Out of Bounds: The score is simply outside the established bounds of the reviewer’s usual ratings scale (compare Rank Inflation and F Minus Minus; note that this may even cause the rating scale to be expanded);
Refusal to Rate: And the Logical Extreme, the reviewer simply—and usually explicitly—refuses to assign a rating at all. This can be because the reviewer found the work downright repulsive, decided that rating it would be unfair, or decided that a rating was otherwise inapplicable. Sometimes overlaps with Dancing Bear.
Still Within Bounds (‘We don’t hand out 0’s, but maybe we should have for this.’)
Anime and Manga
JesuOtaku usually gives out unusual review scores (see below), but when reviewing Master of Martial Hearts, she only gave it “one greasy burger out of four” “because frankly, I don’t have a lower score.”
Present in snakesonasora’s famous sporking of the Kingdom Hearts badfic “Naga Eyes”. The rating scale (sometimes more a warning scale) is typically 1 to 5 Shadows. For particularly terrible fics, there exists a rare rating of Ansem, which includes everything from 5 Shadows plus extra-high doses of WTF-ery. “Naga Eyes” earned an Ansem, but with this addition attached:
snakesonasora: THE ANSEM IS ONLY A FORMALITY. THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH SHADOWS, BEHEMOTHS, ANSEMS, OR XEMNASES TO PROPERLY ILLUSTRATE THE LEVEL OF HORROR PRESENT IN THIS FIC.
Film critic Leonard Maltin claimed the movie Tarzan: The Ape Man starring Bo Derek was so bad it nearly convinced him to create a rating in his book lower than BOMB. He ended up simply pronouncing it a mere BOMB.
An old joke has a college student asking his professor why he received an F on an exam, as he thinks he didn't deserve one. The professor replies, "I don't think you did either, but it is the lowest grade I am allowed to give."
“This game officially received the lowest score in the history of Game Spot: a 1.0. And by lowest, I mean it can’t go any lower. We don’t hand out zeroes, but maybe we should have for Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing.” —Alex Navarro, Frightfully Bad Games. The video review instead showed him Refusing to Review.
When rating God of War, the official PS2 magazine (Greek edition) commented that they would give it an 11/10, but weren’t allowed to, so instead they settled on a 10/10
GameCentral’s 0/10 review of Postal III begins with the reviewer wondering whether the game’s self-awareness should push it up to 1/10, or if the fact that the developers clearly knew they were releasing a terrible game should push it into the negatives.
Nintendo Power editor Chris Slate responded to one reader that he had been tempted to award some games a 10.5 out of 10, but won’t because that will mess up the scale by making 10.5 the new standard. (At the time, only Resident Evil 4, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption had received a 10.)
The now-defunct Gaming Intelligence Agency gave The Legend of Dragoon a 1 out of 5, and a relentlessly negative review that found basically no redeeming value in it. At one point, the Alt Text on the score graphic said that they would’ve given it a zero if their rating scale allowed it. The mirror of their site at the time of its closing no longer reflects this.
On Something Awful, the review giving Master Chu and the Drunkard Hu the lowest possible rating (–50) ended by saying “I hate that I can’t give this game the score it deserves because the SA rating system won’t let me use scientific notation.” It’s not the only time reviewers have expressed a wish to go below –50, with various degrees of seriousness. The absolute worst thing ever reviewed there did get a “minus infinity”, but it’s better not tospeak of that.
Throughout Roahm Mythril’s Mega Man Perfect Run videos, he strictly adheres to a scale of 1–10 for difficulty rankings, though there are some Robot Masters that test the limits. For example, he says that giving Top Man a score of 1 is being generous, because he wants to be fair by not going any lower. Conversely, Quick Man gets a 10, after which Roahm jokes “Can I give you more?” and temporarily fills the rest of the screen with rating icons and the text “OVER 9000!!”
His X series successor, Kevvl14, thought that giving Blaze Heatnix from X6 a perfect 10 would almost be an insult to his time. He compromises by giving Heatnix the biggest ten he’s ever given.
