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Ethos and Riddles talk about video games...
            Can you handle it?
by Ethos

Yakuza 3 Demo Impressions

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Yakuza 3 Japanese BoxartI’ve never played a Yakuza game in my life, but Yakuza 3 has managed to pique my interest over the last few months. It’s hard not to be intrigued, seeing that the game has such an unconventional setting, and such a devoted cult of followers. Yakuza 1 and 2 are all but impossible to find nowadays, but Yakuza 3 looks like it might be a perfect place for newcomers such as myself to jump in.

I wouldn’t call myself a “japanophile,” per se, though I do have a certain level of interest in the culture as a result of my past obsessions over JRPGs and anime. That being said, Yakuza 3 managed to surprise even me with its thick layer of Japanese-ness. You really have to be able to appreciate Japan and its weirdness to appreciate a game like Yakuza 3, and that’s something you should know up front.

But, if the price of admission isn’t a problem, Yakuza 3 looks like it could provide hours upon hours of quirky, over-the-top fun. There are cutscenes, laden with Japanese dialogue, battles that feel surprisingly arcade-ish, city streets bustling with citizens, and last but not least… karaoke.

The cutscenes are fairly laughable, which makes it all the more surprising that there’s so many of them. From what I can see, Yakuza 3 will be a fairly story-driven experience, chronicling the power struggles between the many different families and clans that compose the Japanese mafia. In keeping with its authentic Japanese feel, there is no English voice dub in Yakuza 3; all spoken dialogue is Japanese, with English subtitles. For some reason, in spite of this, the translators at Sega included a lot of ridiculous English slang in the subtitles, which makes absolutely zero sense. Although, it does succeed in making things feel appropriately campy – which I can only imagine is the effect they were going for.



Combat in Yakuza 3 is a surprising amount of fun given how simple it is. You have two attack buttons that you use to create hard-hitting combos, a block button, and a grab button. The grab button is not only used for grappling enemies, but also for picking up objects in the environment and using them as weapons. Few things are as satisfying as picking up a bicycle and beating the snot out of a group of thugs with it. Crooks will literally pop out of nowhere on the city streets to give you trouble, so it seems like there will be plenty of combat to go around in Yakuza 3 – and that’s perfectly fine with me.

The demo also gave me access to a few of Yakuza 3’s minigames. I tried out the Arcade first, where I was able to play a couple of simplistic but fairly entertaining games. After that, though, I received a call from one of my female acquaintances, who invited me to sing some karaoke – and it was then that I fell in love with Yakuza 3.

Well, not really. I’ve never been a fan of rhythm games, so the karaoke minigame wasn’t exactly a selling point for me. But it definitely was not lacking in over-the-top, Japanese weirdness. I won’t attempt to describe it here, but I get the feeling that a lot of people (possibly myself included) will have a lot of fun with Yakuza 3’s karaoke minigame.

Yakuza 3 looks to be a rich and engaging open-world action game. The comparisons to Grand Theft Auto certainly aren’t unjustified; but again, it’s very, very Japanese. A deal-breaker for many, I’m sure, but a clincher for plenty of others. I can’t say it’s a day one purchase at this point, but I’ll certainly be keeping the game on my radar.

Riddlethos Video Update #002

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Theme week switch will happen midday Monday, until then here’s more nonsense.

Smash Results

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

A little late, sure, but you can all deal with it.
First up…

Most Kills

IMG_01574th place -
Matti Cowan with 16 kills. Although Lucas is a super powerful character, Matti just couldn’t keep up. To be fair, Matti was the most out of practice of the four of us, but his many years of experience with the series should have held some weight. Sadly, Matti spent the tournament frustrated and wondering where his skill went.

IMG_01603rd place -
Oliver “Riddles” Motok with 17 kills. Just an inch above resident nut, Matti Cowan, our very own Riddles wins the bronze in this category. His performance as Link (and once as Marth) couldn’t finish the job enough times to compete with the top dogs. Frustrating, to be sure, but you can’t argue with the numbers.

IMG_01622nd place -
Ethan “Ethos” Pipher with 25 kills. A health jump from 3rd, but although I was in the lead in this category for the majority of the competition, I just couldn’t hold on when it counted. Olimar is a surprisingly potent killer when you know which smash moves to use when, and it helped me grab the easy silver in this category.

