Friday, 28 October 2016

Man Vs. Snake

Title: Man Vs. Snake
Director: Andrew Seklir / Tim Kinzy
Released: 2016

Plot: Documentary following Tim Mcvey in his attempts to reclaim his world record score he set on “Nibbler” in 1984.

Review: Since the release of “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” there has been a lingering desire to see a follow up. After all it was like the nerd version of Rocky and if he can come back for a further six rounds surely there had to be another championship fight in the video game community right? Sneaking under the radar as it suddenly showed up on Netflix with little to no fanfare I really wasn’t expecting much from this latest video game documentary, but due to being compelled it would seem to watch every documentary on the subject which comes out I gave it a watch only to finally find the spiritual sequel that I had long been looking for. 

Focusing on “Nibbler” which as Tim McVey openly admits might be considered one of the big classic games along the likes of “Pac-Man” and “Donkey Kong” its just not one of the most well known ones much like its record holder McVey who before this documentary would likely be a name that no one would have known if asked to named a champion gamer, even his work colleagues can hardly believe that this quiet and permanently laid back guy would hold such a record let alone have been given the key to the city for his achievement. 

McVey is instantly likeable from the first time we are introduced to him, while his record breaking game as recounted by him you would hardly think that it was such a momentous feat which took him two consecutive days of gaming to achieve his Billion point score, with the highlight it would seem coming from his mom making his mac and cheese when he finally stumbled home with his record. Like Steve Wiebe in “King of Kong” McVey is another everyman gamer whose biggest achievement was winning his record. 

While he might not have created the same kind of legacy off his record as Donkey Kong / Pac-Man champion Billy Mitchell might have with his hot sauce business, McVey is still spurned into reclaiming his record when he learns that it was beaten a year after he set it by Italian gamer Enrico Zanetti but as Twin Galaxies offical Walter Day explains because the event was never recorded or witnessed by any the Twin Galaxies officials the score was never logged so McVey could technically just be happy as the named record holder but instead it spurns him into action to try and beat Zanetti’s score and setting in motion the events which form the main focus of the documentary. 

Not content with following McVey in his attempts to reclaim his record all these years later, there seems to be an overwhelming effort by directors Andrew Seklir / Tim Kinzy to create the same kind of rivalry that we saw between Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell in “King of Kong” which really isn’t needed but alas they still try with Zanetti who could be seen as the Itallian Billy Mitchell especially with the pair sharing a world view but even with the ongoing dispute over his record validation its clear he’s moved on from his gaming days and has little interest in defending the title. Enter Dwayne Richard another old school gamer with a reputation for being able to recognise patterns in games which makes him the guy to beat. 

Inbetween the expected footage of both gamers standing in front their machines and subjecting themselves to insane periods of continuous gameplay to build up the disposable extra lives which will afford them a break. We also get bursts of animation for the recollections from the gamers of their previous attempts and helping to break up the documentary from being just another talking head heavy documentary while keeping the tone lighthearted and fun. 

To the credit of the film both McVey and Richard are fascinating subjects with McVey’s likeable and permanently laid back nature against the more oddball and hyper Richard. Frustratingly the desire for a rivalry and conflict does see Richard being portrayed similar to Billy Mitchell in “King of Kong” especially when a board glitch is found to give him an unfair advantage during the pair’s showdown at MAGFEST, the controversy surrounding it being made to seem like he planned this despite Richard upon finding out about this issue withdrawing his score. 

One of the issues the film makers encountered though was the lack of support from the retro gaming community outside of Twin Galaxies Head Official Walter Day and Billy Mitchell who both return for this documentary, while other people in the community where reluctant to be involved due to how they might be perceived. Billy Mitchell essentially gives us more of what we saw in “King of Kong” while providing some insight into the mindset of the players chasing these record scores. Walter Day meanwhile provides more of an insight into his background as he talks about going from dropping acid to discovering transcendental meditation as he only continues to grow all the more fascinating as a character the more of these appearances we see from him and making me wonder how long its going to be until he gets his own documentary?

A fantastic companion piece to “King of Kong” with a light hearted and once more surprisingly insightful look once more into the world of competitive retro gaming.

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