By Ronald Gordon
Hello and welcome back to The Roundup, the New York Videogame Critics Circle’s look at our members’ writing and news from around the world of videogames. With June out of the way, I am personally excited for the games expected to be released in the coming Summer months, like Psychonauts 2 or No More Heroes 3, and of course more reviews and news from the NYVGCC both inside and outside the Circle.
Although there wasn’t much to be that hype about, I was personally salty about the sheer lack of Elder Scrolls 6 content being leaked, I’m at least happy that both New Gen and Previous Gen consoles are getting more games, like Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut release or Far Cry 6 coming to both Xbox and PlayStation generations.
First off, some big news! Critics Circle Board member Reggie Fils-Aimé will hold an exclusive Zoom event on the evening of August 3rd to raise funds for our nonprofit work with underserved youth. Harold Goldberg will be the moderator. There’ll even be a raffle for a signed item by Reggie in this event that’s limited to 100 people! If you’ve ever wanted to hang with Reggie and ask him a question (and who hasn’t?), now’s your chance.
Peter Torres’ Strangeland Review dives into the psychological horror of a game that makes you experience the torment of an unraveling mind. With a review that starts off with a Disclaimer Warning of disturbing content, Peter dives into the Point-and-Click adventure game developed by Wormwood Studios to talk about the many gritty details and its confusing story. As he puts it “It will have you questioning everything that’s going on in the narrative – even if you do follow the dark story closely.”
The NYVGCC’s newest intern, Jeison Liranzo, tells us about his experiences in gaming and how he aspires to be a professional writer in the future. In his first piece for us, Jeison talks about growing up in the Dominican Republic for the first nine years of his life until he moved to the Bronx, and how his love of video games started. As a POC and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Jeison hopes that his opinions on games will be shared and appreciated, and we at the NYVGCC are excited to see what he can bring to the table.
Recent intern Makeda Byfield brings an in-depth review of the recent Switch release of Miitopia, a Nintendo RPG series first released on the 3DS in 2017. Relishing the experiences she had with the Wii console during rough periods of her life, Makeda thoroughly enjoyed Miitopia for the positive experiences it brought to her, even going as far to share pictures of her Miis and the characters she enjoyed seeing in her playthrough.
Harold Goldberg says Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart contains “the most gloriously imaginative parade ever to be seen in game history” in his first day look at the game. Developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a new installment into the long-running series, one which Harold avidly wishes to finish thanks to the wildly enjoyable experience it brings him.
Harkening back to the topic of Psychological horror, Kimari Rennis experiences said horror in her Returnal review. In her playthrough of Housemarque’s PS5 exclusive, Kimari tells us about the many benefits a AAA quality Roguelike brings to the table as well as the many nightmarish sights one might see when trapped in a loop on an alien planet hellbent on killing them and how it feels to play through such an experience. “The moment you lose due to the cumulative errors in your run, you hate both Selene and yourself. Then the cycle begins again.”
On a more light-hearted note, Isaac Espinosa took on the relaxing Switch code for New Pokémon Snap. First released for the Nintendo 64 in 1999, the game has been updated to match the graphics of the new Gen consoles. In addition, the amount of Pokémon able to be photographed also expanded to the current Generation. Isaac had a lot of chill moments in the game, either exploring the new region and what it had to offer or snapping pictures of Pokémon from their first gestation. Although he wishes there was more to it than just taking pictures of Pokémon, he enjoyed it for what it did for the franchise.
Circle member and mentor Sherri Smith got the chance to appear on Episode 5 of the Cenaphiles podcast. In the podcast entirely about reviewing John Cena movies, Sherri was brought in to talk about Scooby-Doo: Wrestlemania Mystery, and the many quirky things that come with both the movie and John Cena’s appearance in it. Definitely worth the listen if you’re an avid fan of Scooby-Doo, John Cena, or the ever bubbly and insightful personality of Sherri Smith.
Jonathan Lee, Critics Circle member and writer for In the Know and Wired, tells the story of the deep and personal choice of Mass Effect 3’s Slice of Life scene simply known throughout the Fandom as “The Shot.” In his Kotaku article, Jonathan talks about how much he struggled with the choice of taking or flaking a shot in a playful game between Shepard and long time friend and comrade Garrus, who played an important role in each of the three Mass Effect games. It was a devastating choice to those who, like Jonathan, have grown to appreciate Garrus’ character and his Mentor/Student relationship with Shepard.
Chris Byrd, Circle Member and writer for the Washington Post, goes on a bit of an interesting journey through a game called Sumire. In his review of the Indie game developed and published by GameTomo, Chris talks about how it most certainly looks and feels like a kids game but it is so much more than just that. The way Sumire handles its tones and the emotions that come with the topic at hand touched Chris on a personal level. “The feelings it touches on suggest the sort of wisdom an adult might look to pass on to a child to prepare her for a world that is vertiginously beautiful as well as disappointing.” He says in his review.
Tony Polanco, writer for PC Mag and Throwdown Show, has recently been added to the Circle as a member and we heartily welcome him. His Twitter is where he can be found posting articles and talking about his opinions on gaming news, and we’re eager to hear from him in terms of how he feels about coming events, games and pop culture in general.
In other news, our nationwide Fair Game Writing Challenge came and went with relative ease. As partners with Games for Change, the Critics Circle reviewed and judged nearly 100 entries for our first writing contest made available to underserved students throughout the USA. The challenge offered a $400 reward for each region that won and a mentoring session from the Critics Circle. After many compelling reviews were judged fairly, winners were announced and the challenge was a success and the winners had been chosen. Check out the results. Also, The Games for Change annual festival is going on right now and ends on the 14th.
Beyond The Circle
The Annual SAAM Arcade, a Game Jam hosted by The Smithsonian, will be entirely Online for 2021. As a beloved annual festival where people can make and show off games made with love filled haste, SAAM Arcade 2021 will allow many to submit games for play during the August month. For the first week of August, Monday the 2nd to Saturday the 7th, a Game Jam will be hosted by the Smithsonian. Afterwards through the 8th and beyond is where the games made and submitted. They’ll also be released to the public. The games being made can be either of the video or tabletop fashion, with a theme revolving around Community and Individuality, and will be made available on Itch.io.
In a strange turn of events, the NYPD has put into motion some sort of community outreach attempt with the new Game Truck. Plastered in bright inviting colors and stickers of Marvel characters, the NYPD Game Truck features a place where teens and children alike can further relate to the NYPD and hopefully break the ACAB stigma. However, many people have their reservations on the matter so there are doubts that this effort will lead to any sort of victory. Fingers crossed!
That’s all we’ve got for this Roundup. See you all next time for more Critics Circle news!