The Roundup: A Letter From Ukraine, New York Game Awards Summary, Horizon Forbidden West, Nintendo Hackers, PVSR 2, Wordle, And More!

By Ronald Gordon

Greeting and Welcome Back once again to another Roundup! It’s the NYVGCC’s look back at the various pieces of important reviews, news and more both in and out of the Circle’s reach. A lot has happened as of recently, with a large chunk of January and February being dedicated to a certain special event that went off without a hitch. With the 11th New York Game Awards Ceremony now over with, planning for next year can take place and we can give a heartfelt shout out to our hardworking Interns and Members who’ve continued to publish stories as time went on. 

Addressing the elephant in the room, the Awards Ceremony was broadcast live to both YouTube and Twitch on February 1st. There were Thank You messages and fun times all around, with our gracious hosts Reggie Fils-Aime and Harold Goldberg taking the virtual main stage and engaging in various activities, including difficult Pac-Man levels made in cooperation with GenVid Technologies, a New York Game Awards Platinum Partner. 

The Penultimate segment of the Awards, the illustrious Legend Award given to only the most worthy of names in Gaming, was given to Double Fine Productions’ Tim Schafer. The man behind games such as Return to Monkey Island and the Psychonauts series was overjoyed in his virtual acceptance speech, thanking the many people on his team who helped create the games he’s been recognized for. We congratulate him and all those who helped bring his games to this world. 

The Stream VODs are still available on Youtube and Twitch, and with our streaming partner IGN, we had close to 100,000 views. It shows the Awards Ceremony was a definite hit. Feel free to check it out if you didn’t get the chance to see it live!  

For the New York Game Awards opening segment, many game makers and executives had pandemic stories to tell. This included Elena Lobova, an executive from Kiev, Ukraine. When the harsh Russian invasion began yesterday, Elena created a post which mirrors the feelings of many Ukranians in this terrible situation. We hope Elena and all Ukrianians stay safe.

The most recent review comes from our Founder Harold Goldberg, who had the chance to take a look at the new Horizon Forbidden West game. Recently released for the PS4 and PS5, Horizon Forbidden West brings a whole new journey for Aloy and the plethora of old and new fans of the Horizon series. In his review, Harold talks about how his adventure through Forbidden West was littered with emotionally impactful scenes at first, but as time went on he soon found that the game was in need of something else. “By the time I approached what’s called an Interlude, I wasn’t feeling anything like the emotion I felt at the beginning of Forbidden West…the first hours are more like a television procedural akin to the predictable steps of a “Law And Order” episode rather than the richness in characterization of “Mare of Easttown.” He confirms that he hasn’t finished the game as of yet and is working through the adventure, but until he finishes he’s keeping his reservations about the amount of content he’s experienced. “Again, I’m in no rush to complete the game. But when I do, I’ll let you know how much could have been edited or cut. Because while I’m not in a hurry, I don’t have time to waste.”

Harold had his reservations about Horizon, and it seems that Circle Member Chris Byrd has a similar stance on the game, this time backed with the experience of playing both parts of the series. In his Washington Post review of Horizon Forbidden West, Chris details how he felt it was enthralling to see Guerilla Games create “a blockbuster-style adventure game that held my attention despite its formulaic story line.” Chris’ appreciation for the series had waned during the time between the two games being released. “Making my way through it, I was unable to shake the feeling that with a palette swap here and there I could just as easily have been playing Tomb Raider.” 

Despite the overall consensus of our two trusted Members, Horizon Forbidden West does still seem quite fun. Thanks to the game being released for both PlayStation’s 4 and 5, it topped Sony’s sales and took up a whopping 68% of game sales for the PS5. Plenty of people seem to have enjoyed the experience, both inside and outside of playing it themselves, seeing as how the Horizon Forbidden West category on Twitch has had 32.7K Viewers and 43.3K Followers. 

Our recently promoted Intern Jade Entien posted a review of Happy Humble Burger Farm, an analog Horror Game developed by Scythe Dev Team and published by tinyBuild. In her story, Jade talked about how chilling and frightening the experience was, saying it was “a horror game I enjoyed but couldn’t complete, because the butcher haunted my dreams.” Their feelings were of course backed up by gruesome evidence, thanks to Happy Humble Burger Farm being filled with moments of graphic imagery and unsettling entities that impede progress made towards finishing the various tasks that need to be done. Although they couldn’t complete it due to the fear they felt, Jade says “I would very much recommend this game to someone interested in cooking games, horror, VHS aesthetics, or killer robots (that’s what got me!). I can only say great things about Happy’s Humble Burger Farm, and I know I’ll be thinking about my next cheeseburger very differently from now on.“ 

Jeison Liranzo posted a Review of Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain, a new puzzle game brought to the Switch to get young minds thinking outside the box with challenging mini-games. At first, Jeison wasn’t a fan of how it was “mostly made up of mini-games made for little kids, and I wanted more of a challenge.“ He found more joy in playing alongside family members instead of playing alone. Jeison eventually found himself both struggling and enjoying the game at the same time, coming to the conclusion that “the most important part of this game was the flexing: people flex over their victories whenever they have that opportunity. When you lose and other people flex on you; it’s the worst. It made me bitter, but it also made the game more entertaining.” For a challenging party game like Big Brain Academy, we hope that Jeison will have plenty of opportunities to flex on his friends and family as the game helps make his brain bigger.

