Mar 13, 2010

The 8-bit Book 1981 to 199X

The aptly titled 8-bit Book 1981 to 199X (link) is the third and final book of the Golden Years trilogy by excellent indie publisher hiive books. It is thus complimentary to the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 books and, as expected, follows their template, though simultaneously changing and broadening their focus. The 8-bit Book, you see, covers over 200 games released for such diverse machines as the BBC Micro, the Amstrad CPC, the VIC-20, the MSX, the Dragon 32, the Oric-1, my personal favourite Texas Instruments TI-99/4A, the Atari 8-bits, Sinclair's ZX81, the Apple II and even the Sam Coupe. Not that the Speccy and the C64 are ignored, mind; far from it. It's just that only games that were missed from the previous books are dealt with. Oh, and don't expect any consoles in the book. This is all about the glory of the 8-bit micros.

The book is divided into 10 chapters. The first nine each cover one year worth of games, while the last one all those late 90s releases. Interestingly, every chapter starts with a prologue that briefly describes each period, whereas the book begins with an excellent foreword by David Braben of Elite fame.

As is the case with the rest of the books of the series, each page of The 8-bit Book covers one game and presents it complete with all the relevant info you might care for, a description of the game and an eclectic selection of pictures covering everything from screenshots, to game boxes, to cartridges and loading screens. As for the accompanying text itself, it's very well written and higly informative, not only describing the game itself, but also (among other things) providing behind the scenes information, mentionig reviews of the era, sequels and even remakes. I guess that by having a look at the freely available ZX Spectrum Book you'll have a not-so-rough idea of what to expect.The games covered range from well known classics like 3D Monster Maze, Elite and Miner 2049er, to platform specific hits such as Frak!, Get Dexter and TI Invaders, to less played versions of well known games such as Manic Miner for the Sam Coupe, to brilliant obscurities like Forty Miner and everything in between. What's more, The 8-bit Book has quite a few articles on games from every conceivable genre, almost equally covering all included formats and even sporting a few oddities that showcase the creativity and imagination of 8-bit developers.

All in all, expect a truly varied read that effortlessly jumps from nostalgia to gaming history and even touches on design philosophy. You can order a copy, find out more and see a preview of The 8-bit Book 1981 to 199X here.

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