The story of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum in Pixels, Volume 3 - Chris Wilkins

This was a recovery present after my surgery in early December. As it turned out, the surgical recovery went fine, and I had my chest drain out today, so now seems like a good time to review it.

This is one of those brightly-coloured, highly-illustrated retro books reviewing old computer games. There are a few interviews and articles to pad the book out - I particularly liked the one about sound programming on the Speccie, but the core of it really is those game reviews.

I find it strange how, in a world where you can freely download the game, read scans of contemporary magazine reviews, read walkthroughs and watch videos of playthroughs, that there's still a market for books like this. Yet it's still a lot of fun to read through, seeing these old games and their awful screenshots.

(As an old Spectrum user, it pains me to say it, but the Spectrum had some great games despite the hardware, not because of it. What other home computers could achieve was far superior, but the Spectrum had the supreme advantage of being affordable.)

The fact that this book is "Volume 3" speaks a fair amount to the market, I guess. These things sell well enough to be worth making. On the other hand, I was told "Volume 3" was not a deliberate purchase, it's just the book they had. I have not seen Volumes 1 or 2. This has pros and cons to it. None of the big-name classics are there - they'll have been snaffled up by the earlier volumes. Instead, this book covers some rather more obscure titles, and, well, it's quite interesting, going off the beaten track.

There are a few lesser-known gems in there, and the great thing about those resources I mentioned earlier is that I can just see something that piqued my interest and play it myself or watch it played on Youtube. Amongst the interminable platformers, I was struck by the ambition of Tau Ceti, for example, an early 3D tank-like game with large world and complex plot, subgame mechanisms, etc.

In short, this is a somewhat strange and to be honest not particularly worthy book that nonetheless made my recovery more enjoyable.

Posted 2024-01-17.