IMG_01511st place -
George “Pogo” Zywiel with 29 kills. While behind in this category in all but two matches (including the penultimate game), Pogo came through when it counted. In the final match, Pogo’s Pikachu logged 6 kills, a record for the entire match, to clearly claim the gold in this event. The Pika-thunder might be one of the more annoying moves in all of Brawl, but damn if Pogo doesn’t know how to use it properly.

Most Wins
Remember for this event, there were 8 matches and in each match, first place got 3 points while second place would get 1. Third and fourth received zero points.

IMG_01604th place-
Oliver “Riddles” Motok with 3 points (1 win). Ouch. Except for the one match in which Riddles won, this means that every other finish was in third or fourth place. It’s true that he was a little off his game because this was the worst I’ve ever seen Riddles play Smash Brothers. Nothing went his way, and Pikachu’s endless thunder attacks always seemed to get the best of him. Maybe next time.

IMG_01573rd place -
Matti Cowan with 7 points (2 wins). While not quite cutting it in the kills category, Matti put up a bit more of a fight to win a few matches. He managed to win a quarter of the games in the tournament and fought his way to a second place finish in one as well. Maybe he didn’t make a gold or silver performance in either category, but at least he made a run for it with the wins.

IMG_01512nd place -
George “Pogo” Zywiel with 8 points (2 wins). Pogo got his wins near the beginning of the tournament, but his early game domination earned him just one more 2nd place finish to edge him ahead of Matti’s end-game efforts. With all his kills, it’s hard to imagine that Pogo only barely held onto his silver medal position, but Smash is all about the balance as these two events show.

IMG_01621st place -
Ethan “Ethos” Pipher with 14 points (3 wins). While I couldn’t hold onto my kills domination, I had locked up the points battle before we even started the final match. Overall wins were fairly close, but I was the only player to earn at least 1 point every match in the tournament and that was enough to almost double the second place score. As every other player in the tournament can attest to, Olimar is a bitch to play against if the guy controlling him knows how to handle his Pikmin, and I wasn’t holding back.

The point is that Riddles really blew that tournament. A lot. Further proof that I am, in fact, better at video games than he.

Sunday Soapbox: Riddles’ Visit to Toronto

Sunday, February 21st, 2010
Not home sweet home.

Not home sweet home.

Toronto has been a novel experience in more ways than I thought it would be.

To begin with the obvious: I’ve never been in a city this big before. The closest thing I’ve ever seen (sadly enough) is Nashville, the state capital of Tennessee. I’ve spoken plenty about about Nashville in the past, and I’m about to do it again:  it’s a narrow, crowded, labyrinthine sham of a city. And, much like Tennessee as a whole, there’s really nothing there. At all. Murfreesboro (where I live) may be every bit as pointless as Nashville, but at least it doesn’t try to hide this fact.

Toronto felt authentic from the moment I stepped out of the Pearson airport. Why? Public transportation! A concept that, until now, has been entirely foreign to me. Nashville has a bus system that nobody uses, but aside from that, EVERYONE in Tennessee drives. Everywhere. All the time. That’s part of the reason why Nashville tends to be such a convoluted mess; if people could just leave their cars behind and walk, the city would be that much nicer as a result. However, people in Tennessee are more or less grafted to motor vehicles from birth, so that’s not something that will happen anytime soon.

That isn’t to say that people don’t drive in Toronto, but the city also features a number of entirely competent, convenient public transportation modes. Confession: until last Tuesday, I’d never ridden in a subway. Not sure how I managed to go twenty years before having that experience, but… I did. Regretful, yes, but better late than never. The Subway is most definitely an experience everyone should have at some point in their lives, for more than a few reasons.

But I’m pretty sure the concept of a large city isn’t nearly as foreign to the lot of you as it was to me, so I’ll spare you an in-depth review of something as commonplace as a subway system. I’ll venture a guess that you’re more interested in what it’s like to share a house with everyone’s favorite Ethan “Ethos” Pipher. To answer that question, it’s quite… relaxing? Relaxing, decidedly low-key, and not as creepy as you might imagine. For example, I’ve yet to be raped in my sleep. There are a lot of heterosexual men walking around in their underwear (myself included) but that’s more or less the extent of the creepiness.

Oh, wait. There was the “podcast” we recorded. That was… that was definitely… yeah. I won’t attempt to describe it here. It’ll be on the site soon enough. You can listen then, and despair.