The 1996 PC fighting game Catfight, often counted today as one of the worst games ever made, got a lot of lowest-rating-we’ve-ever-given reviews. The wittiest came from Next Generation magazine: “Our scoring system won’t let us give zeroes, so Atlantean owes us one star.”
Friendly Neighborhood Librarian operates on a one- to five-star scale, and says that she doesn’t officially give out 0 stars on the show, but for Wayside, she wishes she could. Instead, she ended up giving it one star. She also gave Dario Argento’s Phantom of the Opera movie “one star, barely.”
Spiderfan.org, which rates Spider-Man comic books on a scale of 1 to 5 webs, gave 1998’s The Final Chapter no webs, citing Aunt May’s being brought Back from the Dead with a truly absurd explanation, and general bad writing. The review concluded by saying the story was a waste of precious paper.
At the other end, when the star system came about, they gave Chuck Versus The Ring eleven stars out of five.
The Dread Central review of The 13th Alley: One BILLION knives out of 5 (the review thought it was a So Bad, It's Good masterpiece). Note: ‘Knives’ are a standard unit for this site, which is why this doesn’t fit a Meaningless Comparison.
The book and film reviews in the Czech sci-fi/fantasy magazine Ikarie normally go from one to five stars, with zero stars reserved for “So Bad It’s Horrible” ones. (And yes, half out of five was occasionally used as well.) There was one movie for which the reviewer didn’t feel zero was enough, so it got a 00.
Roger Ebert chose to remove the film Shoah from his list of candidates for the top ten films of 1985 (in its place appeared The Color Purple). He felt it deserved higher accolades.
On the other hand, Ebert occasionally gave zero-star ratings. These differed from his occasional ‘no-star’ ratings in that to earn zero stars, a movie had to offend his moral sensibilities in some way. This is why The Human Centipede II got zero stars (as opposed to the first movie, which got no rating) and why the original version of Death Race got zero stars vs. the remake’s half star even though Ebert had admitted that he considered the former more competently made.
Donald Clarke of The Ticket awarded six stars (out of five) to Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon 3D, an English-language remake of the director’s own The White Ribbon. This was a joke: no such movie exists and the review was published on April Fool’s Day.
Lou Lumenick, the movie critic for the New York Post, gave the sketch comedy film Movie 43negative four stars, calling it “the worst movie I’ve ever seen”. Ouch.
Impish Idea writers Fair & Finn ended their spork of Nibly The Bear Visits The People Town asking the commenters what rating they would give the book (presumably out of 10). The two responses were both in this category: Swenson gave a rating of -85, whereas Brendan Rizzo went even further, with a rating of negative infinity. Then, crossing over with Refusal to Rate, he said that he couldn't give it a rating at all because it does not qualify as a story, and compared it to Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing.
SF Debris gave the notorious Star Trek: Voyager episode “Threshold” 0 on a one-to-ten scale, with an added message “May God have mercy on your soul”. This opened the floodgates, as it were, and he’s since handed out another for Enterprise’s “A Night in Sickbay”. A few horrible episodes only missed this mark because another is worse, and he tries to preserve the Zero for the absolute worst episodes of each series (“Threshold” for Voyager, “Profit and Lace” for DS9, and “Code of Honor” for TNG.)
A score of 0 is given to the one episode of a series that brings shame to the entire Star Trek franchise by association.
“My Way or JANEWAY”—Chuck measures how his own parody of Captain Janeway would handle each scene, then sees how VOY’s Janeway measures up. He gives up halfway through, after the real Captain’s actions are more extreme than her parody’s.
Keith D.A. Candido gave the fifth-season finale of Highlander, “Archangel,” a 0 out of a 1–10 scale, citing the episode’s introduction of an ancient Zoroastrian demon into the Highlander universe, Richie’s death scene happening as a result of him being handed the Idiot Ball, and a whole bunch of story elements that just don’t make sense.
