Pixels are art: Block graphics, standard at the time, are experiencing a revival in the games industry and form a welcome contrast to the modern glossy look. Instead of higher, further, faster, more beautiful, the pixel look is primarily about aesthetics and about using manageable means to conjure up images on the screens that can still amaze today: Meanwhile, fans in this country can also indulge in nostalgia, with the pixel book, for example, which electronic gamers have long made it onto the bookshelves as an “unofficial SNES” book. Entertainment included, also due to the 16-bit literary adventure "Captive in the Retroverse" as a hands-on book for gamers.


It is a real entertainment duo that “electronic player” Robert Bannert, together with Thomas Nickel, Christine Bauer and the Ratz agency, has made available to the German audience with the “Unofficial SNES Pixel Book” and the pre-order supplement “Captured in the Retroverse”. Retrogaming is popular, but the range of literature is manageable. So it's all the nicer that a German-language work made it onto the market last year with the pixel book. And as if that weren't enough, the 16-bit page-turning adventure was a bonus for pre-orders, which was so well received that the project should make it from a sidekick to a stand-alone version. But one after anonther.

First the art ...

When gamers today sit in front of upgraded PC and console systems and enjoy games with graphics that are as realistic as possible, they lose the fact that video games started optically very differently: paintings were put together on the screens from individual pixels, which is still the case today, but the human can eye can no longer recognize the fine pixelation. It was different back then and that's exactly what "retrogamers" are celebrating today. Sometime in the mid-1990s, the line that currently defines what “retro” can be is drawn. In any case, this includes the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which the Japanese console giant marketed from 2017 - for around eight years, then it was finally over, at least for the original version of the console. In XNUMX, a new edition based on the classic was released, which has sold millions of copies worldwide. Retrogaming is hot, there's no doubt about it.

Peaches and Mario can't be missing when it comes to nostalgia. Photo: André Volkmann

Peaches and Mario can't be missing when it comes to nostalgia. Photo: André Volkmann

Over 1.300 licensed games have been released for the SNES, the much less cumbersome abbreviation for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, some of which have made it into Elektrospieler's unofficial SNES pixel book. Up until "Goodbye" from Maxis' Sim City, the 272-page book celebrates retro games. The makers have accommodated more than 120 classics, many of them even know players who reduce games to their technology and do not want to understand the partial nostalgia madness: Donkey Kong Country, Mega Man, Dragon Quest, Street Fighter, Yoshi - all these are brands, that you still encounter in the modern games age. Far less "pixelated" but still recognizable.

The "unofficial SNES pixel book" takes fans on a journey through part of the history of video games. And looking at the pixel paintings printed on glossy paper gives you a sense of why so many fans are so attached to 'retro'. The pixel book is not a loose sequence of images: there are pages full of stories that tell of nostalgia - and also explain why some optical effects look the way they did back then. People like to call it “fun facts”, here it is much more, because without all the ideas that developers and publishers had more than 30 years ago, video games would probably not be as popular today as they are. Hands up: Who knew that Zelda hero Link was allowed to measure a maximum of 64 by 64 pixels in his SNES adventure?

A few decades ago, works of art were conjured up onto the screens from small, colorful boxes. Photo: André Volkmann

A few decades ago, works of art were conjured up onto the screens from small, colorful boxes. Photo: André Volkmann

With the knowledge of the pixel technology of yesteryear, you look differently at the games that you grew fond of in your youth and that you play today via emulators, online services or, in rare cases, even on the original consoles. Anyone who notices after almost three decades why ball bosses at Zelda: A Link to the Past had to look so spherical, can't help but smile. Some things take time. This also applies to the pixel book itself, which is based on an idea that Robert Bannert had almost 25 years ago, as the imprint reveals.

If you think that retro games were leisurely, you may find yourself reading the pixel book as new and never-before-seen scenes from titles that are actually well-known – and possibly played through several times – suddenly appear. A look at the book not only shows a completely different perspective, but also allows you to take the time to marvel at the "pixel art" of yesteryear, in all its facets. You won't remember your favorite games as pretty, impressive, colorful and detailed. And because that's the case, the literary excursion into gaming nostalgia is not only informative, but touching. You can find yourself and your childhood or youth on many pages: you can feel the frustration in Mega Man rounds in which Spark Man or Needle Man have shown you where the pixel hammer hangs; one remembers candy-colored adventure worlds in Kirby's Dreamland or celebrates one's best goals at Fifa 96 - or was forced to play Sensible Soccer like that.