Ahem. That aside, I’ve mostly been doing a lot of glorious nothing while I’ve been here, which is more or less what I expected. Movies, videogames, Scrubs, and more videogames have composed the majority of our daily itinerary, and it’s been great. It’s a novel experience to be around people who are actually as nerdy, messy, lazy and carefree as I tend to be. The absence of passive-aggressive judgment for said habits is nice as well.

(Not to speak ill of all the wonderful people back home, of course.)

A brief aside: Ethan, Pogo and I went to see Shutter Island last night. I won’t talk about it at length, only because to reveal anything about the movie would be a disservice to anyone reading. Suffice to say, it was fantastic – I’ve never worshiped Scorsese, and I’ve always hated DiCaprio – but if they keep making movies like this, that’s going to change. Shutter Island is a must-see. Don’t read about it, and don’t talk to anyone who’s seen it – just go see it yourself.

To use that gushy tangent as a springboard, the theater we saw it in was huge. It had an escalator in it, for Christ’s sake. I’d never seen anything like it.

Which, in a nutshell, sums up my thoughts on Ethan’s penis Toronto – it’s huge, and I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s been less than a week, but I feel like it fits me more than anywhere else I’ve ever been. I like being able to walk practically everywhere. I like that there are more attractive Asian women here than I thought existed. I like that the tapwater doesn’t taste like sewage. I like that a ride on the subway system can be about as entertaining as your average primetime programming. I like that this city actually has a personality to it that you simply can’t find in a place like Tennessee.

Oh, and I definitely like the fact that I’m considered legal to drink up here.

Frankly, I don’t think there’s anything I don’t like about Toronto. As I sit here in this uncharacteristically large Starbucks, typing this article and basking in the atmosphere of actual “city folk,” I find myself wishing I didn’t have to fly away three days from now. In the back of my mind I’ve always known that in all likelihood, I’d be leaving Tennessee behind at some point in my life. Visiting Toronto has solidified that thought as a fact. Will I end up living happily ever after with Ethos in his magical city? Probably not, sadly, only because moving from one country to another tends to be something of a bitch. But hey, there are plenty of comparable cities in my country as well – albeit with the same ridiculous drinking age of 21.

Smash Preview

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

As per the below video, Riddles, myself, Matti, and the unmentioned Pogo had a Super Smash Brawl tournament. It’s finished, but I’m going to preview the event so you can all place your bets.
There were two events that took place simultaneously over 8 stock matches with 3 lives. No items were allowed and each player got to choose two levels (provided they weren’t in the house banned list). The first event was overall kills which the game passively keeps track of anyway. The second was wins. The first place player got 3 points and second place got 1. The third and fourth players would be left with zero for that match. Players were allowed to switch characters between matches. Below are the contenders.
Smash Preview
And while we were allowed to switch characters and occasionally did, I’ll give you a list of who we played the majority (or all) our matches with.
Riddles - Link
Ethos - Olimar
Matti - Lucas
Pogo - Pikachu
Guess away!

First video update.

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Final Fantasy XIII Doesn’t Look as Good on Xbox 360

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Sad but true. After utterly embarrassing themselves some weeks ago with “comparison” screens that were clearly all from the PS3 build, Square Enix has finally released some actual, high-res screens from the Xbox 360 version. And, as the title of this post indicates, there’s a pretty notable difference. Click on the images below to see the high-res versions.

Final Fantasy XIII - PS3

Final Fantasy XIII - 360

That’s one of the more noticeable comparisons. According to NeoGAF, the PS3 version is running at 1280 x 720, while the 360 version is being rendered at 1024 x 576. If you’re interested, Kotaku has all 18 of the recently-released 360 screens.

Obviously, this isn’t reason enough to rush out and buy a PS3 if you don’t have one already, but if you do, the PS3 version will probably be the way to go. I’ll be interested in seeing how the two versions compare in terms of performance. (Y’know, load times and framerate and all that stuff.)

BioShock 2 Review – Big Sister is Always Watching

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

BioShock 2LIKED:

-Moral choices that actually carry weight

-Fantastic exploration and atmosphere

-Fun and varied combat

-Big Sister battles


-Over-emphasis on combat in certain sequences

-Loss of novelty/mystery from first game

-Loss of Andrew Ryan. Sophia Lamb just doesn’t measure up.