Bronxworks Intern and newly introduced Pokémon Master Makeda Byfield wrote an compelling review of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond. As a fresh player, Makeda never had the experiences that longtime fans had when Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl games were released. While other fans were disappointed at various design choices, Makeda could look past these choices and see the games for what they truly are, fun retellings of long beloved game stories. “I’d pick up my Nintendo Switch in the early afternoon with the expectation of playing for an hour. So imagine my surprise when the sun had set before I put the game down!” It was great to witness her surprise at how many hours passed quickly while exploring the Sinnoh region. Makeda understood the arguments from disappointed fans, however, saying that the price of a remade game “seems a bit expensive to me … it’d be nice to include something fun and new” for the old fans who have to pay for a new game even though it’s something they played many years ago. 

Delia Mizrahi, one of the Winners of the NYVGCC Fair Game Writing Challenge, wrote an essay detailing how they find peace in Mobile Games. As a young person in need of something to aid in keeping calm control over the various stressful parts of her life, Delia found comfort in the numerous amounts of Mobile games accessible via a few taps on a screen. “At the beginning of sixth grade I found myself in a whole new world.…That was the year I found Extreme Car Driving Simulator…There was no real objective in the game, except ‘Go fast.’ This satisfied my ever-present need to drive and filled the empty moments of middle school.” Delia goes on to explain that Mobile games are more than just entertainment; they’re methods of escape that have helped grow the bond between her and her sister, push her out of her comfort zone to experience more, and form bonds with friends she still keeps close. “They are my safety blanket. The more I spend time with them, the more I trust them and rely on them in difficult situations. These mobile games will never leave the comfort of my home screen. They will always travel around with me, a little like old friends who know me well.” She says in her final words of the essay, expressing her genuine emotions relating to Mobile games.  

Scott Stein, longtime writer for CNET, had the chance to review the new edition of the Playstation VR. Sme specs for the Playstation VR 2 were available for everyone interested to peek at, including Scott, who wrote, “The PlayStation VR 2 looks, in a lot of ways, like the headset we wanted for the PS5 all along.” He says in his look at the new headset, “The high-res, vibrating, camera-equipped, eye-tracking capabilities of Sony’s second-gen PlayStation headset look like they fit the high-end specs anyone would dream of.” Alongside the new game is Horizon: Call of the Mountain, the featured game for the VR Headset. Backwards Compatibility with original PSVR games, and eye-tracking will help the playing experience become clearer and more immersive. The only reservation Scott has about the system is the fact that “It’s hard to imagine 360-degree Beat Saber with that USB-C cable attached, but PC VR headsets are cable-tethered, too.” 

Covering the recent Wordle craze is Circle Member Lisa Marie Segarra from Kotaku, who offers aid to those who might be struggling with the perplexing puzzles of word play that are stumping the masses as of late. “People go back and forth about whether it takes skill or luck to be good at Wordle, but the truth is it’s both. Every once in a while, you’ll likely slip up no matter how good you are.” Simple tricks such as using consonant blends and using placeholder tiles and broader topics like remembering the rules of language overall, are among the many good she details. Her tips and tricks end with kind words, “Also, my dear Wordle friends, don’t forget to have fun. At the end of the day, it’s just a game. And you don’t have to share that X/6 if you don’t want to.” 

Finally, Circle Member Alyssa Mercante brings some Elder Scrolls 6 news. In her article for GamesRadar, Alyssa tries her best to bring the fans of the Elder Scrolls series, myself included, some content relating to the next game in the franchise. She starts off by unfortunately saying, “We’ll be honest, there’s not a ton of Elder Scrolls 6 news coming in as of late.” Which is fair seeing as how the game was announced in 2018 and hasn’t had any sort of leaks or other pieces of media to back up the one trailer shown to acknowledge its existence. Still, it’s useful to remember that it’s still in the work. “All we’ve got to go on is this 36-second trailer that Bethesda debuted at E3 2018. It’s exciting, it’s got us ready for more, but we haven’t got much else since then. Feed us, Bethesda, we’re starving.” Her story brings up a lot of interesting theories that have surfaced all over the internet, from the fact that Bethesda was bought by Microsoft and may confirm Xbox Exclusivity to the strange trademarking of the term ‘Redfall’ in reference to a plague mentioned in Skyrim. Overall, Alyssa brings as many points as she can to try and help her fellow Elder Scrolls fans bide time until something, anything new is revealed. 

Beyond The Circle

In a surprising turn of events, two leading members of a hacking group known as Team Xecuter were recently sentenced for fraud after being caught selling console hacking software and pirated games from the Nintendo Switch. In the article on The Verge, journalist Nick Statt says that Gary Bowser and Max Louarn “face severe prison time if convicted, including 20 years for each charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, with up to five years for some of the lesser charges.” As of recently, piracy of games and gaming software has been on the rise and those who don’t have the funds to invest into newer consoles have taken to more dubious means of playing newer titles. Nintendo seems to be the most targeted of all gaming companies by criminals seeking to play new Switch games for cheaper than they’re sold. So it’s not surprising to hear them putting their foot down when it comes to catching one of the biggest offenders. 

Ronald Gordon is a New York Videogame Critics Circle senior intern. He recently completed an internship at Rockstar Games.

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