Well here I go again! A couple of weeks back I heaped praise on Jerry Ellis' current book, 'The Book Of The Game of The Film', a superb, detailed look at computer (not console) games based on films, TV shows and the like. I had so much fun with the book it seemed rude not to go back and see what Jerry did beforehand, which lead me to 'The 8 Bit Book – 1981 to 199X', which again covers a plethora of computer games, although this time without any linking theme.
The book is divided into sections covering each year of the Eighties and a final one detailing some Nineties releases for what were now obsolete systems. Those systems? Well, anyone who owned a Vic 20, ZX81BBC Micro, Apple II, Acorn Electron or the kings of the genre The ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 will find plenty to keep them engrossed, and if you didn't own any of those systems the book may well make you scour Ebay and car boot sales (or just do the emulation thing) so you can experience what us old folk called entertainment.
The basic (or machine code) layout is very similar to that in 'TBOTGOTF', with screenshots and covers for each game included where possible, accompanied by three paragraphs detailing the background and aim of the game concerned. It's not as immersive or humerous as the follow up, but the dedication and love for the subject matter still shines through. Mind you, I don't think anyone really needs a lengthy paragraph on how to play Pac Man (or 'Snapper' as it was), when more on the history would have been welcome instead. That said, it's in keeping with the book's format, and this format is rigidly stuck to. It's nice that Jerry was able to allow himself more freedom in the follow up.
Regardless of small niggles, 'The 8 Bit Book...' is a real joy for fans of old computer games. In a nice tough the colour coded chapter markers also double as mini classic character animations, and half way through there's a rejected cover idea which is a sergeant pepper rip off containing characters from many of the games covered. Although a great picture (with accompanying details of who all the characters are) it would have been far too busy as a cover, so it's nice that the time wasn't wasted. Although not cheap at a shade under 20 quid, this is a quality, glossy paperback with 250 pages stuffed with retro goodness. Without Jerry Ellis I would not have found out about 1981s 'Softporn Adventure', or realised that I wasn't the only one who thought 'Gift From The Gods' was pretty but also pretty boring. Ideal for a quick read now and again, if you buy this and 'TBOTGOTF' you may never leave your toilet again.