Barely a month passes without a new book dedicated to retro gaming hitting bookshelves. Proving how diverse our little hobby is, it’s uncommon to see two based on the same subject. It’s almost as if there’s an unwritten rule that each author must find their own niche.
Florin’s ZX Spectrum Haul of Games – compiled by Paul ‘Florin’ Davies, a regular Retro Gamer magazine contributor – puts a more personal twist on things than most, detailing over twenty ZX Spectrum games played extensively during his youth.
Spanning just over 150 pages, Paul Davis’ tour of Spectrum greats begins with a foreword by David ‘Magic Knight’ Jones, recalling how the British micro left a mark on the gaming landscape. The system left a lasting impression on the author, too – it was his first computer. “Was there anything better than packing up your Spectrum into a carrier bag, selecting which games you want to play that night and heading off to your mate’s house?” he muses.
Wasting no time, David Jones’ Spellbound is the first game covered in fine detail. This is the game that shaped the author’s entire gaming career, right down to his namesake – Florin the Dwarf.
Organised into years, Paul then explores the mid-‘80s – arguably the Spectrum’s glory days – before heading into the early ‘90s, concluding with 1991’s Terminator 2 tie-in.
Along the way, Paul looks back favourably on Pyjamarama, Skool Daze, Aliens, Barbarian, Chase HQ, CJ’s Elephant Antics, amongst others. It’s a heady mixture of genres, ranging from movie tie-ins to arcade conversions, and in some instances even differences between the 48k and 128k versions are detailed.
The Renegade Trilogy is also covered at length, duly referring to the misguided third iteration – which took the scrolling brawler on a journey through time – as the game that cannot be mentioned.
The majority of game reviews, if you will, are spread across several pages including colour screenshots with comical captions, bonus facts, and a rundown of notable events from the year the game in question was released. It’s peculiar as to why some entries are without screenshots, however, especially in the case of Fred – one of the more obscure titles covered.
The quality of writing is at least consistent, being both upbeat and light-hearted; the likes of Your Sinclair clearly influenced Paul’s jaunty writing style.
Paul’s passion for the humble Speccy makes this book a fun and entertaining read. Particularly pleasing are the instances where Paul recalls his first impression of a game, before comparing it to how he feels nowadays. By all accounts, Ocean’s Terminator II was an exciting prospect in 1991, but now it’s merely riding on the coattails of nostalgia.
If you too can remember those hazy days of colour clash, irksome tape loading errors, and running down to Boots to purchase a hot new release (and still have change from a fiver), then ‘Florin’s ZX Spectrum Haul of Games’ will doubtlessly make a cosy winter night even cosier.
‘Florin’s ZX Spectrum Haul of Games’ is published by Fantastic Books, available on Amazon digitally or on paperback. Sample provided by the publisher.