The Zettai ni Oishii segments of Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende, which feature the cast’s attempts at making a specified dish with unusual ingredients, already has built-in negative values on its ratings scale of –2 to 10. Positive scores are represented by stars, negative scores by skull marks. But on at least one occasion, a dish has been awful enough to get two full skeletons.
For a while, back in the David Tennant run, the Doctor Who website contained episode reviews from a family who gave them a ‘fear factor’ from 1 (mildly scary) to 5 (extremely scary), shown by the children of the family holding up scorecards. For both “Blink” and “The Impossible Planet”, the children apparently made or found scorecards with sixes on them. On the website the overall scores for these episodes are listed as 5.5 (‘Off The Scale’) and 6 (‘Beyond Fear’) respectively.
The show MythBusters, since the second season, has a rating scale of sorts for the myths it tests: “Confirmed” (for a myth which fits the criteria within the original parameters), “Plausible” (for a myth which does not fit the original criteria but has been shown to be possible in realistic circumstances), or “Busted” (for a myth which is not possible anywhere near the original criteria, even if the concept behind it is sound). Quite a few myths have a Meaningless Comparison deviation, such as “Plausible, but ludicrous”.
The myth of being killed by a falling bullet from a gun fired straight up was rated “all of the above,” that is, Busted, Plausible, and Confirmed. This was because they determined that firing a bullet perfectly vertically would make it tumble as it fell back down, and not gain enough velocity to be lethal (Busted); but if the gun is aimed just a few degrees from vertical, the bullet won’t tumble and could kill someone when it lands (Plausible), and a doctor showed them X-ray slides of people who were actually killed in this way (Confirmed).
Musings of an X-Phile is a retro review page devoted to analysing The X-Files. Salome’s aim is to analyse all the episodes and both the movies. (And hopefully all three of them, or more).note As of November 2012, the last review written is “Rush” from season 7 posted on February 28, 2012. The episodes get grades like at school, and only the very best episodes have merited A-plus. The X-Files: Fight the Future review has two parts: one based on the storytelling and the plot, while the other is based on Mulder and Scully’s relationship. The latter got A-plus-plus-plus.
Mark Prindle gave Madonna’s American Life a zero out of ten. While he’s known for often being a Caustic Critic, this was the first (and still only) album to get a zero, and to ‘commemorate’ this he used a new graphic rather than representing the score with those tiny records as usual.
Thrash metal band Flotsam And Jetsam’s debut album Doomsday for the Deceivergot 6 Ks out of a possible 5 from Kerrang! magazine. Kind of a Crowning Moment of Awesome for a relatively obscure band, considering no other album in the magazine’s history has ever received the honour.
The late, great British radio DJ John Peel ranked new songs on his programme on a 5-star system. When he first played “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones—a song which would become his favourite song of all time (lyrics from the song are even on his tombstone)—not only did he play it twice in a row, but he gave it a score of 28 out of 5 Stars.
When Gogol Bordello played Roskilde Festival in 2006, one reviewer gave them 7 out of 6 stars, declaring that he’d draw the last star himself.
The Rap Critic gave No Love by Eminem (featuring Lil Wayne) six stars out of five, possibly as much from shock that Eminem was on form after several years of mediocrity and Lil Wayne showed his poetic chops in the same song as much as anything.
WrestleCrap’s description of the Black Scorpion’s final appearance, where he landed in a spaceship, says, “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the ultimate in stupidity, this rates 178.”
SandTrap, a reviewer of the early days of Pojo's Yu-Gi-Oh! Card of the Day, had a habit of doing this quite often, at one point complaining about the fact that the site disapproved of his giving bad cards ludicrously negative ratings, when all cards are supposed to be rated from 1 to 5. A notable example is in his review of Bite Shoes, a card which he gave a rating of -75 out of 5 and said that he would give anyone using a No-Holds-Barred Beatdownuntil they died.
Also, Super Mario Galaxy on the Italian Official Nintendo Magazine. As the magazine had always been known for being far too generous regarding scores to Nintendo games, readers’ backlash raged. Two years later, they gave its even bettersequel a 10 out of 10.
