Aug 22, 2011

A C64 Walkabout Book Review

As I love books, care for retro games, deeply appreciate the Commodore 64 and don't have the disposable income to entertain myself in more extravagant ways, a little $1 ebook called A Commodore 64 Walkabout was both tantalizing and within reach. I thus digitally grabbed it, was pretty amazed I had bought it in a huge variety of formats ranging from PDF to them Kindle-loving .mobi files, promptly loaded the thing on my Kindle and started reading, while simultaneously noticing it was written by Robinson Manson. Yes, the same person that happily runs the excellent C64 Walkabout retro site.

Now, the book might generally and rather oddly be aimed at people that aren't so much into retro gaming and collecting (especially of the Commodore variety) just yet, what with its extended introduction on the joys of classic hardware and gaming, but there's quite a bit more to it than that. Mind you, as a beginner's guide to emulating and enjoying the hundreds of classic C64 and VIC-20 games the C64 Walkabout is pretty much excellent. It lets readers in on a bit of history, what emulators to grab, where to find the games, utilities and demos they'll need, how to run them via emulation and even suggest some rather lovely titles.

It's also pretty good when it comes to collecting hardware, though it rather infuriatingly chooses to focus on the VIC-20 and actually for the most part ignore the Commodore 64 itself. Now, you might call me an idiosyncratically grumpy person, but when I do read a C64 book, I do expect C64 content to outweigh VIC-20 one. Not that this isn't the case throughout the book, mind, but I would really love to read an equally detailed piece on collecting C64 hardware.

Said minor annoyance aside, the book is pretty lovely and actually unique as, unlike most retro publications, it does go for a more personal feel, which is frankly brilliant; Mr. Mason, you see, does have a thing for CRPGs and text-adventures and isn't afraid to even walk readers through the more obscure ones like Castle of Spirits. Actually, many of the included games are presented with all the info you'd ever need to get them running on a modern PCs, as well as a short play-guide and -in selected cases- are impressively accompanied by a creator's interview.

As an added bonus the Commodore 64 Walkabout doesn't limit itself to games either. A whole section of the book details the productive and creative aspects of the machine, with SID music being of course the most prominent. The modern remix scene is briefly presented, the needed programs are examined and some lovely tunes are suggested, though what I particularly enjoyed, what really convinced me to take the time and suggest this book, was the look at the Micro Illustrator art package. Why? Well, why not?

Verdict: A lovely, personal book for the Commodore 64 and VIC-20 micros that keeps in mind that some people might have only recently been retro-intrigued.   

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  1. You may indeed be an idiosyncratically grumpy person, but the expectation certainly seems a fair one. Great review - think I'll pick that one up myself.

  2. Yes, well, I thought I weren't particularly unreasonable myself, but, well, one never knows. Mind you I enjoyed the read a lot. Do let me (us, actually) know what you thought.

  3. Gem! :) ...I'll just....(saunters over to C64 altar, bows and lights an incence stick...)

  4. Phew. For a moment their I thought you were praying for some sort of intense stick. Ahem. Right. Still, nice book.

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