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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Code Monkeys: Season 1
Code Monkeys: Season 1
Shout Factory // Unrated // August 5, 2008
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted August 11, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
A guilty animated pleasure with an '80s feel

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Animation, the '80s
Likes: Video Games, Atari
Dislikes: Stupid comedy
Hates: Gross-out comedy

The Show
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 Quality
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 Extras
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 background blanks.

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 follow him on Twitter

*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.

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