On the Bookshelf...

Curious Video Game Machines

Lewis Packwood

The story of video games is often told as the successive rise of computers and consoles from famous names like Atari, Commodore, Nintendo, Sega, Sony and Microsoft. But beyond this familiar tale, there’s a whole world of weird and wonderful gaming machines that seldom get talked about. Curious Video Game Machines reveals the fascinating stories behind a bevy of rare and unusual consoles, computers and coin-ops – like Kimtanktics, a 1970s wargame computer made out of calculator parts, or the suite of Korea-exclusive consoles made by car manufacturer Daewoo. Then there’s the Casio Loopy, a 1990s console that doubled up as a sticker printer, the RDI Halcyon, a 1985 LaserDisc-based machine that could recognise your voice, and the Interton VC 4000, a German console made by a hearing-aid company, as well as a range of bizarre arcade machines, from early attempts at virtual reality to pedal-powered flying contraptions. There are tales of missed opportunities, like the astonishingly powerful Enterprise 64 computer, which got caught in development hell and arrived too late to make an impact on the British microcomputer market. And there are tales of little-known triumphs, like the Galaksija DIY computer kit that introduced a whole generation of Yugoslavians to computing before the country became engulfed by war. Featuring exclusive interviews with creators, developers and collectors, Curious Video Game Machines finally shines a light on the forgotten corners of video-game history.

Curious Video Games Machines by Lewis Packwood is a fascinating guide to really obscure video systems that never quite made it into the public consciousness. We all know of the Xbox and PlayStation in their many guises. Some may remember fondly Sega and Nintendo, yet in this book you'll find loads of systems that all promised to offer home entertainment but somehow through didn't.

This is extremely well researched and interesting to read for all those out there who love their games. I particularly liked the chapter on the Enterprise 64. I remember the computer being announced and thought it looked a real winner. At the time I had the ZX Spectrum but still coveted the Enterprise, I mean a joystick-built in... Like a lot of UK machines at the time it sort of faded out of the limelight, thanks to this book I now know why. Likewise, I remember the barcode battlers, quite an innovative idea but one that never caught on. Would have loved to see a chapter on the Sam Coupe or the 80's computer that would include a wheel as part of its chassis, but the ones in it were intriguing to read about.

Some of the machines featured were truly innovative and others you wonder what their ideas department were thinking of when they released them. I loved the photos of these machines, but at times would have liked to get an idea of the screenshots. Still, this is about the machines, not the games.

In these pages I learnt about systems I never knew existed or even imagined. A veritable treasure trove of forgotten heroes. A book that is highly recommended to those who have even a passive interest of the obscure video games machines.

Thanks to NetGallery and Pen and Sword for the eARC copy in exchange for a fair and uunbiased review

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Review by
AJ Steel
September 6, 2023

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