BioShock took the world by storm upon its release back in 2007. With its brilliantly told story, masterful atmosphere, and varied first-person gameplay, few other games to this date offer such a complete experience. Two years later, 2K Marin’s return to Rapture in the form of BioShock 2 most certainly suffers from a case of “been there, done that,” and comes replete with a few new issues of its own. But make no mistake; BioShock 2 went above and beyond my expectations in many ways, and proves that there’s life left in Rapture yet.


The story in BioShock 2 gets the job done. Set eight years after the original game, BioShock 2 puts you in the shoes of a Big Daddy who’s been separated from his Little Sister companion. It just so happens she’s being held by a woman named Sophia Lamb, who has all but assumed control of Rapture – or what’s left of it.

BioShock2-1Like the original game, you’re presented with certain moral choices – and this is one area in which BioShock 2 improves upon its predecessor. In the first game, you were simply given the choice to harvest or save the numerous Little Sisters you came across. Very black-and-white to say the least, and frankly, the game never gave a legitimate reason to care about the creepy little things. (Which is why I harvested them all.) Because of the new Adoption system (which allows you to “adopt” little sisters, carry them around, and have them gather ADAM) the choice between harvesting and saving the sisters carries much more weight. Listening to their childish prattling while you tote them around is undeniably endearing, and as you protect them from the many dangers of Rapture, you’ll likely develop a sense of responsibility towards them. The Sisters will act differently towards you depending on how many you’ve harvested or saved – and it’s hard not to feel awful when a Little Sister cowers and asks, “Daddy… you’re never gonna hurt me, right?”

Little Sisters aside, BioShock 2 also gives you the choice to let certain people live or die at several points during the game. The decisions aren’t easy either – just to illustrate, there was a time that I spent several minutes looking straight at a man who was begging for his life, unable to decide. Finally I decided to let him live and walked off – only to change my mind, run back, and fry him with my Incinerate plasmid. BioShock 2 isn’t “all about choices” in the sense that, say, Mass Effect is. But the choices you make carry stunning emotional weight.

But in spite of this, the storyline in BioShock 2 simply can’t stand up against that of its predecessor. The mystery behind the ruined utopia of Rapture has long been solved, Andrew Ryan is gone, and as a result, the game loses a lot in the way of narrative punch. Sophia Lamb, unfortunately, simply can’t match the charisma and sophistication that made Andrew Ryan such a likable “villain” in the first game. Her motivations are clear as mud, her philosophies aren’t particularly interesting, and by the time the game is over, you’ll probably have grown a bit tired of her pseudo-Marxist collectivist ranting. Ironically enough, she’s most interesting when Andrew Ryan talks about her in the few audio diaries he has in the game. His reactions to her ideals are more interesting than her actual beliefs are. To be sure, BioShock 2 is still an extremely well-written game. But the novelty is gone, Ryan is gone, and both are sorely missed.


BioShock 2 plays more or less like the original did, with some subtle improvements – such as dual-wielding and more practical plasmid upgrades. For example, upgrading your Lightning plasmid allows you to charge it and subsequently unleash Chain Lightning, which can hit multiple targets. Like the original game, the variety in which you can approach combat situations is fantastic. See a Splicer chilling in a pool of water? Zap the water with lightning for an instant kill. Is there a puddle of oil on the floor? Ignite it with your incinerate plasmid to toast anyone standing near it. Is a Big Sister on her way? Think smart, and run to a hacked security camera or turret to gain the advantage. Combat can be a blast in BioShock 2, especially when facing off against such frightening and unique foes as the Big Sisters or Big Daddies.

However, someone at 2K Marin seems to have misjudged just how important combat is to the BioShock experience. That is to say: despite how fun it is, it’s far from the main appeal of the franchise, and at times, BioShock 2 seems to think that it is. Certain segments place too much emphasis on shooting down Splicers and Big Daddies when they should be allowing the player to simply explore and enjoy the atmosphere of Rapture. The endgame, in particular, is frustrating because it’s nothing but battle after large-scale battle and you’ll likely be begging for the end long before it’s over. BioShock 2 still places a healthy emphasis on exploration and atmosphere, but for BioShock 3, 2K would do well to scale back the combat to a more acceptable level. (i.e., the level it was at in the original BioShock.)

