Villordsutch reviews Commodore Amiga: a visual Commpendium…
Let me start by being quite frank, I hated the Commodore Amiga! Not the best way to start a review of a book about the life of the Commodore Amiga I’ll admit, but this deep-rooted hatred is truthfully fairly unwarranted.
My dislike for the Amiga comes from me never wanting my ZX Spectrum life – when I was a child – to come to a close, and when this behemoth of a machine arrived prancing around, chanting “get a load of my hot 16-bit swish graphics” and like a siren to lost sailors, it beckoned the 8-bit souls to the rocks whilst singing, “ooh listen to my mixed-channel sounds!”. As a ZX Spectrum user, locked away in my sun proof bedroom, I could hear the ominous chimes of the Cloister Bell ringing as this new ship sailed into shore. Finally in the war between Spectrum and Commodore was over, the Commodore had won by inviting its mighty new cousin to the fight. I hated the Amiga – it wasn’t a bad machine you understand, but it killed my so called life. Still, I can’t keep licking those scars, times move on and I have been given the opportunity to see what I missed – neigh, refused to accept – the first time around.
From Bitmap Books comes Commodore Amiga: a visual Commpendium and the first thing you’ll notice is that this book is huge. You’re truly getting here the complete thirty year history of what was truthfully something that made the home computing times change and shaped computer gaming as we know it today. Within these pages you are treated to glorious double-paged screenshots from some of the Amiga’s most loved games; there are 140+ names here, like Alien Breed, Sensible World of Soccer, Zool 2, IK+, It Came from the Desert, the list goes on. Each beautiful looking screenshot is backed up with a quote or anecdote, from one or two people involved in the creation of the game, and it’s fascinating to see how some games came about. Take Putty, devised by Phil Thornton who during a trip to India, had eaten a dodgy curry, his bowels didn’t stand up to well to this attack and during his painful release he’d wrote the idea down for the game on a beer mat. You’re also given glimpses of hardware, stories behind demo’s like the famous Juggler and also extremely well known utilities like the much sort after X-Copy.
The book also goes on to bring together Amiga artist interviews with such known legends like Dan Malone and Jim Sachs. Again as with the quotes and anecdotes above, these interviews are fascinating to see how these people became involved with the Amiga family; I especially enjoyed Jim Sachs’s self-promoting, self-portrait he used to send out to companies. The book also turns to the software houses that made the Amiga shine – Cinemaware, DMA Design, Team17, Sensible Software, System 3 and Factor 5 are all placed on the podium – showing how these gaming companies rose, and occasionally fell, but all pushed the Amiga to reach its potential in one way or another.
With a handful of box art pages to admire, the people at Bitmap Books have packed everything in nicely. You’re even given a very neat bow bookmark of a red and white ribbon to keep your place. My only negative about this entire book is the cardboard slipcase it’s presented in. This was stuck on with an amazingly strong vacuum, so strong eventually – I’m sorry to say – I had to take a sharp knife to cut along the glued join to remove it from the book, as I had the fear that I was going to actually do some real damage pulling the book from the slipcase.
If you’re an Amiga computer owner of old or you like your retro-computers then this hard-backed slice of history is something you need to purchase. Even this bitter, die hard ZX Spectrum husk of a man was impressed. Commodore Amiga: a visual Commpendium is a history book you really need to have on your shelf.
If you’d like to buy Commodore Amiga: a visual Commpendium you can purchase it here from Bitmap Books.
Villordsutch likes his sci-fi and looks like a tubby Viking according to his children. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.