The Roundup: Ori And The Will Of The Wisps, Nioh 2, Farewell To Geek.com, Bookbound Brigade, Long Live Etika & A Portal For Serious Games

By Harold Goldberg

With Matt Gerardi under the weather, I hope you don’t mind that I’m taking over the Roundup column this week. We all wish Matt the speediest of recoveries. Here in Manhattan, many entities – from sports to arts to public schools – are closing down in an effort to stem the spread of the corona virus. Many of our members’ offices are being shut down temporarily and folks are working at home. Some of our in-person mentoring activity is being postponed. Thankfully, we can do some of that good mentoring work online. As we take our entertainment inside, there’s nothing better than the world of games to divert our thoughts from the lingering woes of the world outside. Let’s take a look at what’s new.

At The Washington Post, Chris Byrd immersed himself in the lush beauty that is “Ori and the Will of the Wisps.” While Chris wrote that “the artwork consistently works to create the impression of stupendous depth,” and felt it was “stunning to behold” in the Mouldwood Depths environment, it was “so florid as to be distracting” in the early Inwater Marsh world. Byrd had hoped for a subversive change to the game this time around, but he nonetheless enjoyed this more traditional videogame sequel. Next week, the Circle will publish Ronald Gordon’s review of Ori.

At Kotaku, Heather Alexander spent much time within the bewitching Japanese world of “Nioh 2.” In much of the first thousand words, Heather explains they are “merely outlining how the combat works.” But there’s a soulfulness to the play, a “robust and amazingly rewarding system where each player will find a way to express themselves.” While Heather finds the game design turns this piece of popular art into a “blurry slog, and the pace of the narrative is “a half step off,” Heather feels “Nioh 2” is a superior game that rewards you for the hours you put into it.

Also during the course of the past seven days, Jordon Minor announced that Geek.com will be winding down. Jordan did incredible work on the site over the years and comments on Twitter from the likes of Evan Narcisse to Brian Crecente show it was indeed a beloved, go-to site.  

Among the writers published were Critics Circle member Michelle Ehrhardt, whose latest piece was about Rise of Skywalker Retcons. Jordan will be moving back to PC Mag, and that’s great. Geek.com had its own quirky, insightful and wondrous style, and we’re glad Jordan will bring some of that voice back to PC Mag, where he worked before Geek.com. In the meantime, though, Jordan waxed nostalgic about some of his stories for Geek.com.

Here at the Circle, Bronx high school intern Zante Barker took a deep dive into “Bookbound Brigade”, a generally fascinating offering that focuses on classic protagonists and antagonists from the world of classic literature. Zante became wistful when remembering the beloved characters of her childhood, like Dorothy Gale from “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s all a fine trope because “their familiar nature made me want to continue to get to the ending to make everything right with the Literary World.”

Senior intern and assistant mentor Isaac Espinosa carefully laid out the reasons that he enjoyed “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.” Somewhat of an expert in the series’ myth and story, Isaac noted that the game “lets you interact with characters that haven’t appeared in the series since the original Dragon Ball, like Launch or Eighter.” Of all the improvements in this semi-open world, Isaac felt it was this “delving into neglected characters is my favorite since it succeeds in building a world beyond the fighting and danger.”

News From Beyond The Circle

MobiHealthNews.com has a touching story about how an executive’s daughter’s battle with cancer led him to create a kind of serious games portal. Dan Raban is the mind behind Exploro, “a health information platform that uses games, augmented reality and artificial intelligence to reduce stress and anxiety about medical procedures. Data from the app also feeds into a management portal for clinicians.” Importantly, some of the advisors are 10-17 year old young people who have been involved in every step of the process.

If you’re near Myrtle and DeKalb in Bushwick, Brooklyn, you may have seen a vibrant mural, writes Newsweek’s Steven Asarch, that’s dedicated to “Desmond ‘Etika’ Amofah, an online entertainer who changed the landscape of live streamers forever.” Etika, who died eight months ago, had “spent the last few years struggling, dealing with the death of his brother in 2010 and homelessness after his house burned down.” Even through this, his YouTube channel was taking off. The tautly written story here documents Etika’s ups and downs – along with his sad demise.

In one of his signature stories about the toll of crunch on game company employees, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier looks at the difficulty Naughty Dog’s workers have had while trying to get “The Last of Us Part II” to the point of perfection before its June release. “They do try to take care of you, providing food, encouragement to go take breaks,” said one former developer. “But for the most part, the implication is: ‘Get the job done at all costs.’” “At all costs” is the key phrase here as Jason’s investigation follows a linear timeline detailing the ups and downs of game creation.

Journalist/author Harold Goldberg is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle and The New York Game Awards.

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