Entirely new to BioShock 2 is the online multiplayer mode. At first glance, the mode seems entirely superfluous – BioShock doesn’t exactly seem like an experience that lends itself to deathmatches. But, believe it or not, the limited amount of time I spent with it was actually pretty enjoyable. There are a variety of mode to choose from, including team deathmatches, free-for-alls, “Capture the Sister,” et cet. Like Modern Warfare 2, there’s a rank system – the higher your rank, the more goodies you unlock, including additional plasmids and gene tonics. The battles themselves are complete with BioShock conventions such as turret hacking and taking photos to earn damage bonuses. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s interesting to see BioShock’s unique combat carried over to an online arena. But, at the same time, it’s difficult to imagine why you’d choose to play BioShock 2 over the bevy of online shooters out there.


BioShock 2 looks identical to its predecessor. In fact, it’ll likely look a bit worse, if only because so many prettier games have been released since 2007. The game continues to use an older version of the Unreal engine, and it definitely shows. But even so, like its predecessor, BioShock 2 manages to be one of the more visually appealing experiences in recent memory. The art style is fantastic, and you’ll be stopping to take in the sites more than once. The underwater sequences, which are new to BioShock 2, stand out in particular. During these segments, nothing attacks you, and you’re allowed to simply take in the aquatic sites.


The sound design in BioShock 2 is impressive on many levels, and acts as an essential part of the game’s atmosphere. Rapture wouldn’t be the same without the inane babble of the resident Splicers in the background, accompanied by the whale-like groans of the lumbering Big Daddies. The chilling, velociraptor-like screech of the Big Sisters is fantastic as well. Finally, a shout-out must be given to the game’s dark but whimsical musical score. The original compositions are fairly subdued, but always very good. And like the original, the use of 1950’s art-deco era music is a very nice touch.


BioShock 2 does fall on its face on a few occasions – mostly with its over-focus on combat and weaker storyline – but to be honest, its biggest fault isn’t really a “fault” at all. BioShock 2 simply isn’t BioShock 1. In the original BioShock, the novelty and mystery of the experience was a huge part of what made it so engaging. When I first crash-landed into Rapture, I had absolutely no idea what to expect – I was confused, a little frightened, and determined to discover what, exactly, had happened to destroy the paradise Andrew Ryan had attempted to build beneath the sea. But in BioShock 2, you go in already knowing what makes Rapture “tick,” per se. You know what the city is, why the city is, and what to expect from it. Again: the novelty is simply gone.

But while this is disappointing, it can hardly be called a “fault” on part of the game. And even though we’ve been there before, Rapture is still a fantastically immersive place to explore. BioShock 2 is still an extremely well-executed, atmospheric experience, and if you enjoyed the first game, it’s difficult to imagine that you couldn’t enjoy its sequel. Despite all my prior misgivings, I had a blast with BioShock 2 – and I’m genuinely interested in seeing where the franchise goes from here.

BioShock 2

Scatter Storming. Issue #020 “Exit Classy”

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

ss020Here it is, folks. The end of another 10 issue run of Scatter Storming. We all hoped it wouldn’t happen. People ran screaming in pain through the streets because of this feature’s continued existence but still it presses on. While this 10 issue run was supposed to have “classy” as the theme, it definitely deviated from that on a few occasions. Still, I’d like to pretend that I was more consistent, so I’ve made one final simple and clean cover for this twentieth issue. However, I still haven’t really played any games. The Olympics are liquid crack and I had to prepare for Doofus McDoofus’ arrival. Actually, speaking of that dude, maybe I’ll dedicate this issue to him.

A day of firsts -
After Riddles’ first flight on a plane, he arrived for the first time in a different country, made his first trip on public transit, had his first Volcano Crunchwrap from Taco Bell, made his first purchase with Canadian dollars, and thus had his first pocket full of loonies and toonies. All was looking up for our young friend until…

Apparently Riddles couldn’t handle his first flight of Canadian stairs. Yup, after I told him that the bathrooms were downstairs, I hear him wander off, then silence, then CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK “Ow”. All I can say is that I wish I had cameras installed in my house to capture that wonderful moment.

