The Video Games Guide, by Matt Fox (whom one assumes isn't the actor that plays Jack in Lost) is a 550 page guide to the good, the bad, the ugly and the obscure of video games from the past and present.
The book itself is in a similar format to the many movie guides out there, and contains a short review for each game listed along with their year of release, the original platform they were released for and a rating out of a possible 5 stars. There are also a set of glossy pages in the centre of the book which contain screenshots of the (over 100) 5-star rated games.
As you would expect, all the classic gaming platforms feature in the book, as do some of our favourites such as the BBC Micro and Acorn Archimedes. In the back of the book, there is a timeline of when the various systems mentioned in the book were released and what "gen" they belong to.
The book features a mixture of well known and some obscure games, and the reivews vary in detail to the point where some of them are no more than a few sentences about what the game was, where others go into a little depth about how the game came to be. Some don't have their own review, instead telling you to see the review for the game under a different name (for example, the Archimedes game Zarch tells you to go and read the entry for the Amiga game Virus).
The Archimedes game Zarch recieved a 4-star rating, and naturally, Elite was given a 5-star rating and also has one of the more lengthy reviews in the book, which goes as far as to look at how the game was squeezed into the BBC's memory. Repton also features, however only scored a 2-star rating and has a rather short review, which says little more than that the game was enjoyable and "borrowed heavily from Boulderdash and Dig Dug" and that it also appeared on the C64 and ZX Spectrum platforms. Sadly, no mention is made of Repton's sequels or popularity.
Also included is a list of game developers and designers, each furnished with a list of what games reviewed, listed or otherwise referenced in the book they were involved with.
The back of the book contains several listings. Firstly, there's a "Video Games Chronology", which lists a great many games by their year of release (including many games not reviewed in the book). Games in this list that are reviewed in the book are shown in Bold type, with the 5-star rated games also being underlined, for quick reference. This list stretches from 1962-2006. There's also a "Computers and Consoles Chronology", which lists (as the name suggests) the various systems by their year of release. The Acorn machines featured in this list are the Atom, BBC and Archimedes. Sadly, after the Archimedes, no mention of Acorn or RISC OS machines is made.
The final list of games in the book is sorted by their designers or developers. This list includes many famous gaming names such as the Oliver Twins and of course Ian Bell and David Braben of Elite fame. Other names that appear in the list wouldn't immediately be associated with games, such as Douglas Adams.
Finally, there's a few lists of video game awards from various times, such as the Best of E3 and the Video Game BAFTAs, although oddly it doesn't mention the year that the awards were taken from, which makes the "Game of the year" listing a little pointless.
- Pretty space-invaders style cover
- Simple and clean layout
- Elite got a 5-star rating
- Covers many platforms, including Arcade, Consoles and Computers
- Some short reviews
- Poor ratings given to some nice games, ie. Repton
- Acorn history in this book finishes with the Archimedes in 1986
- Lack of mention of RISC OS ports of some games in the book (ie. Simon the Sorcerer, etc)
Overall, this is the kind of book that would appeal to most gamers who like the games from times gone by and isn't always after the very latest games. The book mentions that "Every single game in this guide is still available to play", so could help to fill your spare time by picking a random game to play on those weekends you didn't need to do anything important with anyway. Although the book mentions digging round on the Internet for the games, some may point out the fact that this isn't always entirely legal to do...
The book is paperback and is pricemarked at £16.99, and (at the time of writing) is listed on Amazon UK at £10.19. It is published by Boxtree.