Polish magazine CD-Action gave Limbo of the Lost a negative score for plagiarism alone.
When the original Wing Commander was released in 1990, it broke several scales in the positive direction. Dragon, for example, rated it as six out of five stars.
Half-Life 2 was awarded an 11/10 by Maximum PC magazine. At the end of a rare-for-that-publication exclusive 5-page spread. If this took place in a gaming magazine, it would indicate an incredible amount of marketing control over the content of the magazine; as it is, with Maximum PC being a hardware-centric publication that happens to review games on occasion, and the long spreads devoted to a single game being a rarity rather than the norm, it just stands out as extreme fanboyism.
Computer Gaming World, which normally bottomed out at 1 star, had an ‘unholy trinity’ of games that received zero: Postal 2, Mistmare, and Dungeon Lords.
Averted by EGM—at the beginning and end of the column’s lifespan, “Seanbaby’s Rest of the Crap” was for games that would warrant zeroes and negative scores on the normal rating scale used by the other reviewers. Pretty much the only reason he was doing this was for the humor value, since, as the very premise states, even the best of the games he reviewed were all the worst in shovelware.
Also played straight: The Guy Game, Mortal Kombat Advance and Ping Pals all received 0.0s from one of the 3 reviewers (with Ping Pals getting two zeroes).
Swedish gaming magazine Super PLAY gave Brütal Legend11/10. There were likely a few reasons for this, one being that ‘this one goes to eleven’ just fits the nature of the game, the other one being that it was the last issue of the magazine and they broke quite a few rules in it.
An in-game example of a similar system, but not used for ratings: In NetHack, wands and other magical items that have magical charges normally have some whole number of charges, between zero and a positive whole number, inclusive. If they run out by being used down to zero, they can (usually) be recharged. If you zap a wand of cancellation (whose spell is meant to erase magical effects) at them, their number of charges is set to –1: They can’t be recharged at all, even if you have scrolls of charging.
The Repton Resource Page rates the difficulty of individual Repton 3 levels on a 0–10 scale. Levels in the Expansion Packs exceeded a ‘10’ rating so often that the scale was changed to “more skulls = harder” without any specific maximum. So far, the highest rating given is 16.
Game Players Magazine gave Cosmic Race a 0% (the only game to ever have this ‘honor’) and even named the rating after the game; the next range up (1–9%) is “Shoot me” just to let the reader know how bad they felt the game was.
Game Pro Magazine, in the January 1997 issue, gave Battle Arena Toshinden URA for the Sega Saturn a 0.5 fun factor. Up until that point, the lowest score a game could get in ANY category (Graphics, Sound, Control, Fun Factor) was a 1.0. This (along with a rather negative fan reaction to the reviewer faces they were using at this time) was probably what prompted Gamepro to change their reviewing faces in the next issue.
Computer + Video Games reviewer Tim Metcalfe, who viewed bullfighting as Sick and Wrong, gave Ole, Toro a 0 (out of 10) in all categories but value, which was "less than 0."
In-game example: the "Turn it up to 11" achievement in Game Dev Tycoon requires that a reviewer give a score of 11/10 in one of your games.
Cucumber Quest uses video-game-styled profile pictures on the cast page that list the characters’ stats. Several of them break the rating scale (notably, Cucumber’s dad has a Jerkass rating that goes right off the side of the page).
Seanbaby gave the Challenge of the Superfriends version of The Riddler a –1. He gave Aquaman a 1. He did explain the logic behind it: Riddler is as useless as an ordinary human being would be against the Superfriends, and then makes it worse by giving away the Legion of Doom’s plans in his puzzles. He’s actually a 2 for the heroes’ side subtracted from his basic 1, making The Riddler, “as useless as an ordinary human being”, a better hero than Aquaman.
