In 10 Words or Less
A guilty animated pleasure with an '80s feel
Loves: Animation, the '80s
Likes: Video Games, Atari
Dislikes: Stupid comedy
Hates: Gross-out comedy
For those who don't tune into G4, the cable network has (or at least
had) a very clear mission: serve video game players. Sure, airing shows
like "Cheaters" and "Cops" dilutes the focus, making it into a sister
channel of sorts to Spike TV, but overall, G4 caters to people who play
video games. So when looking to expand their offerings, the solution was
obvious: a cartoon about video games. The result could have been a lame
show full of inside jokes about World of Warcraft and Halo set in a
video game, drawing in only hardcore gamers.
Instead, tapping "Minoriteam" co-creator Adam de la Pena, they developed
a show about the people who make video games, and set it in an era known
to a wider audience, namely the nostalgia-friendly 1980s. Thus, we have
a series focusing on Dave, Jerry and the staff at mid-major publisher
GameAvision (run by Apple co-creator Steve Wozniak.) An odd couple, Dave
is an utter hedonist, while Jerry worriedly goes along with what's
happening, showing a bit of backbone once in a rare while (though only
when it's too late.) When Dave causes trouble each episode, Jerry has to
try and fix it or face the consequences, normally threatened by the
company's insane new owner, Texan moneyman Mr. Larrity.
While there are certainly a number of jokes aimed at the hardcore, like
appearance by a pint-sized child prodigy named Dave Jaffe or Oddworld
creator Lorne Lanning, the majority of the jokes are powered by the
utterly inappropriate behavior of the staff, including Asian child
slave/game tester Benny, reality-denying social outcast Todd and
Clarence, a music designer who's so flamboyantly light in the loafers,
he can actually fly. Obviously, if the "Minoriteam" pedigree didn't clue
you in, this is not a politically-correct show. Anything goes on "Code
Monkeys," but when it's done here, it's practically cute.
That mainly because of the look. When I first checked this series out,
the thing that struck me was the animation. Done in a style that looks
like the blocky 8-bit graphics of '80s video games, with all the
appropriate touches like life meters and score-boards, the show was
actually hard to watch on a big screen. Taking that art style and
stretching it over a 42-inch TV creates something similar to abstract
art. After a while though, it gets a bit easier to enjoy, especially
when the animation mimics the look of iconic games, like "Spy Hunter."
Here on DVD, you can actually appreciate all the gags placed on the
edges of the screen, free from G4's obnoxious on-screen graphics. The
little jokes are the comedy equivalent of a news ticker and make sure
there's not a bit of "dead air" to be had.
Of the first-season episodes, it would be hard to finger any stand-outs,
as the jokes start to fuzz together, but the sense of humor becomes
noticeably more consistent and aggressive as the season progresses, with
"Todd Loses His Mind" being a high-point, as his insane "Pardue's Quest"
is equally hilarious and sad. Video-game fans though, will especially
enjoy "E.T.", a fictional retelling of one of grandest failures in the
history of gaming. It would have been great if it actually happened this
way, but we'll have to just be satisfied with this animated "What if?"
The first 13 episodes of "Code Monkeys" are split between two DVDs,
which are packed in a clear, standard-width keepcase with a tray for the
second disc, a two-sided cover and an insert that lists the disc
contents. The DVDs feature appealing animated, full-frame, video-game
style menus that offer options to play all the episodes, select
individual shows and check out the bonus features. There are no audio
options, no subtitles and surprisingly no closed captioning. Also surprisingly, these episodes are still censored, so the cursing is bleeped.
The fulI-frame transfers show the series' unique animation style in
excellent quality, with bright, bold color and a sharp image that's
naturally free of dirt or damage, and which displays no noticeable
compression artifacts. There's some occasional ringing or haloing along
the hard-edges of the characters, but overall, it looks better than it
ever has on TV.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio tracks are crisp and clean, ensuring the
dialogue can be heard easily, and the music and sound effects, which are
perfect representations of '80s video game sound, come across clearly.
The core extras feature series creator de la Pena, as he talks about how
the show is made. In the first featurette, he answers question about the
series, covering the details fans would be curious about, including
creative decisions and guest stars, while the other is a tour of the
"Code Monkeys" offices, where de la Pena shows off where the series is
created. In the absence of any commentators, these help fill in the
Some odds and ends fill out the package, including a pair of commercials
for GameAvision games, a Kristin Holt "Cheat!" segment on a GameAvision
title and a selection of the best pranks from the show. Pop the disc
into your computer and you can download posters from the show (taken
from the series' cutscenes), desktop wallpaper and a pair of GameAvision
games that are amusing for at least one go-round.
The Bottom Line
The show takes some time before finding its voice, trying to establish
the characters and the world of GameAvision, but once they are all set,
the show is off and running. The DVDs look and sound great, and there
are a few limited extras for fans to enjoy. Yes, there's a heavy video-game flavor to the show, which
gives those in the know an added level of enjoyment, but if you can
enjoy a seriously maladjusted cast of characters screw up and slack off with a distinctly '80s vive,
you can enjoy this series and its uniquely charming animation.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.