Even back then, you scored goals of the month with fiddly controls on the gamepad. Photo: André Volkmann

Even back then, you scored goals of the month with fiddly controls on the gamepad. Photo: André Volkmann

Divided into genres - from adventure role-playing games to Klopp games or beat'em-up - the authors guide you through a nostalgic world and awaken the desire to swap games with photo-realistic graphics for the charming pixel look - at least temporarily. You meet many heroes from childhood, some of which you may not remember today that they had hero status back then: Sure, Mario is always present; Ryu and Ken will be back at the latest after the new editions from the Street Fighter series and Mega Man was never gone either. Blizzard's Lost Vikings or Earthworm Jim are completely different. Or the tiny toons, which today are only known from less attractive animated series. Many games that you encounter in the pixel book were played back then, but you couldn't remember them until the authors came across them: Cool Spot, for example, the 7-up mascot that made his appearance in one, by the standards of the time had pretty well done, promotional game.

The grandiose presentation of the unofficial SNES pixel book underlines the exciting journey through time. Hardly one side is the other, here and there you linger for a long time until you have absorbed all the details. Reading the book is also an appeal: In the fast-paced world, you should take your time, not just looking ahead, but now and then also looking back, it can be worthwhile. They are stories of well-known and at least less well-known heroes today - and especially to get to know the latter, you should browse through the pixel book.

... then the adventure

Those who pre-ordered the “Unofficial SNES Pixel Book” got a 16-bit page-turning adventure as a bonus with “Caught in the Retroverse”. Because the landscape-format adventure book was so well received, a version for retailers is now to be created. There's nostalgia in that, too. The concept is well known and had its best time sometime in the nineties: It's about classic text adventures, those puzzle and hands-on books that drove you crazy as a child.

The pre-order bonus "Caught in the Retroversum" was so well received that a decoupling is planned. Photo: André Volkmann

The pre-order bonus "Caught in the Retroverse" was so well received that a release is planned. Photo: André Volkmann

In detective adventures you should solve cases, in fantasy stories you should experience the deeds of heroines and heroes. The original idea for the adventures in the "retroverse" is much older, with strong roots in the games segment: dungeon adventures repeatedly presented players in pixelated environments with decisions: turn left, go straight, open the chest, choose a dialogue option? In the end, every decision was the wrong one and you were drawn deeper into a branching cave system full of monsters, mostly without a chance to escape.

The game book "Captured in the Retroverse" is for lovers of role-playing games and builds a bridge between digital adventure and analog pen-and-paper role-playing game. Two dice and the book, that's all it takes to embark on a video game-like adventure that's especially fun for game fans. The look of the book - it's based on the packaging of SNES games - is no coincidence.

There are 200 sections of text on 140 pages, some of which are loosened up by illustrations. It's about reading, not looking, with this interactive text work. Instead of digging through the contents from the first to the last page, the aim is to follow a story, the course of which is influenced by your decisions. It all begins on a hot afternoon somewhere in the Stadtgarten with a decision that isn't actually a decision: visit Hall M!

The "character sheet" should at least be familiar to pen-and-paper fans: Here you rely on a beginner-friendly version. Photo: André Volkmann

At least pen-and-paper fans should be familiar with the “character sheet”: this is a beginner-friendly version. Photo: André Volkmann

There are no spoilers at this point, but so much can be revealed: A lot happens, time and again you also have to deal with opponents who you face in dice battles based on pen-and-paper concepts. Then it says: Test your gamer skill against a number X. To do this, roll your dice, later the number can be manipulated according to the hero's skills and equipment. Those who get involved with the concept and let their imagination run wild will be wonderfully entertained.

The adventure book "Caught in the Retroverse" follows the resurgent trend of activity books. Well-known publishers convert fairy tale classics like Alice in Wonderland or detective classics like Sherlock Holmes as interactive novels, always paired with a portion of role-playing games. Once started, it is difficult to resist the "progress". It's a story and your story.

If you want to buy the pixel book, you will find the Shop of electric players find it. The book costs 39,99 euros plus shipping. The delivery time is three to eight days.

A look at the book:

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Last updated on 26.01.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API