At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci obtained a perfect score of 10. While this had technically been possible the whole time, it was deemed impossible to do, so scoreboards could only reach up to 9.99. Her score was displayed as an abysmal 1.00. Whoops. And then, just for good measure, she proceeded to do it six more times. She left the entire gymnastics world gaping in awe as she turned the sport upside down and inside out, and then shook it just to see what came out. It’s still reeling from the aftershocks.
In the aftermath of the 2009 Australian bushfires, authorities introduced a new fire danger category above ‘Extreme’, named ‘Catastrophic—Code Red’.
In physics, the Mohs scale of hardness is defined as capping out at 10 with diamond, which was at the time the hardest substance known to man. Aggregated diamond nanorod, or ‘hyperdiamond’, is much harder than diamond and thus goes off the top of the scale.
Oil prices at Canadian gas stations used to be advertised with large placards that only go up to 99.9 cents/litre. When gas prices finally went through the dollar/litre ceiling in 2009, there was a lot of bitter joking on the streets of Toronto over the ‘suddenly cheap gas’ as gas stations were forced to display the new prices as 4.7 for 104.7 cents/litre.
Hurricane Sandy was renamed ‘Superstorm’ Sandy by many commentators as it wasn’t technically a hurricane by the time it landed, but the size of the storm and destruction it caused was well beyond that of a ‘mere’ tropical storm.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates the safety of cars on a scale of 1–5 stars. The Tesla Motors Model S electric car got a score of 5.4 stars. (Apparently, not having an engine up front gives the Model S a large crumple zone.)
Jewornotjew.com rates how Jewish people are on a scale of 0–15 based on desire, behaviour, and how proud they would be to have them as Jews. Adolf Hitler, naturally, got a –1.
The January 1985 issue of Britain's Car magazine had a comparison test of four "poverty" cars: the Citroen 2CV, the Lada Riva, the Reliant Rialto, and the Skoda Estelle. For the occasion, they made up a rating system called the "Cavalier Rating", where a car got 10 points in a category if it was as good as a Vauxhall Cavalier 1.6 GL and no points if it was as bad as a Fiat 126. The three-wheeled Rialto was given a "handling/stability" rating of -5.
In film critic Leonard Maltin’s movie guide, he gives the movie The Naked Gun 33⅓ a rating of 2⅓ stars, the only time he has given anything a score not in an increment divisible by one-half (or BOMB). In his review of The Naked Gun 2½, he gives it 2½ stars and parenthetically explains, “What else?”
On Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update recurring character Aunt Linda (played by Kristen Wiig) gives such ratings as “seven ‘Ghaaas?’ and one-and-a-half ‘Yougottabe Frigginkiddingme!’” (Note that those were both for one work.)
Lampshaded near the end of season 3 of the American version of The Office: Pam is keeping track of the points that Michael gives various competitors in the office games, but Michael keeps changing the method in which he rates them (i.e., a gold star to the winner of event 1, 10 points for event 2, a checkmark in event 3, etc.). The end result is that Pam can’t convert the scores over between events and has no idea who’s actually winning.
In Red Dwarf, Dave Lister frequently talks about writing Michelin Guides or similar about various settings, resulting in Legion getting a psycho rating of “four and a half chainsaws, maybe five”. Rimmer suggests that the G-Tower from The Tank in series 8 probably gets “the full five slop-out buckets” in the guide to Penal Hell-Holes.
Music critic Anthony Fantano (theneedledrop) gave The Lonely Island’s Turtleneck and Chain 5 dicks out of 10.
When pro wrestling reviewer Scott Keith has to review a particularly horrendous match, and the 5-star to negative 5-star system fails to express how disgusted he is with the product, he breaks out the ‘Hot Poker up the Ass’ rating system. The general idea behind is that he takes one person (usually the main guy responsible for the horrible show, such as Vince Russo) and rates each segment by the number of hot pokers that person deserves to have shoved up their ass for subjecting viewers to it. Kevin Nash and WCW announcer Tony Schiavone have been victims of this as well.
Another example he used once was the ShaneMcMahonUnconditionalReFund, supposedly based on an incident in which a friend of his was sitting behind Shane at a show and got paid actual cash money to quit complaining about the show. Basically, how bad each match was would be measured by the approximate refund amount to justify not complaining about it.
