A friend on twitter was confused when I said Dunkey wasn’t a good reviewer recently. I asked him to pick out the video he thinks is Dunkey’s best review and I’d go over it. He picked Dunkey’s Mario Sunshine review, from this year. I know I said I wouldn’t do any more critic critique, but here you go. Hopefully this is better than any of my old stuff.
My biggest criticism of Dunkey is that he’s not a good critic, but he acts like he is, even though he does nothing fundamentally different from anyone at IGN. He’s part of the group that hates corporate reviews because they’re fake, not because they lack depth/insight, but he acts like being fake and lacking insight are the same thing (because he can’t tell the difference), so when he does an “honest” review, he thinks it’s automatically deep/insightful, because he has no idea what that actually means. The crowd that hates modern game reviews don’t hate them because they have a discerning eye. They hate them because they’re hearing the “wrong” things get praised/criticized. Dunkey praises/criticizes the things this crowd wants praised/criticized, so he gets treated like a good reviewer, even though he does the exact same thing as IGN. Same process, different conclusions, both bad reviews. Dunkey frequently has correct conclusions (relative to that crowd at least), but always bad reviews. You’re not a good reviewer unless you show your work.
In this review, he lists some verbs and ways they can be combined at the beginning, which is pretty good. He says, “It’s buttery smooth and responsive” This doesn’t mean anything. I think Dark Souls is buttery smooth and responsive (because there’s low input delay, few uninterruptible tween animations, a generous buffer, and good IASA frames on most actions), but I know a lot of other people would disagree with me, because the term is vague enough that we have different internal pictures of what it even means. And of course, I can give 4 reasons right there why dark souls is buttery smooth and responsive that are specific and unmistakeable, related to how the game is objectively programmed, where dunkey hasn’t given 1 for mario sunshine.
He then talks about how Fludd is a permanent addition to Mario’s moveset, instead of a temporary powerup, which is a very fair point! Nintendo loves to make mechanics temporary and locked to levels/powerups, whether they be verbs, or level design features. He says, “They’re very careful never to push a mechanic too far.” This doesn’t mean much.
Having a larger moveset means you have a larger potential for depth. There are more ways to do more things. If something is temporary, then you temporarily have more depth to your moveset, rather than permanently. If something doesn’t have a lot of depth, it’s probably best not to make it a permanent addition, because players explore the whole state space rather quickly, and get bored. Something like this is called a gimmick. Mario games love to traffic in gimmicks (3d Zelda too). It’s arguably good that fludd is a permanent addition, rather than a gimmick, depending on how hard fludd obsoletes the other features of the game.
Some of this intent comes across in Dunkey’s statement, but it lacks the underlying reasoning that justifies it. It’s a conclusion without justification. He then is like, “boom bam, here’s the other nozzles, you got em” and there’s no statement there. No description of what they do to Mario, how they can be used, how they interact with the levels. Just a mention that they exist.
“The developers are experimenting a lot here and inviting you into that process. Playing this game is like running around the bahamas with a rocket launcher and Nintendo is like, ‘Hey, you know that thing has a flamethrower too.'”
This is all buzzwords. He’s trying to be funny, but he hasn’t said anything.
Then he says not every experiment pans out, and lists some gimmicks that didn’t work out. Okay, fine. I’d like a bigger discussion here, but okay. This is again, a conclusion without much evidence or justification. He points out that the progression in this game is linear, unlike M64, so if you get stuck on a bad gimmick, you need to play it through. This is a decent observation of a high level phenomena. But then he complains about the chuckster level, but assumes it’s bad as a forgone conclusion, not explaining why.
After this he says that Mario Sunshine ditches the usual romp around themed worlds to focus on a tropical island and it’s pretty and he likes it. He says Delfino Plaza is the best hub world ever. I don’t do critique of the visual styles but he totally could here. If he wants to make a point out of this, he could make a point out of this. What makes Delfino different than Far Cry 3 or Crysis? Why is Delfino Plaza such a good hub? His only supporting reason is that it has secrets, like Blue Coins (which pretty much everyone hates). He cites a bunch of large themes that the levels have, which is okay, but he could go into a lot more detail. Again, it’s all conclusion, no evidence or justification.
His conclusion he says that the game has deep movement and memorable levels, but he didn’t really go into why the movement is deep. At best he listed some verbs, and that you can slick the ground to slide fast, and jumping out of a slide has you go further now.
You might think this is a good review because you agree with his conclusions, and think they match your experience of the game. But imagine you’d never played the game before. This is just some guy saying, “game good”. How can you trust him? There are plenty of people who say “game good.” Lets say you’re starting from a position of distrust of Dunkey, and have no experience with this game. This review tells you superficial features about the game. It physically shows you what the game looks like, but you can google a gameplay video. What does this review actually tell you that you can’t see in a gameplay video? Almost nothing. I told you 4 things about how Dark Souls is responsive that aren’t obvious unless you feel it, and which are completely indisputable. You might disagree that dark souls is responsive overall, but you cannot disagree that there’s low input delay, few uninterruptible tween animations (like the 180 pivot animation), a generous buffer, and good IASA frames on most actions. I have a conclusion backed by evidence and justifications. You are welcome to disagree with those, but in order to do so fairly, you’d have to also be specific as to how I’m inaccurate, or my criteria is non-applicable, not just say “No.”
Dunkey doesn’t bother to do this, ever. He’s trying to make funny youtube vids. You can do both, but probably not in 4 minutes. A good review serves a function other than just approval/disapproval. It either informs you about the thing in ways that are not obvious from the surface, or convinces you of a conclusion about a thing using logic about what that thing is. Dunkey is okay humor, but he’s not trying to make good reviews.