by J.W. Wargo
BWEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!! Toss in another quarter, don’t let the bastard die! Who the fuck thought to bury all those Atari cartridges in New “No Lives Here So Let’s Test Another Nuke” Mexico? Don’t they know what happens when anything is introduced to radioactivity?? Haven’t they seen GODZILLA???
No and no. No they don’t and no they didn’t. Plastic shit mixes underground with isotopes, and before too long there’s a giant video game cartridge attacking Denver. It wants to play, but it plays hard and to the death. Who among the masses of Coloradans can challenge this 6507 processing monstrosity!?
As a boy, he dominated these games. But that was then and this is now. A critical loss at a big tournament has left him a shell of his former self, sweating for shit pay in a cheesy costume and fantasizing about whispering Russian women or Korean massage specialists. Today, he might be the last hope for humanity.
All Jimmy Toledo really wants, I think, is to meet a nice girl he can talk with and occasionally maybe make body contact with. He never had the chance in his younger years, he was too busy winning arcade tournaments in the early 80’s under the guidance of a domineering father.
Hiding himself behind a mask at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, Jimmy had effectively given up on any sort
of social interaction with the world. He was content enough just going to his mind’s happy place instead. Amazingly, when the giant cartridge showed up, his natural instincts take control and he fights back the only way he knows how, by playing the games.
Jimmy is a one player kind of guy, so there aren’t too many other major characters showing up. There’s some G-men types reinforcing him, and the beautiful whispering voice of a Russian women talking to her cat on his iPod, but the focus here is the man-boy and his reemergence into the world after crushing defeat destroyed him.
The cartridge still works after 30 years. That’s a god damn miracle of modern science is what that is.
Redemption is a lot easier in the video games. You just press “reset” and try again. No matter how many times you fail, you always get another chance. The best part is that by playing the same scenario out over and over, knowing that the programmed actions and behaviors of your adversaries never change, close observation and trained hand-to-eye coordination will ensure an eventual victory.
Our protagonist does not have that kind of assurance in this situation. In fact, the slightest mistake could end with himself, others, or everyone dead. But I believe that kind of pressure can be a boon if total collapse does not befall the psyche. It can be the motivation to take up a cause, and Jimmy needs to muster everything he has got to break through his past and show the world he is still a champion.
Ms. Billings has crafted a smart and funny trip through the underdog’s redemption story. The plot runs and guns across utter disaster after certain doom and never depletes it ammo. It begs the question that for all the uncertainty that clouds our lives, could it be that we are who we are so in that one moment when everything aligns, we are the answer to the problem?
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8-Bit Apocalypse on Amazon.com
J.W. Wargo is a writer and author of his own NBAS book, Avoiding Mortimer, which died tragically in a Nazi book burning party and we hope can afford to spend eternity in the Resort. You can also read about the crazy shit he gets into while hitchhiking the world over at Imperial Youth Review.