Bryan Alvarez described the nWo Souled Out Pay-Per-View from 1997 as “twenty asses.”
X-Play regularly gives its review scores nonsensical values, usually related to the game being reviewed, somehow.
Penny Arcade has a comic where Gabe and Tycho briefly review Madden 13, ending with a game review score of 9x and 3/(two footballs).
Internet movie reviewer Jeremy Jahns normally rates movies with a descriptive statement, ranging from “Awesometacular!” (the best) and “It’s good time, no alcohol required” (third best) to “Dogshit!” (the worst). He gave The Smurfs 2 “Smurfshit!”
Meaningless Value (‘On a scale of 1–10: Up Yours.’)
Anime and Manga
Zac Bertschy from Anime News Network is infamous for these during the annual season previews, especially harem comedies and ecchi shows. He gave the first episode of Queen's Blade an animated GIF of a smiley face shooting itself in the head out of 5. Kiss X Sis got a Picard facepalm instead of a rating. Infinite Stratos got a rating of “quiet I am trying to nap here”, a preview that cut off into ZZZZZZZZ halfway through, and a video of a cute kitten as a better alternative for something to watch. Also provides an example of an Out of Bounds rating: Zac sarcastically gave Sengoku Collection a 10 out of 5.
Dread Central reviewer Scott Foy’s now trademark “FUCK THIS MOVIE” rating. Foy doesn’t use profanity often, so when one of his reviews contains the phrase (and now rating) “Fuck this movie” it means that the film in question is really bad.
Spill.com (an online movie review site) gives a rating of “Fuck You” for movies they absolutely hated. They’ve got “Full Price!!”, “Matinee!”, “Rental”, and “Some Bullshit!” as the other ratings instead of a numbered scale, but “Fuck you” is not in their regular rating scale. However, sometimes they find so bad and offensive that they can’t even give it “Some old bullshit”, instead resorting to this. Often accompanied with a picture of Korey flipping the bird.
Disaster Movie was the first movie they reviewed to earn this dubious honor.
Vampires Suck in this review. Spill’s video reviews are usually 4–5 minutes long and have the profanity spoken by the reviewers censored. The review is only 44 seconds long, consisting only of a clip from the film, which then cuts to a disgusted Korey staring blankly at the camera for several seconds before issuing his “Fuck You” rating, which this time goes uncensored.
Notable is the fact that he usually watches a movie for a review twice (once just to watch it, and again to take notes) and he was so disgusted with it he refused to watch it again after the first viewing.
Victoria Jackson’s tenure on Saturday Night Live in the late 1980s shaded into this trope. Her rating scale was “4: Pretty good. 3: Best movie ever. 2: Worst movie ever. 1: Pretty good.”
Conan O'Brien does this on occasion with his Clueless Gamerreviews. He usually starts by noting that he’s the worst possible person to review games as the last game he was good at was Pong, and then ends with a completely nonsensical rating—and rating scale.
Conan: Out of an 88—an 88 being pretty good, a 110 being excellent, a 150 being awful, and a 3 being … not bad—I’d give this … a 26 C.
Their rating of Radiohead’s In Rainbows seemed like this: instead of a score, there was an input box for users to submit scores (a reference to the band’s ‘pay what you feel like’ distribution method for this album). However, upon entering a score, the editor’s score (9.3 out of 10) became visible. However, after a site redesign, only the reviewer’s score remains.
They gave Do You Like Rock Music?, the second album by English rockers British Sea Power, the rating of U2.
Cokemachineglow’s alleged review of Starflyer 59’s Dial M (which began with the reviewer admitting that they could not objectively review the album, and immediately derailed into a rage-filled rant against Christian Rock) gave the album a score of “†%”.
Terrorizer magazine gave Sunn O)))’s album Monoliths and Dimensions the rating O))). They actually intended this as a compliment, however, awarding it a glowing review.
