise, Apollo Justice, reminds me why we started this very blog in the first place. In Chinese there’s a saying, “the more you love, the harsher your critique.” Since I’m a little fanboy to the series, I have quite a few points to bitch about.

These are all things that have been bugging me since I played the first Phoenix Wright on DS. But it was somewhat excusable for the original trilogy since the original platform was the GBA. However, the announcement of an all-new adventure specifically tailored to the Nintendo DS raised expectations of improvements in, well, all aspects.

Continue reading “Apollo Justice: Not-so-beautiful flaws”

Phoenix Wright: Beauty of the flaw

Recently, there has been a funny strip in the webcomic VGCats about the Nintendo DS game Phoenix Wright. It mocks the reoccurring large female breasts throughout the game. Bizarrely, because of the convoluted story one character gets big breasts every time there is a crisis.

A character in Phoenix Wright is a spirit medium able to channel the spirit of her dead sister. Her breasts become large in the process. So if you consider plastical surgery, you might want to try mediumship instead.

Phoenix Wright generally features large animated images of characters. Because of economical reasons, each character has only a limited set of animations. The whole game is arrangement of repetitive, cheesy poses, exaggerated expressions, and wacky characters which are just perfect for this kind of mockery – for example in the Phoenix Wrong videos. In such videos and comics, the flaws of the games are exposed. Today, I would like to explain why this is not dismissive criticism bit why it can be understood as a kind of praise and approval. Even more, it is an integral part of what a game is and an even expression of a form of beauty.

Continue reading “Phoenix Wright: Beauty of the flaw”


Game Design Reviews is a Blog used by a group of game designers from Germany to publish and discuss their thoughts on various games. The blog consists entirely of reviews of games. Each review focuses on the important game design ideas and concepts of that particular game. We also run a second, more informal Blog called Game Design Scrapbook.


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