People always say not to judge a book by its cover and ordinarily I would agree. But when a front cover is enriched by a giant Atari-styled joystick, well it’s difficult not to be excited by it.
It doesn’t disappoint when you start to turn the pages either. One thing must be made clear from the offset however. This is an encyclopaedia.
It is not one man’s console gaming history backed up with amusing anecdotes and childhood memories of blowing on cartridges. It is a very well written, well structured almanac of pretty much every console you’ve ever heard of, plus a ton you probably haven’t. A whopping total of over eighty consoles are covered. Each console gets an initial overview including release date, price, specifications and number of games released, before moving on to a detailed ‘This Is Your Life’ themed narrative.
There’s an accompanying photograph/doodle to support the console and this is one of the disappointing aspects of the book. The pictures are very small and for some of the more obscure consoles, all we get is a sketch. If you’re looking for images of controllers too then again, I’m afraid you won’t be happy. There aren’t any. They’re mentioned enough but we don’t get to see them unless they’re included in the tiny introductory image for each console.
A few screenshots for some of the games available would also be welcomed with open arms, but alas, these are lacking also. In addition, using the Sega Genesis/Megadrive as an example, the author mentions the second and even third versions of the console, but you guessed it, no pictures. But taking the above to one side, what you do get is tonnes of information and the book is broken down in to generations which makes it very easy to navigate. There’s also a more than useful table of contents and an excellent introduction on where to begin if you fancy yourself as a collector.
Some of the lesser known consoles such as the snappily named Bildschirmspiel 01 and the Bandai Playdia get a full review and the book really does keep you interested from start to finish just by the amount of research done by the author alone. He’s put a lot of hard work in to reviewing each and every console and even though I frequently felt the urge to skip to my favourites, I didn’t want to miss anything in between.
To sum up, what we have here is a fascinating read which will appeal to collectors of all levels and I guarantee you’ll find some hidden gems that you probably didn’t even know existed. I recommend it highly and you can dip and out of it at will. If only there were more images to support the effort put in to the research.
Review by Matthew Romano. (@baldandboring)
Buy it from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ultimate-Guide-Classic-Game-Consoles-ebook/dp/B00CY8LMVM