Sure, the rating scale of ScrewAttack’s VGR show is pretty idiosyncratic in itself (“Buy It”, “Rent It” and “F It”), but they still do occasionally play with the scale for certain games. For example, Modern Warfare 2 was given a “rent it, just never return it” in protest of Activision’s infamous price hike they demanded for that game.
During his stint at Electronic Gaming Monthly reviewing horrible games, Seanbaby once gave a Trolls game a score of “a picture of a Troll riding a Hotdog.”
DMJared’s “Pro Reviews” have been known to contain this. He has given such ratings as “a kitten goblin out of 10” for Pocky & Rocky, and “a training wheel out of 10” for Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest.
A variant in The Grimoire of Marisa, wherein Marisa rates and offers her opinions on some of the many spellcards in the series. Marisa’s rating scale itself is fairly normal, giving the spellcard a certain number of stars based on her perceived difficulty of “Referencing” the spell. However, she sometimes breaks the “difficulty level” boundary and rates some by “Show-Off Level,” “Temperature,” “Believability,” “Volume,” and “Whimsicalness.”
Top Ten FTW's Top 10 Most Difficult Games introduced a Frustration Index Meter that gave mostly nonsensical scores like "Balls deep in that ass" and "Double Obama Teriyaki"
TOM from Toonami liked Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag that he reviewed it before finishing it, and noted he doesn't want it to end. So he gave it a score of "ARRRRRRRR!"
Zac Bertschy of Anime News Network gave the first episode of Upotte!! a rating of “WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT”.
Paul O’Brien of The X-Axis picked up Quantum and Woody #32, on the assumption that a relaunch of a title, which had as its gimmick that stuff had happened in all the unpublished issues since the cancellation, would be a great out-of-context jumping-on point. He was wrong, and rated it n/a, on the basis that he simply couldn’t judge what someone who knew what the hell was going on might get out of it.
MythBusters (see above) once had a myth fail to yield useful results—the Supersize JATO Rocket Car, because the rocket car blew up before it could launch off the ramp. Adam decided to call this myth “Appropriately Supersized”.
Mixed with Meaningless Comparison in Jon Savage’s review of Nurse With Wound’s 1979 LP Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella for Sounds magazine, in which he gave the album “????? out of five” instead of the usual five stars (he couldn’t decide whether it was ‘pure genius’ or ‘sheer nonsense’).
Similarly, Pitchfork’s review of Robert Pollard’s Relaxation of the Asshole gave it both a 0.0 and a 10.0 (the current version of the site just displays the 0.0 though).
NGamer gave ??% to Bakushow (aka LOL), on the grounds that its score depends entirely on what the player makes of it.
WarioWare: DIY got 100%, as the game itself is one of making games. The thinking was that NGamer made all the games, and NGamer is infallible. Therefore, NGamer’s games must be perfect.
On separate occasions under its previous names (NGC Magazine and N64 Magazine), it awarded scores of ??% to two Japan-only games that they found completely unable to comprehend- GiFTPiA on the Gamecube (which they suspected was probably really good) and Get A Love: Panda Love Unit on the Nintendo 64 (with the mini-review reading “Impenetrable Japanese girlfriend simulator. No, hang on, That Came Out Wrong.”)
Similarly, the UK Nintendo Official Magazine gave a blank space where the percentage score traditionally was for Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution. The review essentially degenerated into a series of screenshots of humorous quotes sent to random online opponents.
PC Gamer UK once gave a terrible University management game XX% and the review was written as a multiple choice exam so the reader could choose the final score. The highest possible was no more that 10% and the lowest was a flat 0.
When TOM from Toonami reviewed Dropship: United Peace Force for the PlayStation 2 the game received a “?” rating. Tom had no idea how to rate the game since he could never get past the sixth level. This was accompanied by repeated footage of TOM losing on that level.
Equestria Gaming has handed out “Ungradeable—??/10” ratings on occasion.
