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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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 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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