Commodore 64 : A visual Commpendium [Book Review]

Like many people of a similar age to me, the Commodore 64 holds a very special place in my heart. One of the first computers I spent a large amount of time with, either typing in BASIC listings from books and magazines, to playing games relentlessly, my C64 was the first computer I could call "mine". Of course I'd meant to learn to program on it, but that plan went right down the drain when my gaming habit went from a couple of games on tape and Frogger on cartridge to a small-ish box of disks marked "Games" that one day just magically appeared at our house.

The Bitmap Books Commodore 64: a visual Commpendium book encapsulates brilliantly the memories of the contents of that box.

When you first pick it up, you can immediately tell it's an absolutely top quality piece of work. The soft cover is wrapped in a matching dustcover with a glossy finish to each of the images on the front. The covers themselves folding in on themselves to give it the appearance of a hardback, inside of which are the data loader backgrounds for Monty on the Run and Beach Head.

At 230 pages it's nearly an inch thick, with every single page a masterpiece of high lithographic quality print work. Of those 230 pages, almost every one of them is a double page spread representing a single game, spanning Jupiter Lander from 1982 through to the C64 "Demake" of Super Hexagon - Micro Hexagon, released this year. Pages like the Exile loading screen and the Fantasy World Dizzy level map are just bursting with colour and life.

Then there are the snippets of info accompanying each game - either a snippet of behind the scenes info from a developer or an anecdote from a reviewer from the time

Of the non-single game spreads, there are 5 spreads of photography of hardware, 10 pages of Oliver Frey Artwork, 2 spreads with 4 games (one for Codemasters and one for Ocean), and one loading screen celebration spread - It really is all about the game art.

But more importantly, just flicking through instantly takes you back, remembering bits of games you'd long since forgotten, with the music playing in your head even if you haven't heard it for 20+ years. When I took the book into my office I soon had a small huddle of people surrounding the book with lots of comments like "I remember that!", "That bit was impossible..." and "Oh oh what was that called". Of course the 20 somethings in the building just looked on in bemusement but it was a trip down memory lane for the others - even the spectrum owners!

My own personal C64 voyage came to a bit of a sad ending... After selling my first one when my family moved from America to the UK in 1986, I had an almost identical setup not too long after setting in. then in 1990, my Amiga 500 was the new hotness and the C64 was very quickly demoted to a box in the cupboard. Finally it was lent to a friend of mine, who then lent it to someone else, and it was never seen again.

Getting back to the Commpendium, all this nostalgia has definitely made me consider trying to pick up another 64 when space allows, but even more importantly, author Sam Dyer is currently running the kickstarter campaign for the next book in the series - the Amiga Visual Commpendium, and if the quality of this book is anything to go by, and Sam has promised to be taking the quality level up a few notches, including the option of a hardback version, then backers of the Amiga book will have nothing to fear. Both this book and surely the Amiga book to follow are a must-have for any collector or even anyone with fond memories of either platform, and with the Amiga kickstarter having already more than doubled the pledges of the C64 one with more than half the time to run, it's clear that there are many lovers of Commodore computers out there.

The C64 book has been made with a lot of love and thought without skimping on quality. The Amiga book is due to be even better than something which is already pretty damned awesome! In short, if the C64 was a part of your gaming life, get this book. And the same goes for the Amiga and it's kickstarter counterpart.

Buy the C64 book at (use coupon code INDIERETRO for 5% discount on anything in the shop)

Back the Amiga book Kickstarter (current stretch goals mean the £25 pledge for the book will get you the book, a Shadow of the Beast Music CD, an Amiga engraved metal bookmark, Amiga sticker, and an Another World A3 poster, Amiga pen and even more if £100K is reached!)



  1. an anecdote from a
    reviewer from the time
    an anecdote from a
    reviewer from the time

  2. "Finally it was lent to a friend of mine, who then lent it to someone else, and it was never seen again." Man I know that feels - sad indeed :(

  3. I never had one myself, Amstrad CPC 464 with green screen, ahhh such memories! All change now though with a CPC 6128 and C64. - Neil

  4. Annoyingly, the same thing happened to my gameboy...

  5. Well I never could afford a C64, although I was using them at school to learn Basic in the 80´s. I only had an Specy that I still have, and those were wonderful years of gaming. ;). I had the needing to get a C64, so I've been able to wait 30 years to get one (well, three) lately.


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