In a case of it being this trope or Readings Are Off the Scale, Symposium of Post-mysticism’s author Akyuu gives ratings for friendliness and power. Unlike Perfect Memento in Strict Sense, which had definite ratings, she actually gives out “Unknown” ratings for when she cannot define the character. Reiuji Utsuho is a unique case: both areas are rated as “Unknown”.
The X-Axis again: Paul didn’t give a rating to the 2004 relaunch of X-Force, holding that judging its quality by any normal standard was beside the point—it was exactly what you’d expect a relaunch of X-Force by Rob Liefeld to be like and therefore, presumably, the people who bought it did so because that’s what they wanted (whether to make fun of it or because they were genuinely fans of the Rob Liefeld style).
Ebert: I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.
There was a review of one of The Toxic Avenger movies that rated it “Stars? Who needs stars?”
A fairly positive example: the website 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting will not give star reviews to movies that either predate the concept of filmmaking (Georges Méliès’ ‘stunt films’) or are not in any state to be objectively reviewed (the stills-based ‘reconstruction’ of the legendarily-lost London After Midnight). These films are still reviewed, but their rating is “Not Applicable”.
A Ramone, who reviews on The Arched Doorwaynote www.archeddoorway.com, once refused to rate a book she hadn't finished; the closest she got was saying she wouldn't recommend it.
A good-natured case of this was when SF Debris reviewed the TNG episode “Family”. While he liked the episode, he refused to rate it because, as he put it, the episode consisted entirely of plot threads which in other episodes would’ve been B plots. He also did this for Doctor Who’s “Vincent and the Doctor”, for the same reason—he could not compare it to other episodes for rating, when it is so different to them.
“What’s most distressing is the possibility that Metal Machine Music isn’t so much a knife slash at his detractors as perhaps a blade turned inward. At its very worst this album suggests masochism. He may be, to shift weaponry images, moving to the center of fire so that we critics-as-assassins can make a clean kill. Fine, Lou, go ahead. Just stand there. Don’t move, But [sic] damned if I’ll squeeze the trigger.”
The writer of the tier system for Dungeons & Dragons 3.5e refuses to give the truenamer class a rating—due to poorly-written formulas, after the first few levels it can’t use its powers at all without extremely heavy Min-Maxing, and even then it’s a Squishy Wizard with worse spells than some Magic Knight classes.
X-Play required any game they reviewed to receive a rating of 1 to 5 stars. Any other rating was not allowed, so games that the hosts felt didn’t deserve even 1 star were never given a review.
Played straight in Sterling’s review of Velvet Assassin, where the game is so horrible he couldn’t finish it and gave it an ‘N/A’ score.
Was also played straight in Sterling’s review of Knight's Contract, where he stated that while he couldn’t give it a score because he did not finish it, he assured readers that “it would not get a ten out of ten”.
Although The Video Game Critic typically grades on a standard A to F scale, he will occasionally give a game an ‘NA’ (ostensibly for ‘Not Applicable’.) This is typically for one of two reasons: Either the game is simply an enhanced remake of another one, or it’s meant for preschoolers and thus it would be slightly unfair for him to give it a grade.
Tomcat Alley, an FMV flight simulator on the Sega CD, was given no score on a scale from 0–100 by a magazine called Interface (“TA claims to be an ‘interactive movie’ and not something as lowly as a mere videogame. And since our business is games it gets no score. No arms, no cookies!”).
Again from The Grimoire of Marisa: Marisa outright refuses to rate the spellcards of Suika and Medicine. Suika because all but one of her moves aren’t even danmaku (her being a fighting game boss who uses brute force), and Medicine because her body can’t handle using poison.
In response to the technical issues involving the Always-On DRM and the disastrous launch, Jonathan Cresswell’s ‘review’ of the 2013 SimCity is nothing more than a fake loading screen and “Estimated load time: <random number> minutes.”
YouTube game reviewer DMJared did something similar in his One-Minute Review of the game. He just showed himself struggling to get into the game, gave up 10 seconds into the review, and just ended it with the line, “F*** it, I’m going to bed,” cutting to a black screen for the rest of the one-minute video.