The Fantasy Art of Oliver Frey Extended Edition – review
Oct17

The Fantasy Art of Oliver Frey Extended Edition – review

I have a confession to make. To my shame, I never bought the first version of this book – The Fantasy Art of Oliver Frey – when it was first published back in 2006. There, I feel better now that’s off my chest. However, I feel that now it may have been a good thing. You see, if I had of made that purchase – it may have spoiled me for the beautiful book I received in the post just yesterday, an extended edition of that book, which had me exclaiming “whoah!” to a room devoid of other people as I unpacked and turned it’s pages for the first time. Yes, this book has impact. If, like many of us, you were messing around with home computers in the early 80s and live in the UK you will undoubtedly have heard of and seen Oliver Frey’s now legendary cover art for the likes of Crash, Zzap! 64 and Amtix! The book, which was funded via Kickstarter in April this year, is both the story of Oliver Frey’s career as an illustrator and a showcase for the amazing fantasy art he produced both for the Newsfield videogame magazines and his many other commissions. These covered everything from children’s history book covers to the inlays for the videogames themselves. Inside the book The Fantasy Art of Oliver Frey – Extended Edition by Roger M Kean (Reckless Books) is a large-format hardback book, measuring approximately 23 x 29 cm and protected with a full colour glossy dust-jacket. Starting with a foreword by Roger Kean – former managing director and senior publishing executive at Newsfield – then heading straight into a 26 page biography, it tells the fascinating story of the Oli’s life and career both in his country of birth – Switzerland, and in England. As might be expected, a lot of focus is put on the video game boom and the prolific Newsfield years, with some great photographs of Oli working on Crash artwork and other images of the team behind the now fabled monthly magazines working from their offices in Ludlow. But let’s face it. As interesting as all that is – and it really is – what this particular publication is about, is the artwork. And this is where the book really comes to life, with the remainder of the pages dedicated to showcasing that artwork as vividly as possible with none of the graphics and other text which originally obscured much of his magazine and book illustrations. Beautifully printed, glossy, full colour spreads, split into genres, capture Oli’s work and turn this publication into the premium artbook it...

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The Little Book of Sinclair ZX Spectrum Games by Chris Wilkins – review
Sep23

The Little Book of Sinclair ZX Spectrum Games by Chris Wilkins – review

I will start out with a confession – that here at Retro Games Collector we are unashamed fans of the work of Retro Fusion Books. Their publications hit the sweet-spot of quality, content and price and it shows with The ZX Spectrum in Pixels trio, Commodore 64 in Pixels and The Story of US Gold books, all scoring an unprecedented top mark of 5/5 in our reviews. This latest book – The Little Book of Sinclair ZX Spectrum Games – combines a selection of the games covered in The ZX Spectrum in Pixels books, plus a few new ones – in a small, neat, hardback format which Chris based upon the popular Ashens book; Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of. The book itself measures 162 x 162mm making it Fusion Retro’s smallest book yet. Inside the book As already stated, The Little Book of Sinclair ZX Spectrum Games is small and square in format with a nice matte black finish to the hardcover giving it a compact, classy feel. Within those covers there are 144 pages with a whopping 1oo games covered, interspersed with a foreword by Chris, images of the ZX Spectrum range of computers (from the 16K rubber key original to the +3) and Oliver Frey’s amazing magazine cover artwork. The games secreted within are now broken up intro genres; Sports Games, Arcade Adventure, Arcade, Adventure, Strategy/Puzzle, Fighting, Racing and Platform – with every game nicely indexed on the last few pages. Each game is given one page, with the synopsis underneath a screenshot of the game in question and a Crash magazine review score (if applicable) listed alongside. What is striking about Fusion Retro’s diminutive new offering is its overall feel of quality. The paper used is 150gsm which in non-printer speak means they are thicker than the norm, helping toward the quality feel that permeates throughout this title. The print quality is also noteworthy, with the screenshots bright, crisp and colourful, just like Spectrum graphics were… once we tuned our tellies in anyway. In Summary Another fantastic addition to the Fusion Retro Books stable. Absolutely perfect as a present for the Speccy-phile in your life (or for yourself!) especially with Christmas just around the corner. Even if you have the ‘in Pixels’ books already, this is still a must-buy with its handier ‘pocket’ size, great quality printing and extra reviews. No surprise then that this book also gets full marks from us. Pre-order your copy of The Little Book of Sinclair ZX Spectrum Games...

