Saturday, 10 August 2013
Price: Paperback: $8.00/ digital: $6.00
Available at: fangamer.net
"Movie" Bob Chipman is the resident film critic for The Escapist and, if you weren't aware of his Game Overthinker series, is a unashamed Nintendo fan. And I don't mean he has the battered housewife mindset that is associated with your common console zealot. Chipman clearly has a sincere love for all things Nintendo that comes across in his debut book, "SMB.3 Brick By Brick", an ode to Super Mario Bros. 3.
Instead of just writing a drawn out review or essay into why Chipman so loves SMB.3, he has essentially made a "let's play" in novella form. In that he plays through the original NES version of SMB.3 and documents his experience playing through all the worlds, finding all secrets, and all bosses defeated. On top of detailing playing through the game, Chipman goes into the nostalgia from revisiting his favourite Mario game and goes somewhat into the personal connection he has with SMB.3 and why he thinks it's the best Mario game ever.
This isn't a lecture or any kind of review per se, as Chipman is telling you his personal history in video gaming via snippets of his gaming youth and his personal attachment to the Mario Bros. series on top of the analyses and intercut with diary snippets that give a brief look behind the life of a freelance writer, his own personal upheavals while writing the book and what is either an attempt to cultivate a image of a cool, world weary cocktail sipper or a subtle cry for help with a burgeoning drink problem. These personal asides from Chipman's gaming past and present nicely punctuate the catalogued gameplay, and conveys why so many children in the 80s and 90s jumped into the Nintendo-led second age of game consoles in the first place. That video games are one of the few things (if not the only thing) that a child has any real influence over, and probably the only thing they excel at, as it was in young Movie Bob's case. Something any gamer can appreciate. I personally know there are more technically better and critically acclaimed Zelda games, but to me, A Link to the past is the best because it was my introduction to the series and, like SMB.3, it still holds up today as a quality video game. Surroundings change, loved ones leave, but a good video game will always be a good video game. A constant you can always rely on when everything else goes to shit. Of course whether you enjoy these glimpses into Chipman's life depends on your opinion of the man (if any), which, according to the comments section on The Escapist, would be you either see him as a cineast who has the courage of his convictions to speak out over certain negative aspects in geek culture or a self important, nasal whiner with poor taste in facial hair.
That's not to say it's not all about Chipman's personal attachment to the Mario series. The majority of the book is a detailed look into every stage, every possible secret and even every mistake made during the play-through. Compared to your regular "let's play" video it's different in that the commentary isn't hindered due to the player having to concentrate on playing the game and being a professional critic it's put across in a concise manner that pretty much all "lets plays" ever do. Granted, a game play-through that's purely text-based may seem like an alien concept to fans of the likes of Pew Die Pie , Smosh or Something Awful, but chances are you don't know how to read, so this book probably isn't aimed at you anyway. But if you do have two brain cells to rub together or weren't alive during the NES boom-period and would like to know more about it, then Brick By Brick is worth a read.
It's decently priced and in my case arrived fairly quickly to the UK from Fangamer and came with a free badge and a papercraft thwomp for good measure. The quality of the paper and cover isn't amazing (think along the lines of the free novellas Sega Power gave away), that's not to say the pages fall out, but because the small text is printed close to the edge of the page you run the risk of cracking the spine by having to open the book all the way back to read it all. However that and a couple of typos doesn't diminish what is a fresh approach to what is becoming a tired form of games media, and I recommend you get a copy. A good, brisk read and hopefully the first of more books from Chipman