Wreck It Ralph: The Geekiest Retro Gaming Film Ever?

When I saw Wreck It Ralph advertised, I was impressed by the concept of retro games characters coming to life, but concerned that the end result would be patronising, if not insulting, to fans. My fears were put to rest when I saw the film. It is, quite honestly, an absolute geeky joy to watch.

The premise is simple enough, and very reminiscent of Pixar's Toy Story. When all the humans leave the arcade for the night, characters from machines come alive and are able to use the power cables connecting them to interact with each other in a place called Games Central Station. The titular character Ralph is spends his days enacting the “bad guy” part, but at nights when the game is not in play he dreams of being a “good guy” instead, and so he goes off on an adventure to other game machines in search of his dream.

The plot, though I thought it to be predictable at first, actually surprised me several times, and I found the script to be witty and with humor that was suitable for the whole family. The wonderful thing about it is that an avid gamer can enjoy this film, but so can someone who has never played a computer game in their lives. There are plenty of “in-jokes”, special cameos and even hints to classic games inside the soundtrack (click for a YouTube video of one of the tracks) for those of us “in the know”, and for those of us not, it is just good fun.

Many retro games characters can be seen in this promotional image for the film
Each arcade game who's world we visit is clearly inspired by ones that we know, from the arcades and from home consoles. Fix-It Felix Jr is an 8-bit inspired game, Hero's Duty is clearly a “take” on shooters such as Halo, and the colorful racing game Sugar Rush I see as their own interpretation of games such as Mario Cart.

Cameos include Sonic The Hedgehog, Pacman 'Ghost' Clyde, Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter, and my personal favourite, Q*bert. There is even graffiti on the wall at the Games Central Station with geeky references, though I shall let you spot them for yourself.

Not convinced? Even watching the various trailers, “TV Spots” and Behind The Scenes documentaries, you can see the sheer levels of geekiness, and how much time, care and love has gone into giving this game-themed film the feel of gaming come to life.

In one video on the official website, the creative team talks about how they designed each original game that is featured in the film to be very much inspired by existing games, and how the appearance and characters have been made to reflect the eras and styles. For instance, in Ralph's game, Fix-It Felix Jr, all of the characters when they come to life move in a very 2D, squared manner, even when they dance, and the characters from the newest addition to the arcade, the modern shooter Hero's Duty, are “HD” (as stated by the low definition characters looking on in awe) and move far more fluently.

This fake trailer (below) for the Fix-It Felix Jr arcade game created to promote the film is a nod to the old days, and shows how much geeky love has gone into production.

I had a fantastic time playing “Spot The Geeky References” and “Name That Character” with my geeky co-viewer, and I have no doubt that you all will, too. It is a funny, heart-felt, geeky, all-around enjoyable family film and possibly one of the geekiest, game-y-est films ever created. I highly recommend it.

The only fault that I can find with this is that after watching the film, I really felt like I wanted more. Thankfully, a sequel was recently announced, and though no plot nor script has been developed as yet, the cast will be returning and in an interview, director Rich Moore spoke of the possibility of Super Mario appearing, and that they barely scratched the surface” of the video game world, and there is lots and lots more that can be done. Very promising news indeed.

In the meanwhile, on the official website you can actually play the three main games seen in the film and challenge your friends to beat your scores. There is also a console game based after the events of the film which plays like a classic platformer, and Ralph can be unlocked as a playable character in Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed.

Here is the trailer to wet your appetites. You can even spot some of those cameos right here... 

The film is available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray now on Region 1 (US), and is showing at UK cinemas now.

Article credit: Illisia Adams.

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