[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham on topics spanning Portal 2, differentiating gore in Mortal Kombat, and helping mothers recover through games.]

Another week, another corralling together of the week’s best words written about video games. It’s This Week In Video Game Criticism, and here we go.

At the Groping the Elephant blog, Justin Keverne is still annotating his walkthrough of Thief levels. His latest is Part 6 of the ‘Life of the Party’ map.

Elsewhere, I had hoped to have seen the end of gamification discussion, but Ian Bogost dredges it up once more for what I hope is the final (and perhaps definitive) time in his Gamasutra column: Why the word ‘Gamification’ is deceptive and should really be called Exploitationware.

At Paste Magazine today Garrett Martin goes to PAX East and is confronted by an overabundance of over-enthusiasm: "I was standing in one of these lines somewhere at PAX East when it hit me: the easiest way to feel like an outsider is to hang around people who obsess over something you like."

Counter-point: Alex Raymond at the While Not Finished blog takes issue with Martin’s attitude, and argues for viewing the over-enthusiastic convention attendee with a degree more understanding.

Mitch Dyer and his cadre of cads at the Down Write Fierce blog has lied to us all: "…every review you read on DownWriteFierce in the month of April 2011 was a complete and utter sham. Where earlier endeavors involved simply challenging ourselves as writers to condense content into pocket-sized write-ups, we went in with a new angle this year. Our goal was to poke fun at game reviews by bullshitting our way through them."

Before we leave Paste Magazine for the week, the grand conclusion to Leigh and Kirk’s FFVII letter series is out and is a fitting reflection upon the community the game has engendered in the years since 1997.

Portal 2 is still inspiring its fair share of analysis. First, at the Brainy Gamer blog, Michael Abbott wrote a thoroughly even-handed critique of Portal 2 that pins down some of the areas where the sequel fails to capture some of the magical essence of the first. Along the way it looks at that ever elusive narrative/gameplay link:

"Narrative games have long struggled to forge a plausible bond between mechanics and storytelling. We shoot, drive, and fight in games because that’s what games know how to do. We try our best to naturally fuse gameplay and storytelling…which works great if your game is about hunting down a Russian ultranationalist, but maybe not so great if your game is about finding a missing child."

Gus Mastrapa has been playing Portal 2 and doing some trendspotting for Joystick Division: he feels that ‘The Writing is on the Wall For the Writing on Video Game Walls.’ And in the last of the Portal 2 stuff, Layton Shumway has an excellent piece at Bitmob this week about ‘GLaDOS, Wheatley, and fear in Portal 2’.

Brad Gallaway at the Drinking Coffee Cola blog wonders, ‘Can Mortal Kombat survive without the Ultraviolence?’ : "Back in the day when MK first hit the scene, it was pretty clear to anyone with half a brain that the game itself could not hold a candle to any of the Japanese-produced fighters at the time... If not for the graphic level of violence, I have no doubt that MK would have faded away with barely a whisper, like so many other subpar titles at that time."

Blogger ‘wundergeek’ at the Go Make Me A Sandwich blog points out another notable female character done right: Femshep, the one true Shepard. In a similar vein, Quinnae Moongazer at The Border House looks at ‘The Twenty Millennia Decade: Military Women in a Galaxy Far, Far Away’, aka some of the women from the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series.

Joel Goodwin at the Electron Dance blog has a great piece this week called ‘The retired gambler’, wherein he wonders ‘Is it just me?’ or if it’s actually the games themselves: "When I played the time trial mode in Mirror’s Edge, I just didn’t sense any gradual improvement in my skills... I understood what I had to do in my brain. But there was a disconnect somewhere along the wire between brain, hand, mouse, CPU, graphics card and monitor."

Your mother’s a gamer. Well, the mother of the Your Critic Is In Another Castle blogger is, at any rate: "…she had some brain & neurological problems in 2009 and 2010. During her recovery, doctors told her and my dad that she needed to keep her brain active... So of course, I did what any gamer would: I thought, 'Mom needs Brain Age.'"

And to cap off the week, Scott Juster at PopMatters’ Moving Pixels blog talks about knife-wielding rabbits and the impact of expectations on indie third person beat 'em-up/wild-animal-em-up Lugaru HD.