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The Masters of Pixel Art Volume 2 Kickstarter campaign launches
Sep15

The Masters of Pixel Art Volume 2 Kickstarter campaign launches

We see a lot of retro books being launched via Kickstarter these days, don’t we? And a lot of them are, well, a bit ‘same old-same old’. Occasionally though, one pops onto our reading radar that we just have to get involved with. One such book is The Masters of Pixel Art Volume 2, published by Nice Pixel, which launched its Kickstarter campaign this week looking for funds of kr130,000 (Swedish Krona) – or around £11,500. Unfortunately – and I have no idea how –  Volume 1 totally passed us by, which is unfortunate because it looks amazing too. The Masters of Pixel Art Volume 2 Double pack with Posters Double pack with Volume 1 The Masters of Pixel Art Volume 2 will be 216 pages of high quality 150g silk coated paper, featuring 41 artists and a staggering number of pixel art images – over 350. The cover is finished in white textile with silver foil, making it a stand-out book on your book case’s retro shelf. The book features images from the Commodore 64, together with pixel art from other 8bit machines such as the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Atari XL-XE, Commodore Plus/4 and MSX. Featured pixel-artists included in the book are AcidT*, Archmage, Carrion, Clone, Deev, Duce, Electric, Helm, ilesj, iLKke, Jailbird, Joe, Ken√´t, Leon, Louie64, Made, Mermaid, Mirage, Nero, Odyn1ec, Ooz, Oys, Pal, Piesiu, pRof, Prowler, ptoing, Redcrab, rexbeng, Sander, SIT, Skurwy, Slayer Grafix, STE, Stone, The Sarge, Twoflower, Valsary, Veto, Wayne Schmidt and Yazoo. Luckily for those who, like us, missed the first offering, this campaign has a Volume 1 and Volume 2 bundle pledge. Other pledge levels include: Poster collection : 32 sheets with 1 image per sheet, by 32 different artists (16 from vol. 1, 16 from vol. 2). Perfect to frame and put on the wall. Bookmarks : 50 unique bookmarks with images from 50 featured artists. Postcards : c64 PETSCII, pixel art images and c64 & Amiga pictures by Prowler See the Kickstarter Campaign page for further details or to pledge for one or more of these wonderful looking books.     Links Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nicepixel/the-masters-of-pixel-art-volume-2/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/themastersofpixelart/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/themastersofpixelart/ Publisher website: http://nicepixel.se/ Book website:...

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ZX Spectrum Games Code Club by Gary Plowman – review
Sep06

ZX Spectrum Games Code Club by Gary Plowman – review

Gary Plowman (AKA Gazzapper Games) sent me the ZX Spectrum Games Code Club to review quite a while back now. Unfortunately for him I have been building my upcoming (yes, and it is close!) retro gaming store and that got in the way of my penning this review. What I did make time for however, in between sorting, scanning and listing software titles, was a thorough read of the book in question. I often reminisce about those early home computing days back in the 80s, when I would spend hours hunched over my ZX81 or Spectrum and a copy of Sinclair Programs, painstakingly typing out listing after listing and carefully saving the resulting program to tape. Often there would be a mistake in the listing itself, or you would type something incorrectly meaning you would have to spend another few hours or so fixing it. The term debugging was rarely used by schoolboys on their Spectrums in front of the living room TV back in the 80s, but debugging was exactly what it was and it taught us plenty. Many of us have gone on to have successful careers in computing and have found the lessons learned back then invaluable and often transferable to modern day programming languages. Fast forward to the present day and ZX Spectrum Games Code Club by Gary Plowman uses program listings in the same BASIC language we used back then as a tool for teaching yourself the rudimentary skills needed to code, using – and here is the best part – an actual ZX Spectrum or a Spectrum emulator. And this is why I am so enthused about this book. In essence it takes us back to the roots of games design. Back to a time when every byte counted and 16 or 48K was often all you had to play around with. A time of programming without waste. Inside the book As stated in the introduction, the book is primarily written to teach you how to program in Sinclair BASIC. This is achieved through a series of games listings which you need to input into your chosen ZX Spectrum (or Spectrum emulator). Firstly though, you are taken through some of the more basic commands, an explanation of Spectrum-specific features, emulator keyboard mapping, how to save your work – either to good old cassette or microdrive – and some tips to make typing in code a whole lot easier. There are 20 games listings in total, each followed by a comprehensive run-down of the programming techniques used and what they achieve. You are encouraged to experiment, modify and extend the listings yourself at every...

