REVIEW: If you’re a fan of Stranger Things or documentaries like The King of Kong and Atari: Game Over, then you’re going to love Netflix’s High Score.
It looks back at a time before the internet and cellphones. When California’s Silicon Valley was still 80 per cent prune orchids and The Muppets had their own TV show for the first time. Blockbuster movies like Jaws and Star Wars had revitalised cinemagoing, but both kids and adults were desperately seeking entertainment that was less passive.
Pong had proved the addictiveness of gaming, but only now was there a concerted effort to try and come up with the next evolution for both at home and in a public space.
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France Costrel’s excellent six-part series takes an enlightening, entertaining and evocative look back at the period when video game arcades and home consoles first swept the globe.
Via a fabulous combination of impressive archive footage, cute and clever eight-bit graphic re-enactments and interviews with some of the leading lights (and a diverse range of unsung heroes) from the era, Costrel and co. tell the stories behind some of the world’s most popular games.
In just the first episode, you’ll see Tomohiro Nishikado’s original Space Invaders sketches and how its original release led to a shortage of 100 Yen coins in Japan. You’ll discover that Pac-Man was inspired by a restaurant visit and designed to attract female gamers. And you’ll hear the sad, mad story of the “worst game ever made” (“it was nothing to phone home about,” its creator jokes) – a bomb of such epic proportions it ruined Christmas and arguably, eventually destroyed Atari.
Later instalments look at the influence of Nintendo and Sega and the controversy caused by “violent games” such as Street Fighter.
Narrated by Nintendo’s Mario himself, Charles Martinet, High Score offers a potent dose of pop-culture nostalgia, greatly enhanced via a series of engrossing personal triumphs and tragedies. And that’s what makes it a must watch for any child of the 1970s and ‘80s.