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One Punch Reviews #76: Magical Game Time

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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.

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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).

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on January 21, 2013, in 5 Stars, comedy webcomic, One Punch Reviews, The Webcomic Overlook, video game webcomic, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I really wish the larger comic industry would take a look at what guys like Zac (with a handful of others) are doing with animation/comics hybrids. This is what standard motion comics should be more like. That Halloween Costume Quest comic is perfect to me. Four panels and only one of them has any movement…and it’s kept to a single burning flame. The image remains static enough that it actually remains a comic (and not some kind of crude movie) while introducing the kind of flare that makes the idea of motion comics so appealing in the first place.

    Also, the game you don’t recognize is most likely Battletoads.

    • Darn it! I thought it was Battletoads. My original review draft said Battletoads. But then I thought, “What if it’s some other game with a frog riding a scooter? Then I would look quite the fool!” Then again, I never did play the game. Guess it’s a great example of the comic being funny without getting the reference 100%.

      • webcomicsunited

        That’s Battletoads. Anyone who’s wasted 30% of their childhood having their hopes crushed by that goddamned floating scooter(or rather, the rocks you inevitably will crash into) will never, ever forget.

        In that light, emulator Save States are magnificent tools for long-deserved closure!

  2. The game you didn’t recognize was Battletoads, level 2. I never got past that f**king level.

  3. I love the Earthbound comics.

  4. If you like the animation bits, you should definitely check Thunderpaw (http://thunderpaw.co/), it’s even more creative than in this comic and it serves a purpose in the atmosphere of the story!

  5. Dunno why but most of those links aren’t working for me!

  6. Magical Game Time is a gaming comic that deserves a lot more attention it apparently gets. Then again, I’m yet to hear any negative opinion on it, because… well, it is just damn neat and sweet. And amidst so many gaming comics that aim to be “so edgeh”, it’s really refreshing. It’s right up there with Brawl in the Family and heck, do I love BitF.

  1. Pingback: Random Quickies: Thunderpaw « The Webcomic Overlook

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