Welcome to another book review from me (Darren), I know it’s been a while since I last wrote about these amazing retro gaming books so I had to return to cover this book. The wonderfully crafted “50 ST Games you have to play” by Karl Morris of Zafinn Books, as a veteran Atari ST user from the golden age of this fantastic machine, I simply had to come out of hiding to cover it.
Now, let me get this off my chest from the outset, I truly think that it is incredibly shameful to see the Atari ST heritage get severely and generally ignored by publishers of these types of books to the extent that you rarely ever see them covered is a travesty. It’s people like Karl Morris, Jamie Lendino (Faster than Light), Marco A. Breddin (Breaking the Borders Volumetric set), and even myself who are willing to cover the Atari ST in a way it deserves to be shown. (A cheap plug (sorry guys), I produced my own “ST Gamer Magazine” a digital magazine series that came out in 2014 & 2015 in two issues respectively to answer the call as the above authors have.
So I was extremely excited to see that the Atari ST was once more getting the love and honour it so longingly deserves, Again the highly respected newcomer Author, covering books on the Atari brand, Karl Morris who has a long history with the Atari Brand. “50 ST games you have to play” is a collection of exactly that, 50 games you have to experience before you die, even if it has been 20+ years since you last played them or if you are brand new to the platform. This book sets the tone and mood brilliantly to prepare you for such amazing games to play and discover as well as learn something along the way.
The book consists of 220 pages of Atari ST goodness broken into the different genres ranging from early titles to sports titles and everything in between. There are recommendations of some awesome games the Atari ST had including those that were never released on any other machines at the time. So a lot is covered inside, the book opens with a fantastic history lesson that will turn you more or less into an instant Atari ST expert by the end of it. Karl does such an incredible job here and I have to say I personally loved what is within the book as it generated a wonderful trip down memory lane for me with the content, just like I remembered it from those days. On top of all that I learned some new amazing facts of how Atari would dominate with its “For the masses, not the classes” motto back in 1985. The book gives you great bite-sized insight and includes some amazing photography of the people within Atari at the time, which I loved to see..(not enough of this in retro gaming books these days). Again Karl delivers on this in great style and with the added bonus of Atari ST marketing and advertisement memorabilia dotted throughout the book with splashes of the wonderful “Ad Break” showcasing a great little collection of magazine advertisements for the majority of the games featured in the book, so you can tell so far that this really is a labour of love here.
The book also delivers a full specification of the Atari ST and a fabulous teardown of the machine as well. Another nice added extra to game reviews is it gives you some trivia behind the game, presented with the box art of the game, title screen fashioned in a GEM Environment desktop layout, sealing the atmosphere of the Atari ST nicely. Karl gives his personal opinion on all the games he covers in the book which I love to see in these types of books, a style of reviewing you won’t find in many other video game books. Karl goes for the personal memories of the games and reminds you from the start that you may or may not agree with his opinion so you can excuse the book of been bias like other video game-related books out there.
The games you will find covered inside are those that many Atari ST users and even Amiga users will recognize, yet the book adds a new perspective and an injection of how great they were from other books you have read before which requires great skill to do. Again it’s the “personal view” that allows for this to work so well. Also, there are pages dedicated to honourable mentions of classic Atari ST games that didn’t make it into the book, Arcade Conversion failures, as well as the best of them, are covered here. Also, Karl managed to have Jeff Miner included in a brief overview of his love and career with Atari and the ST machine itself was a nice touch. There is also a wonderful article on the sound chip of the Atari ST the “YM-2149”which was a fascinating read and finally polished off with one of the best break downs and how-tos on emulating the Atari ST on your PC which for those of you that are newcomers and never knew how to set this up, this is an absolutely brilliant feature in the book. Also, did I mention that everyone that purchases the book get two fantastic Vinyl stickersof premium quality? This is such a lovely touch to have included this with the book.. Thanks for that.
So what are the downsides to this book if any? Well, the book is physically tiny, this is smaller than an A5 size booklet and I tried to figure out and understand what the idea behind this was? On the plus side for this format, you could fit the book into your medium-sized pocket or your rucksack. Was it due to printing costs? Being a self-published author without crowdfunding etc? For such amazing content to be found within, the size has stolen a lot from the experience for me at least and then we have the pricing of the book? At €35 (which does include shipping) is extremely expensive for such a small book? I would guess alot of people will simply not be able to justify this price for a small item like this as this truly deserved to be at least a 6”x 9”, fitting the price bracket it is been priced at? I hate saying that too as the book is a fantastic piece of work, so for you reading this review, you will have to decide whether to pay the price for the experience or simply rule it out as a potentially over-priced piece of history, especially if you are new to the Atari ST machine which I fear could hurt sales and denying a great many to the content of such a good book. I genuinely couldn’t understand the reason to make the book this size as Karl’s two previous books are also brilliantly produced and are in a larger format.
So my final thoughts are, the book is a wonderful joy to read and explore, its very much worthy of having it in your retro gaming collection for sure if you love this era. This book delivers but then only to have the rug pulled from underneath its feet due to its heavy price tag, I urge you to consider these factors as fans will always automatically purchase a book like this as they crave in delight that this wonderful machine is been covered. Karl has something very special here to offer if you are willing to take the jump and buy this beautiful little book it will bring you on a journey down memory lane a reminder of how wonderful this 16-bit home computer was to many people and I say its money well spent.
Pros: Covers and captures the essences of the Atari STrange, history, the games and much more, very much worth your time in reading and discovering.
Cons: Physical Book size truly contributes to lowering the experience for me, although excellent and the pricing is a tad expensive compared to other books created around a wider page counts and physical size.
However, I highly recommend the book, you can purchase this beautiful little book here: https://www.zafinnbooks.com/page14.html#header1-6h
Creator of forth coming Coin-Op:Arcade Guide and creator of the Atari Gamer Magazine and the Atari ST Gamer Magazines. Retro gaming expert & fact finder.