Old-school characters redrawn
Issue date: 5/5/06 Section: Entertainment
I am 8-bit proves to be truly unique immediately, due to the Ms. Pac-Mac grenade displayed prominently on the cover. Surprisingly, the Pac-Man grenades are not the only intensely captivating pieces of artwork featured in the collection. In fact, the range of style is so varied throughout the book that at least one work is guaranteed to grab a person's attention, no matter what his or her own particular style may be. From Greg "Craolo" Simkins' gothic portrayal of the Pac-Man ghosts to Katie Rice's manga-style "Girls of Nintendo" series to Jose Emroca Flores' "The M.K." (a realistic presentation of Mario, the Princess, and the Mushroom Kingdom). And then there's Jason Sho Green's "Putting the Super in Mario", with a nude Peach in bed awaiting Mario, who's frantically studying the Konami code. Seriously, all styles are covered.
The physical construction of the book is decent with respect to its price. While the book's cover is only heavy paper and thus susceptible to fraying, the glossy paper within seems fairly well protected. The layout is well done, with the artwork as the main attraction, occasionally coinciding with quotes from the artist or a highlighted portion of the same piece to bring out some subtle detail (such as a child's eye reflecting back a Space Invaders screen). However, certain areas seem to place more focus on the layout than the artwork.
The only true disappointment to be found with this book is not an actual manufacturing issue, but more of a social one. By far, the most numerous works are based on the Super Mario Bros. games. While the fact that Mario has stolen hours from every gamer is obvious, the power Miyamoto's creation has over so many can only be realized in print. To think that most gamers recall Mario above other compelling titles such as Galaga, Tetris, and Space Invaders so much truly reflects something about the gaming culture as a whole (other than we're all suckers for Italians in red-overalls). Nevertheless, some more variety would have been a pleasant addition.
While attending the "I am 8-bit" exhibit is something I would highly recommend, the difficulty of crossing the United States may prove problematic. Fortunately, the I am 8-bit art book will suffice for those wishing to attend but unable to make the journey. Even for gamers with little desire to attend the gallery, I am 8-bit would be a nice addition to the coffee table, as flipping through the book and noticing subtleties in the artwork (like a wheelchair bound Pac-Man with yellow pellets in his IV) is in itself rewarding. Those that are interested in art and have a background of sore thumbs should consider the book a no-brainer. While non-gamers may appreciate the artwork, the true appreciation for the materials presented will most likely be lost and, as such, may wish to hold back on a purchase before flipping through.