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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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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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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The Story of the Commodore 64 in Pixels by Chris Wilkins – review
May13

The Story of the Commodore 64 in Pixels by Chris Wilkins – review

Previous publications from Fusion Retro Book’s ‘in Pixels’ range may have been dedicated to our old stripy friend the ZX Spectrum but now it is time to turn our attention to it’s arch-rival (in the UK anyway) – the mighty Commodore 64, the highest selling single computer model of all time. The Story of the Commodore 64 in Pixels comes in soft and hardback form and at 268 pages is the largest ‘in Pixels’ book to date. However this will also be the only volume unlike the ZX Spectrum in Pixels books which numbered three in total. The book I have for review is the hardback version which has a beautiful ‘C64 screen’ matt blue cover, designed by Steven Day with the “C64” logo and “in pixels” text spot varnished. The spine mimicks the beige of the original C64 itself and is emblasoned with the Commodore 64 ‘stripes’ logo. The overall effect is one of a luxury book which looks and feels fantastic. The hardback version of the book pictured with Reset Issue 8.5, made specially for the Kickstarter 40K stretch goal. The hardback version of the book pictured with Reset Issue 8.5, made specially for the Kickstarter 40K stretch goal. Inside the book The Story of the Commodore 64 in Pixels follows the tried and trusted format of the previous ‘in Pixels’ range with a fascinating Foreword by Bil Herd, former Commodore engineer responsible for the C128 amongst others, giving it an opening with considerable pedigree. Following on from this grand opening piece we have an equally enthralling history of Commodore told by former Newsfield owner and Zzap! 64 editor Roger Kean and an article on Commodore games cartridges by Mat Allen. The one thing you will notice about this book compared to previous ‘in Pixels’ books is the extra input from people connected with the C64 in some way. All in all there are over 30 memoirs and articles by C64 dignatories, way more than in any previous single ‘in Pixels’ volume. This has caused the ‘games’ section – consisting of double page spreads with in-game graphics and a short synopsis – to be cut down to just 35. However, with a one-volume book on such a prolific machine, something had to give – and in retrospect think the book’s game to memoir ratio is balanced very well. Memoirs appear to include almost everyone who was anyone during the Commodore 64’s long lifetime with the likes of Matt Gray, Andrew Hewson, Ben Daglish, Jon Hare, Karen Davies and Archer Maclean (to mention but a few) all giving great insight into those heady days. Throughout the entire book...

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SD2IEC and Epyx Fastload reloaded by thefuturewas8bit – review
Mar19

SD2IEC and Epyx Fastload reloaded by thefuturewas8bit – review

The SD2IECs themselves come in a variety of colours. Even recycled plastic from old Commodore computers themselves Closeup on the translucent SD2IEC The Epyx Fastload Reloaded, an 8-12x speed increase and a built-in reset button make this a handy addition to your setup Top down, full setup The case of this SD2IEC is made from a recycled C64C Connected to an original Commodore 64 Close up SD2IEC detail The SD2IEC can also be used on C16 and VIC-20 models SD2IEC explained Over the years I have grown to love the Commodore 64 almost as much as my main area of interest – the ZX Spectrum. Playground debates over which is the best machine have become nothing but fond memories for me as I explore the intricacies of each machine, their respective strengths and weaknesses often balancing out. In recent years though, I must admit to using my Spectrums a lot more, mainly due to the convenience of the SD card storage that has become available. Thanks to thefuturewas8bit.com and their range of Commodore based SD solutions, that has now changed. I was kindly sent a well packaged box of goodies containing 2 SD2IEC units and an Epyx Fastload Reloaded cartridge by Rod at TFW8B to review here on RGC. I have since been busying myself getting to know what these wonderful storage solutions can do and how they could change the way I use my Commodore machines forever. Produced in a range of colours to match or compliment your current setup, including units made of recycled plastic from old Commodore computers, the SD2IEC plugs into your IEC serial port and cassette edge connector and lets you access a correctly formatted SD card that is inserted into the device. The benefits of this are many, but simply put, by using SD storage you can potentially have thousands of .d64 and .prg files on tap – all accessible within a few keystrokes. The Epyx Fastload cart is a reproduction of the original Fastload cartridge produced back in 1984 but now available in lots of funky colours. The addition of the Epyx Fastload Reloaded cart speeds loading times up by 8-12x and includes a handy reset button. It also simplifies using the SD2IEC as I will explain below. Another bonus is that the SD2IEC is also a multi-computer solution and can also be used on C128, C16, C64DTV and VIC-20 computers, although the Fastload Reloaded cart is only useable on C64 and C128. Hands on with the SD2IEC and Fastload I wasn’t sure how I would get on with the SD2IEC to be honest, I had only ever used the C64 for...

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Sinclair Spectrum Vega plus – first thoughts
Feb19

Sinclair Spectrum Vega plus – first thoughts

As many of you are aware, I was less than impressed with the first Spectrum Vega offering from Retro Computers Ltd (a partnership of Sir Clive Sinclair, Chris Smith, Dr. David Levy and Paul Andrews). It looked cheap and ugly and the whole concept of replacing a Spectrum with what was nothing more than emulation via a plasticky plug-in TV game really didn’t appeal. Enter the Sinclair Spectrum Vega Plus. Pedigree is important. Especially to die-hard Speccy fans. This time the concept designs (seen below) have been produced by Rick Dickinson – the industrial designer responsible for a host of Sinclair projects including the ZX80, ZX81, QL, original ZX Spectrum computer and Sinclair flat screen TV amongst others. The result of Rick’s input is a beautiful looking handheld, this time with a built-in LCD screen. There is still the option to plug your + into a TV via an AV cable and extra games can be loaded via an SD card slot in the top of the unit. One thing that still baffles me about the whole re-release of the ZX Spectrum thing is Uncle Clive’s involvement in what is essentially a games machine. I mean, this thing may even have Jet Set f*cking Willy on it. Perhaps he needs the funds to further his A-Bike project, or a new C… no let’s not go there. Whilst this still isn’t everything I was looking for in a modern Spectrum (keyboard anyone?) I will be backing this one to the hilt. Expensive for what it is? Maybe. But designed and produced in Britain, looking gorgeous and branded with Sinclair. What else is there not to like? What do you think of the Spectrum Vega+? Let us know in the comments...

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