I bring to you a special review of a book I received from the cool guys at Funstock (www.funstock.co.uk) of easily one of my biggest memories of my childhood, the Commodore 64. This computer provided hours of fun and was notorious for its super long loading times and primitive interface however the 8 bit graphics it sported were fantastic and awe inspiring at the time. The Nintendo Entertainment System was nowhere in sight for another four years after the 1982 release of the C64 so it was extremely popular with approximately between 10 million and 17 million units sold worldwide. It loaded game via cassette tapes which prominently caused the loading times for the average game around 15 minutes to almost half an hour illustrated by multi-coloured lines and a high pitched sound until the game finally launched.
The C64 Compendium is a paperback book consisting of 231 pages and is written and created by Bitmap Books (www.bitmapbooks.co.uk). The front cover consists of 26 icons from 26 different games featured inside the book on a white plain background. The inlay is a full page spread of the aforementioned multi-coloured striped loading screen and turning the page to the inside is a list of contributors which includes collectors and numerous people who helped make some of the games which am sure I would be hearing more from within the book. Delving deeper into the book, I wasn’t wrong. After a brief but direct introductory paragraph by Stoo Cambridge who is a graphic artist for the C64 which is what I can only guess is a full spread pixelated image of him behind it, I read on to the main body of the Compendium. Now I have to point out that this book is a VISUAL compendium therefore there is more images than words so I can only see that this book is more ideal for collectors rather than people who want a good read. Anyway, I plod on.
Each of the pages which make up the majority of the book is full 2-page spread screenshots of one particular Commodore 64 game which are viewed arguably as classics. Opening with the iconic game Jupiter Landing, it is accompanied by a paragraph with a fun fact on given to a contributor of the game Sam Dyer who seems to be one of the main architects for Jupiter Landing. On the other side of the screenshot is the release year, what genre it is classed as, the name of the developer and the games publisher. Throughout the book, we see shots from other iconic games that are still classics to this day such as the fantastic Spy Hunter, Drop Zone, Spy vs Spy and my particular favourite Ghostbusters. My biggest critique however is there is no inclusion of a few of my old favourites which I have fond memories of. Skool Daze and Renegade were my all-time favourite games for the Commodore 64 yet there is no mention of them here, I was disappointed but I guess they can’t fit every single game in a book....can they?
The book is beautifully illustrated with each and every page a full spread screenshot of an in game moment or title screen such as Rambo: First Blood Part II. They are lavishly untouched and nicely printed on each and every page. I do feel however that a lot more could have been placed on each page. Maybe information about a game, information about the makers of the game, how well it did back in the 80’s, maybe stick a few more screenshots on there, it just feels like a lot of space is wasted on every page due to the size of the spread. That said it is still a worthy collectable for every retro gamer, especially if you grew up in the 80’s.
Overall, the Commodore 64 Visual Compendium is a worthy purchase filled to the brim with nostalgic beauty that every retro gamer will appreciate. It brought back a lot of memories of my childhood. The main real issues were that a few classic games were missed out and the insufficient usage of the space on every page, other than that though, the book is fantastic.
Value for money - 4/5
Content - 3/5
Quality - 4/5
Overall - 4/5