Commodore Amiga: A Visual Commpendium [Book Review]

Amiga Visual Commpendium Cover

If you believe Hollywood, the law of sequels is simple: bigger is better. It’s a law that Sam Dyer and Bitmap Books have followed with their latest book, Commodore Amiga: A Visual Commpendium.

There’s one crucial difference. Whereas Hollywood is littered with sequels that are infinitely worse than the film they are following, Commodore Amiga: A Visual Commpendium (CA: AVC from now on!) nails it. It’s bigger, better and bolder than its already excellent predecessor dedicated to the Commodore 64.

Everything about CA: AVC is bigger. At over 400 pages, it’s almost twice as big as the C64 volume, allowing the inclusion of much more content. Whilst the focus is still mainly on games, a few utilities are also included which give a much more balanced view of what Commodore’s superb 16-Bit machine was capable of.

Similarly, the text has been enhanced. The book largely follows the same format as the C64 volume, with each double spread page dedicated to a specific game. Each entry comprises of a large screenshot with a few words from someone associated with either the game or computer industry, summing up why the title was important (from either a personal or industry perspective).

However, the book deviates from its predecessor in one significant way. One of my very small criticisms of the original title was that it didn’t provide much background or context on the games or their creators. This was a minor flaw, since it’s easy enough to find this information on the internet, but sometimes the minimalist text occasionally left the title feeling slightly superficial.

This has been addressed in the Amiga book through the addition of a number of profiles – of companies that enjoyed success with the Amiga or with particular programmers/artists/musicians associated with it. It’s hard to express just what a difference this relatively small change makes. The extended profiles and interviews give the book just that little bit more depth. It’s still a joy to read, but it feels a little more substantial.

amiga book - Batman

Of course, the graphics remain the star of the show and it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into which games to include. Whilst the selection criteria are not always clear, there’s a wide variety on display: some are games that sold massively, some were hugely influential, others were average games, but had gorgeous graphics. Whatever the reason for their inclusion, this book has been constructed to display them at their best. The images are large (two page spreads), crisp and faithfully reproduced so that the colours and detail leap off the page. There were games I remembered fondly, games I had completely forgotten about and games I had never played. Every page provoked a reaction awakening a real sense of nostalgia and a desire to go and fire up my Amiga immediately to play the games featured.

Bitmap Books’ first publication the Commodore 64: A Visual Commpendium set the bar high but this Amiga sequel raises it even higher. If you ever owned (or lusted after) an Amiga, then you need this book, available to order from Funstock Games for £29.99. Even if you never had an Amiga, the luscious images and brief but interesting text makes it an essential title for any self-respecting retro gamer.

[If you fancy grabbing yourself an early copy of Bitmap Books’ next effort – focussing on the ZX Spectrum – then their Kickstarter campaign is running until 21 June, so get yourself over there and back it!]

2 thoughts on “Commodore Amiga: A Visual Commpendium [Book Review]

  1. Pingback: Who says books are dead? | RetroReactiv8

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