Full disclosure: I received a free copy of 8-Bit Christmas from the author and DB Press in exchange for an honest review.
8-Bit Christmas follows nine-year-old Jake, who just really wants a Nintendo for Christmas. It’s the 80’s, it’s the cool new thing, and only the richest, most annoying kid in town has one. There’s a fierce competition to use his Nintendo, culminating in children trading in their favorite toys for just a few minutes or hours of play. Jake’s had enough of this nonsense and decides he’s going to get his own Nintendo by whatever means necessary. He participates in a Cub Scout wreath-selling competition, teams up with his little sister to convince their parents to buy their most-desired presents, asks his relatives and Santa for a NES, and even resolves to buy his own if it comes to that. But after a disaster involving a dead dog, Nintendo is banned in the county where Jake lives and suddenly it doesn’t look like a very likely Christmas present. Will Jake end up with the NES, or will he end up with something even better?
8-Bit Christmas is entertaining. I’ll give it that. It’s a quick read and I enjoyed the pop culture references, although some of them are a bit before my time. What it lacks, however, is a cohesive plot. It often feels like a bunch of funny anecdotes about Nintendo linked together with other funny anecdotes about unrelated things, with a He-Man or Cabbage Patch Doll reference thrown in for good measure. The author will go on about Jake’s latest scheme to procure a Nintendo, only to philosophize about midwest winters for several pages. Then we’re back to the Nintendo for awhile before switching gears entirely and hearing about Jake’s obsession with crush on his art teacher. I feel like 8-Bit Christmas might make a better film than a book – after all, I did enjoy Assassination of a High School President, a film written by Jakubowski.
Still, it’s not all bad. I laughed out loud on several occasions and read the majority of the book over about three days. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I were about ten years older, or if video games had been a big part of my childhood. If you were in elementary school during the mid-80’s and got caught up in the Nintendo whirlwind, you’ll probably enjoy it more than I did.
Final rating: ★★★☆☆