One Punch Reviews #76: Magical Game Time
Buckle up, video game fans: the next few months are going to be rocky. Video games have been making the news lately. Recent violent events have been heating up rhetoric not just with regard to gun control/Second Amendment groups, but with video game fans as well. Just a few hours before I wrote this, Ralph Nader was comparing violent video games to “electronic child molestors.” The appearance of some bloody video-game related memorabilia is probably not going to help the game industry’s case.
The likes of Penny Arcade, CAD, and their ilk are likely going to be rallying out the rhetoric pretty soon, I can guarantee you that. I predict that the coming days will be pretty insufferable. I propose an alternative. Let’s remember a time when games were tied to our childhood imaginations. A … Magical Game Time, if you will.
Most video game webcomics take the teenage/young adult track, where the edger things are, the better. Heck, Penny Arcade basically became the top dog of the webcomic kennel primarily for being more ribald than anything you saw in the Sunday funnies. Zac Gorman, though, takes things in a completely opposite direction. For him, games are inextricably tied to the imaginations and innocent memories of childhood.
The game memories, then, are ostensibly about games from the 1980’s. You know, that innocent time before John Romero and John Carmack flipped everything around with a little thing called Doom. The characters were all simple pixels with very little background. The set-up is so simplistic that it’s not unlike having stuffed animals: there’s nothing there beyond a starting image, the better to launch a million imaginative stories from. (This is basically the same reason why ShiftyLook can craft stories out of whole cloth and still remain canon: the original characters are such blank slates that any story is legit.)
The strips, then, are intertwined with the promise and adventure of growing up. A recent strip shows Mega Man character, Roll, sweeping stuff around the lab. She reflects: “Courage isn’t always a big, flashy spectacle.” It’s a comic that serves a dual purpose: to see how Zac Gorman draws Roll, and to capture a poignant, Zen-like moment reflecting on the big dreams of growing up. Another, which was posted for Halloween, illustrated the magnitude of a child’s imagination: the tiny bodies are the costume, while the Statue of Liberty, the robot, and the knight are the real identities. It has the sweetness of a Precious Moments figurine but without most of the treacle.
There’s also a comic where Abobo from Double Dragon writes on the back of a naked woman. And even that is still kinda sweet.
Granted, a lot of your enjoyment of Magical Game Time is going to depend on how old you are. Many of the gags are more or less from the “Hey! I remember that!” playbook. (Game Genie! The Duck Tales game! I remember that!) And I suspect that the observations may be colored by the eyes of an adult, idealizing childhood perhaps too much.
However, there’s plenty of stuff here for the non-old-school gamers. Exhibit A: Zac Gorman’s art. Appropriately, they’re reminiscent of the sort of drawings a grade-schooler would make, an advanced version of the stuff that would be scrawled with love and hung on the refrigerator door. Yet, unlike an actual child’s drawing, it’s legible. All the whimsy, none of the pitfalls.
Exhibit B: the animation. Mr. Gorman loves to toss in animation. Magical Game Time, in fact, probably has more animated panels per square inch than any other webcomic I’ve ever read. It’s simple yet effective, and it’s used more fluidly than any other webcomic I’ve seen. One comic (from a game I don’t recognize) uses perhaps the most complex animation to make the first panel look like a scrolling video game level. This is probably why the animation works so well with this comic: 80’s video games were pretty choppy anyway (something that the recent movie, Wreck-It Ralph, embraced as a running gag). The looping animations just seem all sorts of perfect.
Final Rating: 5 stars (out of 5).