Oh wait, I can kinda talk about games! -
I watched Riddles beat Bioshock 2 and then watched a fair amount of the online play. The single player looks like a lot more fun from a purely visceral standpoint. There are more enemies, more powerful enemies, and more ways to take them all out. Unfortunately that seemed to, in turn, shift the focus to combat. At least in the final stages. While there were some undoubtedly strong moments in the final few hours, and while I didn’t have the context of the rest of the game, Bioshock 2 seems to fall apart in an even worse way than the original did at the end. Not from a lack of potential either, from what I can tell. But Riddles will no doubt cover all of this in his impending review that will overshadow this Scatter Storming edition anyway.

Also, multi-player -
Right, I mentioned the online multi-player. It seems cool. Nothing more really to say. It has some cool ideas that all tie into the single-player mechanics which is neat, but while it copies some of Modern Warfare 2’s strong points, it doesn’t seem to be able to compare to the experience overall. And when you have the choice between good online multi-player and excellent online multi-player, there’s really no reason to not choose the latter unless you have a strong preference for setting.

What? No picture post? -
Yeahyeah, I know the “10th Issue Extravaganza!!!” had a few celebratory MS Paintjobs at the end of it. However, just because the style rotation happens every 10 issues, doesn’t mean each time it happens it’ll be a celebration. It was just a happy coincidence last time. Also, there’s a lot of content planned for this very special week so suck it up!

That’s it, there’s the review outline below to peruse and Riddles sure-to-be epic Bioshock 2 review coming soon, plus even more content later on, so here’s my exit and the exit of classy Scatter Stormings. At least for now…

Riddlethos Review Outline

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
I couldn't find a picture of "review scores" so here's me.

I couldn't find a picture of "review scores" so here's me.

Well folks, it’s been since late November that Riddlethos.com officially started to produce reviews with numbered scores and all that razzle dazzle. Since their inception, I promised to bring you an outline of the way we’d be running them. I didn’t do that yet. Partially because we were still working out kinks and partially because I’m notoriously lazy. Still, while our review system will likely always be evolving, it’s important that all of you at least have a general idea of where we’re coming from.

Before anything else, I should address why we decided to include numerical scores in our previously text-only reviews. While text will always give a far more thorough and accurate assessment of a title, we felt that fact shouldn’t force readers to necessarily read text. The fact is that not every game is of equal importance to every reader, and while it doesn’t give the complete picture, final thoughts and a score is helpful to readers only casually interested in a title that they wouldn’t read the full review for anyway. No scoring system is perfect, but even an opinion written in text might not forever be the opinion of the reviewer, so no review is perfect anyway. Therefore, feel free to skip down to the last paragraph and take in the score if you want. Ultimately, the people who are truly interested in buying the game reviewed will read the full body of the text for the complete analysis. Onto the system itself.

Riddles and I decided to go with a 10 point scale. While not exactly as eccentric as many of you expected, the fact is that it was the format that made the most sense to the both of us when trying to think of a way to fairly and accurately assess games. It’s familiar and clear and a good starting point for the site. While we’re not using the full decimal spectrum to essentially make it a 100 point scale, there are a few intermediary scores you might see pop up. Using the score of “7″ as the example representing all possibilities, the sub-score values can either be 7.0 or 7.5. However, the overall score has a bit more flexibility. An overall score can receive a 7.0, 7.2, 7.5, or 7.9. We felt when it came to scoring a game overall, it needed some room to be just a bit better than a 7, or not quite good enough for an 8.

To supplement the numerical score, Riddlethos chose arbitrary words to accompany each major scoring point. Below is the list.

10 - Near Perfection
9 - Superb
8 - Awesome
7 - Sweet
6 - Decent
5 - Blah
4 - Ugh
3 - Ouch
2 - Why?
1 - Oh God, No!
0 - Wrong Hole

It’s worth noting that since Riddlethos is currently just made up of two people, we will very likely only complete games we enjoy. Therefore it makes sense that most scores will be in the upper spectrum.

Subscores should be considered to include the following traits.

Gameplay - Everything from fighting mechanics to menu navigation. This category covers the depth, ease, and fun of the gameplay.
Graphics - Essentially how pretty the game is and how well it runs. Art style, animations, frame rate, and texture pop-in are all covered.
Music and Sound - What more can be said? Quality and appropriateness of the musical score and sound design are taken into account.
Atmosphere - This includes story, presentation, themes, and how all the previous categories come together to make a consistent and powerful mood. The most abstract category, sure, but Riddles and I both value it

Well there’s that beast out of the way. Please to comment or e-mail with any questions or comments.