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HyperPlay RPG Fanzine – review
Aug08

HyperPlay RPG Fanzine – review

I’m probably the wrong person to be reviewing a fanzine concerning all things RPG. I have never been the biggest fan of the genre. Nevertheless I will do my best to be objective and look at this through the eyes of an RPG fan so here goes… When the fanzine arrived on my doorstep I was hit by a sense of nostalgia. This is a proper old-school fanzine, similar in looks to the music fanzines I used to subscribe to back in the 80s, but in this case not photocopied and unlike those fanzines of old, this one is legible! Presented in monochrome this 40 page ‘zine covers “all retro RPGs and any-bit Nintendo” and is currently the “world’s only retro RPG print fanzine” (so stated on the cover). I must say, in these days of PDFs, online media and expensive glossy magazines, to hold a true fan-made tribute to a niche gaming genre in your hands is a real treat. Inside HyperPlay RPG The fanzine itself is attractive with a nicely illustrated cover, with inside pages clearly numbered and indexed on the inside front cover, making it easy to find the section of the magazine you wish to read. Regular sections include the obligatory reviews (big and small), a news section, readers letters, book review, readers review, play tests, tips for collectors and more besides. Each section is packed with information – this ‘zine is not something that you will read over a lunch break. A lot of time and effort has clearly gone into editing and research and this results in some very meaty content indeed – something you will be picking up over and over, finding sections you have yet to read. Reviews are in-depth and well worded (a certain mainstream magazine could take a few lessons here) and the interaction with readership is obviously important to the editorial staff, which is after all, what makes a fanzine work. In summary The attention to detail and the obvious care with which this ‘zine has been crafted are what makes it stand out for me. And although I am not the biggest fan of the genre, I have to admit to having a lot more respect for it now, having read the ‘zine from cover to cover. So much so, I am considering subscribing just to keep abreast of all things RPG, at the very least so I know what I am talking about when someone broaches the subject in conversation! I can’t think of a better way of doing it either. My only gripe – I read the ‘how to win big at eBay’ article –...

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The Bear Essentials: Developing a Commodore 64 game – Part 4
Jun26

The Bear Essentials: Developing a Commodore 64 game – Part 4

Part 4: Studying SID It’s been over a year now since I started work on my platform game, and there is still plenty of work to do on it. I would never have imagined it would take me this long to make a Commodore 64 game, but I constantly find myself revisiting things that I thought previously completed to improve them.  I’m without a doubt past the 50% progress marker now anyway, which is definitely a positive. And on another positive note, Bear has found a really nice home with new Commodore 64 game developers Pond Software. Pond’s first release earlier this year, ‘Spaceman Splorf: Planet of Doom’ is a very polished score chasing game with excellent sound and graphics and can be downloaded for free from: http://pondsoft.uk You can also read about Pond’s upcoming releases, which include entries for the 2016 Reset 4kb Game Coding Competition, which I would encourage any C64 coders to take part in! Details of the competition can be found here: http://cloud.cbm8bit.com/resetc64/crapgamecompo2016v1.1.pdf The Sound Interface Device I’m sure at some point everybody has been impressed by a piece of music played by the Commodore 64’s SID chip.  Over the years there have been many names associated with squeezing excellent pieces of music from the three sound channels of the SID – Rob Hubbard, Ben Daglish, Jereon Tel, Steve Rowlands…  Look them up on YouTube if you still need convincing. Before I started writing my C64 platform game, I had a small amount of knowledge of how the SID chip worked having read about it in various books and magazines.  When it came to making use of it in my own programs however, I only really managed to get the most basic of sounds working. For some games this is absolutely fine (my Snake clone had small noises to indicate picking up, crashing and starting the game, and also a very simple tune when the game first loads), but for other more complicated games it really is deemed unacceptable for a C64 game to not have some cool music and sound effects. This was the case with RockMaze, my first attempt at creating a C64 game.  I can’t remember if I ran out of time, or if I failed at attempts to get sound effects working, but either way the game ended up being completely mute.  When I was asked recently if I would like to contribute to the Reset magazine cover disk, I thought this would be an ideal time to read up on the SID chip once again and try to add some music and sound effects to RockMaze. After a quick internet...

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