After loading up Wreck it Ralph, a welcome familiarity soon sets in.
Inhabiting the similarly themed story worlds as Toy Story and Monsters.Inc, this time with arcade game characters coming to life after the kids have spent all their coin(s), Disney proves again that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!
Appealing to children and parents alike, the formula is still solid and relevant. More than ever here it’s as enjoyable for gamers of yesteryear – todays Mums and Dads, with a reminiscing trip of all that was great in games with references that are no doubt lost on today’s digital kids.
Pressing START, we get a voiced over introduction of Ralph (John C. Reilly), chief villain and wrecker in retro game ‘Fix it Felix’. Tired of being underappreciated and misrepresented as the bad guy, thirty year veteran Ralph just wants to one day – save the day, taking matters into his own ham-hands to find another pixelated world to have his hero day in the sun, ushering in a glorious trip across multiple gaming worlds all within the inner space of the outer world arcade.
Ralph’s expansive little big planet worlds are a delight to behold, beautifully crafted and highly technical, they’re the type of roaming electric realms gamers would love to control!
The Halo – Gears of War hybrid ‘Hero Duty’ world plays brilliantly to introduce badass heroin Calhoun (Jane Lynch) with a pulsating, high adrenaline set piece while the speed racer world of ‘Sugar Rush’ looks sweet enough to lick, presenting the button nosed, cute as can be ‘glitch’ Vanellope (Sarah Silverman)
But it’s not just the visual candy that pleases the most, thematically, Ralph is brilliant too, with misfits Ralph and Vanellope joining forces to find a place within their own worlds, outsiders just wanting to belong and be loved. The central friendship is as sweet as the candy-land itself, it’s far more human than digital. In-game champion Felix (Jack McBrayer), too goes on a journey of true heroism, a celebrity in his own game, out of his depth in the wider world.
The main game nasty, King Candy (Alan Tudyk) is pretty tame with a far more perilous end boss battle coming too late to create a genuinely memorable Disney Villain, but the voice casting all round is absolutely spot on, all fitting perfectly with their digital personas from Reilly’s familiar goofyness and heart to McBrayer’s plucky innocence, with strong and welcome female leads coming from fellow Talladegan (Nights) Lynch who just pips the occasionally vexing kart racing Silverman.
You don’t need to be a gamer, retro or otherwise to enjoy what is a beautiful piece of pixelated storytelling, and it may actually prove more distracting to the initiated as the eye turns towards the background, playing out as a gaming Easter egg hunt. The inevitable bill-boarding of big game brands and characters at times feels cynical but is thankfully not too overbearing allowing a warm feeling of gaming nostalgia to flow through Ralph, with conjured heart felt (thirty-something) gaming memories just as fluffy as the on-screen warming heart.
Whether you like your pixels old school blocky or hi-def, by staying true to its brilliant core of relatable digital characters, wonderful storytelling and gorgeous worlds, Disney has done it yet again, proving that it will never, ever likely be GAME OVER, no matter what age or worlds those electronic adventures take us too.