This software house needs no introduction, I would be surprised if anyone reading this doesn’t know who the Bitmap Brothers are, with games like Xenon 2: Megablast, Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe and The Chaos Engine. Lead by Mike Montgomery, they left a huge mark on the gaming landscape, and set new standards with so many of their games. We had the pleasure of interviewing Mike a few years ago, it always struck me how humble he was and how he really did not fully appreciate the impact the Bitmap Brothers have left on the worldwide games industry. The book comes bound in a hardback cover adorning what maybe the developers most famous game, Speedball. There is a total of 356 pages, printed on high quality heavy weight paper, that fresh from the printer smell reinforces the sense of quality. Superbly written by Duncan Harris and edited by Darren Wall, the content is essentially a full historical account about the epic rise and fall of one of Britain’s most iconic software houses.
The book is thoroughly researched via first-hand interviews with The Bitmap Brothers’ key figures – including founder Mike Montgomery and lead artist Dan Malone – with a breathtaking haul of never-before-seen archive material. Because of this, the writing style aligns more closely with a biography genre known for connecting to readers on personal level.
The images within the pages are simply stunning, created by NVIDIA graphics engineer Timothy Lottes. Using a special technique to reﬂect what the games really looked like on 90’s era CRT displays. Mixed throughout the book are sketches from Dan Malone; bringing that extra dimension to the images we all find so iconic with the Bitmap graphics style. It was at this point, I imagined the book would play a meaty Xenon tune. The kind your get when opening a pop up birthday card from your Gran. Ok enough dreaming lol, back to the content itself.
Each game is extensively covered, providing real insights into the detail the Bitmap Brothers would go to, ensuring every aspect of the game meet their high standards, from the in-game artwork to the box art. Highlights such as unused character concepts for Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, intricate pencil renderings of The Chaos Engine’s iconic cut-scenes and early robot designs for Z form part of a masterpiece collection of original production drawings. Partnered with this archive material is a gallery of specially presented in-game screen captures.
The book also reveals for the very first time the fate of unreleased projects, including the high-octane Amiga racer ‘Bike’ and a 2D Speedball successor.
The Bitmap Brothers Universe is an engaging book, there is so much information to absorb and digest about an era when being an indie developer was huge. These guys lived like rock stars, and to have a book like this in your collection is a must for any genuine gaming fan.
Read-Only Memory books and founder Darren Wall have a level of attention to detail in their publications which means this book instantly has success written all over it. Without a doubt, The Bitmap Brothers Universe meets the same high quality standards some of their other books we have reviewed, Britsoft: An Oral History, and the incredible Sensible Software 1986 – 1999.
Retro head and key holder of RVG.