Rob McCallum (producer/retro gaming enthusiast) has challenged his best friend Jay Bartlett, a Nintendo obsessive, to find every North American Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) game in 30 days. And he is not allowed to use the internet. Although he has quite a decent collection, he has to start from scratch, and the only way to get them is to do it old school, head out to the game stores or see what your friends are willing to part with. Even though Jay is not allowed to use the internet to aid him, it isn’t divulged how they are made aware of the various stores and collectors that are visited throughout the film.
It’s a premise which had potential for a fun, retro gaming themed road trip across North America, but what we got was a staggered excursion to a few shops, which had very little of the running time spent in them. Although the film is about the quest, it felt like the games being collected were cast aside and forgotten about as soon as they were purchased. The title of some of the games would be mentioned and that’s it. No discussion, no real look into the retailers catalogues, just in, oot, forgotten aboot. Add to that, the mindset of the guy on the quest seemed to be less than stable, with some of the film focussed on how he’s struggling to cope with life. It seems to get a little too personal for a film about driving several hours to find video games.
There are several prolific American games personalities used as talking heads in the film, but they only seem to be used to book end the movie, and while the film does go off on a tangent sometimes, the high profile interviews are left out for the majority in favour of actual collectors, talking about their own experiences. There’s many points of interest in the movie, and it’s nice to see clips of the nes games in action, but you be forgiven for forgetting this is actually about Videogames at some parts of the film. The amount of money spent on some of the rarer titles is ridiculous. That said, the amount of money spent isn’t divulged for the most part, which disappoints, as we know there’s a budget and seeing prices paid and how much is left in the pot would have been better, as you feel like you’re left in the dark as to how much is left and how much has been spent, which would have at least added a bit more drama to proceedings. Although there is a ‘life bar’ graphic depicting the amount of money left in the budget, without knowing what was in the pot to begin with loses some of the dramatic edge.
Although there’s hardly been a positive word said so far, it’s by no means a bad film. For anyone who fell in love with video games back in the 80’s it’s a great trip down memory lane, seeing some of the great titles from back in the day, and for those that weren’t around, there’s plenty of retrospectives on the NES and the culture it created in America back in those days, and the longevity of the console. This may appeal more to those new to the retro gaming scene, and the road trip is an interesting concept but it does tend to wander in other directions at times and it can be a struggle to warm to Jay and Rob.