Nowadays a good way to check whether a game is good or not, rather than reading ‘professional’ reviews, seems to be to just go to Amazon, check the game’s 5-star ratings, and read some of the recommended reviews.
After all, the reviewers are usually players like us, and they don’t seem to have much merits to ‘sensationalize’ their reviews in order to bring readership etc.
I know this system is not fail-safe (companies might make fake reviews for their products), but most of the times looking at the games I owned, I pretty much agree with the ratings (with some interesting cases).
Basically games that have mostly 5-star ratings are usually indeed great and safe to buy (unless it’s really not your kind of game), while you can expect some mediocrity with games with mostly 4-star ratings.
Games that are mostly 2-star or below should be skipped (though you would be missing some games like Drag-on Dragoon 3).
What I find interesting is how the ratings can tell a story. Sometimes I don’t understand why the ratings are the way they are, but it’s interesting to try to figure it out. Reading some of the reviews may help.
In any case, some examples for food of thought ^^;
– games that are obviously 5-stars (Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus)
– games that are uniformly 5-4-3-2-1 (Gravity Daze)
– games that are overwhelmingly 5 (Photo Kano Kiss)
– games that are overwhelmingly 4 (Kagero Darkside Princess)
– games I thought of buying but didn’t because of the ratings (575)
– games that are ‘5-3’ (Metal Gear Solid 4)
– games that I thought would be 5 but 3 (Metal Gear Rising Revengeance)
– games that are 1 because it shipped with fatal bugs (Zero No Kiseki Vita)
– games that are 1 because of loading times (Sen No Kiseki Vita)
Some conclusion that can be drawn:
– first impression matters (shouldn’t have bugs on release)
– smoothness matters (low frame rate, long loading times)
– people don’t like spin-offs?