Back in 1981 Ian Stewart (Interviewed HERE) recognised a growing trend in computer sales whilst working for a hi fi retailer called Laskys after they started selling computers so he and Kevin Norburn set up their own software retail shop in Sheffield called Just Micro, this eventually became the meeting place for anyone interested in computer games and attracted some of the early talent that laid the foundations for the games development scene in Sheffield. A small group of programmers were cobbled together along with some extra office space on Carver Street and Gremlin Graphics was formed.
Gremlin were prevalent as both publishers and developers, the 8 bit scene was a crowded place but with games like the Monty series of games, the excellent Bounder and of course Gauntlet. Similarly for the 16 bit scene they put out the amazing addictive and colourful Zool on the Amiga, there was also the Lotus series of games and my favourite game Hero Quest. That should set the scene for you as to what you can expect in the book.
The book itself was born when Mark Hardisty (Interviewed HERE) met Ian Stewart and Jacob Habgood (ex Gremlin Employee) on a series of schools festivals called Games Britannia. The more Mark worked with Ian, the more his interest grew in him and the Gremlin story. In 2014 and with Ian’s blessing an idea to create a book was born, after many months of getting lots of content for the book Mark started looking at bring the book to reality, initially the idea was to go the crowdfunding route but Mark soon got contacted by Sam Dyer of Bitmap books and the rest as they say is history.
First impressions are just awe-inspiring, I have read and reviewed many retro gaming inspired books and I’d have to say this takes 1st prize for presentation and packaging let alone whats inside, The book consists of 572 pages and split across two volumes. Both volumes are housed within a stunning full colour slipcase. Both volumes of the book are printed to the highest standards using CMYK and pantone inks, anyone who owns one of the Bitmap Books title’s will already know what high quality books they produce.
As previously mentioned, the book is split into two volumes, Volume 1 covers 1983 to 1989 and Volume 2 covers 1990 to 2015. A nice touch is the use of the original Gremlin Graphics logo on the front of volume 1 and the Gremlin Interactive logo on Volume 2. Each volume is sectioned into increasing years, within each section you will find important moments from that period of time, like the take over of DMA design in 1987, and the eventual Infogrames buyout in 1999. Essentially it’s a fascinating exploration of the meteoric rise of the company during the ’80s and ’90s through a plethora of interviews and anecdotes from all its key employees including Ben Dalglish, Chris Shrigley and Tim Chaney.
The text pages are broken up with some fantastic game imagery, images of old letters, business cards, staff photos and game design documents, this is an exhaustive and comprehensive look at of one of Britain’s best loved software houses. Finally, I must comment on the editing of such a huge book, this could not have been easy but Mark Green of Games Master and NGamer magazine fame has done a fantastic job overall.
The Expansion Disk.
What could make this book better? Nothing really as it’s truly a masterpiece but there is now more, recently announced was The A Gremlin in the Works: The Expansion Disk, this is being called “a new approach in digital publishing” and I will agree this is a fantastic idea that adds more value to an already value for money book. The Expansion Disk converts the original hardback by building on the content of the original book, into a never-ending story, blending an extended Gremlin narrative with exclusive new interviews, brand new content, lush artwork and a chance to recover lost content from the cutting room floor.
The Expansion Disk comes in the form of a PDF which you get when you buy the main book. When further new interviews are made available, you will be notified with a link to download the updated PDF.
So to sum up, if you’re a fan of Gremlin Graphics or a Retro Head in general you will want to have this in your collection, the Bitmap Books influences are clear to see and with that stamp alone you know your buying a quality produced and printed book.
Priced at £ 29.99 / € 49.99 and will be available direct from Bitmap Books.
Retro head and key holder of RVG.