Classic Concentration

Read the full review here.

“The 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) cranked out many game-show-based titles, most of them produced by publisher GameTek who also, oddly enough, put out some cartridges like Harlem Globetrotters.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.

Play it again, Sam! Jim! Whatever!

Title Screen -- note bald pianist

Context is a funny thing.

I gave this game two stars out of five. In my system, that means it is below average. Any system that sets 10 as the perfect and/or highest score, and uses 7 as the average, is dumb. I do not say that because I am some unsophisticated reviewer who has not considered the ideas of mean and mode, the philosophy that most games are better than what would represent an average effort, or an elitist. I say that simply because the average number should be the average score, and the rest of the reviewing grades should build off of that fact. This is merely logical, not emotional.

Now, some context. It is my belief that some subjective context is absolutely essential to a review, even when trying to be perfectly objective, especially in the case of retro gaming. Why? One simple reason is the spectrum of samples of games all given on the same console that gave hardware limitations; in the case of the NES, if you were to judge them by today’s standards, you could make a decent argument for saying that every single title has terrible graphics and their soundtrack sucks. But, upon closer examination, there is a definite hierarchy at work of NES games with visuals better than other NES games, developers who knew better how to use the 5-channel sound system, etc. In terms of writing entertaining, informative reviews, the contextual approach within the era’s sampling is definitely a much more useful, interesting, and worthy endeavor than simply writing off all the NES games as ugly, even if the gameplay for many would still hold up.

Then there is the context of genre. I am of the opinion that it would be stupid for games of a certain genre to only be reviewed by fans of that genre. A reviewer should be a reviewer, and a good reviewer should be capable of reviewing a game of any genre, and still provide adequate, qualified, viable insights as to their experience. All genres should still possess gameplay that can be judged across common categories, graphics and sound again being two examples. However, there should certainly be some sort of respectfully open approach involved, at the very least. In my case, one behavior I am practicing is shown in the arena of the shoot-’em-up genre: You will not see me review another until I have gained more experience on the NES library of shmups. I am working on it. I am getting there. But, in terms of genre context, I believe it is definitely worth it, and a legitimate review technique, to judge a title by its quality head-to-head against other games within its same genre. That just makes sense, gives a more nuanced insight, and is probably easier, in many cases, then trying to judge it against the entire library of titles for the console.

All this makes reviewing game show games somewhat quirky. Are they awesome games? In my opinion, no, not even the best-made ones can be a five-star game. Just my opinion, perhaps.


I do have a spot in my heart for these types of games, even on the NES. Their accessibility is huge, and this is important; my wife will play a round of Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune on the NES with me, but she would never have an interest in trying Blaster Master solo, or trudging through a session of Super Mario Bros. 3 in alternating fashion, or pounding out the mean streets of urban gang warfare in Double Dragon II: The Revenge together. Did you hear that? She will play Jeopardy with me, but not Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers. Does that make Jeopardy a better game? Well, no. My wife likes it better, but is she the best judge of NES gameplay quality? Maybe from the perspective of a non-gamer, she is “qualified,” but there is no way she is a fantastic voice as a game reviewer, regardless of her sincerity or eloquence.

All that is just to say this: Within the NES pantheon, and as compared to other game show titles on the console, Classic Concentration is a below-average cartridge.

But isn’t it amazing how much else it got my mind working on? That’s true Classic Concentration, right there.


Completed puzzle example, courtesy awesome site

Read The Full Review For: My thoughts on game show video game pacing, a comprehensive try at describing exactly how to play the game, a couple examples of completed puzzle answers, and an attempt at humorously describing the games graphics and sound in one word each.

NES Gameplay Tips for Classic Concentration: Unlike some other game show video games, in Classic Concentration the computer is not going to submit an incorrect answer, and there is no available difficulty-level selection. Keep that in mind. They will, though, miss on cards, so that is your best chance to take advantage: Perhaps consider keeping a grid card nearby and rapidly penciling in the card names as they appear on-screen. Just sayin’. Now, against a human opponent, this perhaps may not work as well, since you will need to hide the card from prying eyes; in this case, I would recommend focusing on solving the rebus puzzle. The greatest satisfaction is found when you realize what the solution is on a human opponent’s turn, and they are unable to guess it correctly. Then, on your turn, as long as you get a match, pick that you want to solve the puzzle and, bam, round goes to you. Good times. Oh, and that awl appears all (see?) over the place.

2 Responses to “ Classic Concentration ”

  1. […] I have a soft spot for these titles, since they are among the few that my wife is willing to play with me, which is fun. But then, too, I like to believe I am more apt to notice their nuanced design flaws. Or maybe these drawbacks are obvious anyway, like the way-too-long animation sequence after every correct card-pair guess in Classic Concentration, as previously mentioned. […]

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