Cliches are never a good thing to find in professional reviews. Often times we lean on them to convey an idea or concept in a quick or easy manner, but when we’re evaluating a product, it’s really important to avoid cliches and to opt for a more detailed and concrete description. Some things probably bother me more than most, and I probably use some terms and descriptive techniques that bother people, but here’s my list of terms I’d like to see banned from usage in game and gadget reviews.
Often times people describe an interface, a menu system, or a hardware design as being sleek. The problem is that it’s a completely unhelpful term that vaguely implies a modern and clean look and feel. It can also mean streamlined, smooth, glossy, contoured, smooth, or even deceitful. It’s much more helpful to JUST SAY WHAT makes the object in question “sleek.” If we’re talking about a game’s menu system, use the extra words and say, “the game offers a streamlined menu system that’s easy to navigate and intuitive in its design.” If we’re talking about an mp3 player, I’d much prefer to read, “the player is smooth and comfortable to hold. The lines give the device an attractive look and the construction is tight and makes the player feel solid and modern.” Tell us what makes the object in question sleek, not that it simply is. Note: Slick is often used the same way as sleek for similar reasons.
Mixed bag is used a whole heck of a lot instead of saying that something has some high points as well as some low points. It’s far more effective to detail out the products high and low points and show the reader that it is indeed a mixture of pros and cons that constitute the overall package. Even when the term isn’t used to replace proper description, it still makes a terrible lead in phrase to say, “graphically the game is a bit of a mixed bag.”
Product X is Product Y on Steroids
This is another term that’s just a bit lazy to me. I’ve used it in the past, but I’ve resolved to not do it again. Saying that Vanquish is like Gears of War on steroids is a bit of a disservice to both games; but worse yet, it’s a disservice to your audience. Some gamers may be reading your Vanquish review because they have an interest in the game, but they may have not played Gears of War. Also, aside from the cover system, there’s very little Gears in Vanquish (and that applies to many similar comparison using this cliche). It’s far more effective to just describe the game or product and allow the readers to draw parallels between it and similar content or products. It is perfectly fine to compare things to one another, but go deeper than the surface of just a cliche.
Killer app is synonymous to saying “AAA” or “must have.” Usually killer app is used when saying that a certain title fills an important gap in a console’s lineup or when this single game is going to send people out to stores in droves to pick it and its affiliated console up in droves. The term has just been overused far too much.
Another shortcut term that allows the reviewer to avoid writing a detailed description. It’s not enough to say that a game only “offers cookie-cutter gameplay.” Use your words, people. It doesn’t take much more time to explain that the game uses tired tropes and conventions, but it’s far more useful to readers to know which aspects of the gameplay you’re referring to rather than just applying a single blanket term to everything.
Really I could name many more terms that I dislike, but there’s just one thing to remember when writing. Detail and specificity are always more valuable to readers than the repetition of cliches, even if the cliche is generally a well understood one within the context in which it’s being applied. That said, I’d invite all of you to ignore my past usage of many of these things, mmmkay?