Pixels are art: block graphics, then standard, are experiencing more and more a revival in the games industry and are a welcome contrast to the modern high-gloss 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 you today: fans in this country can now indulge in nostalgia, too the pixel book, for example, which has long since made it onto the bookshelves as an “unofficial SNES” book thanks to electronic players. Entertainment included, also due to the literary 16-bit adventure “Caught in the Retroverse” as a hands-on book for gamers.


It is a real entertainment double that “Elektroplayer” Robert Bannert, together with Thomas Nickel, Christine Bauer and the Ratz agency, has made available to the German audience with the “Inofficial SNES Pixel Book” and the pre-order addition “Gefangen im Retroversum”. Retrogaming is popular, but the range of literature is manageable. So it's all the more beautiful that last year, the Pixel Book, a German-language work, made it onto the market. And as if that wasn't enough, with the 16-bit adventure to turn the page, they came up with a bonus for pre-orderers, which was so well received that the project should make it from the sidekick to the 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, it is lost that video games started out very differently from a visual point of view: paintings on the screens were put together 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” celebrate today. Sometime in the middle of the nineties the line that currently defines what can be “retro” runs. In any case, this includes the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which the Japanese console giant marketed from 1990 - for around eight years, then it was finally over, at least for the original version of the console. In 2017, a new edition based on the classic appeared, which has sold millions of copies worldwide. Retrogaming is all the rage, there is no doubt about that.

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

For the SNES, the far less bulky abbreviation for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, over 1.300 licensed games have been published, some of which have made it into Elektrospieler's unofficial SNES pixel book. Until the “Goodbye” from Maxis' Sim City, retro games are celebrated in the book on 272 pages. 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 of these are brands, which one still encounters in the modern game age. Much less “pixelated”, but still recognizable.

The “unofficial SNES pixel book” takes fans on a journey through part of the history of video games. And if you look at the pixel paintings printed on glossy paper, you get a feel for why so many fans are so attached to “retro”. The pixel book is not a loose juxtaposition of images: There are pages by page of stories that tell of nostalgia - and also explain why some optical effects looked the way they did back then. “Fun facts” is what people like to call, 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.

Anyone who thinks that retro games have been leisurely, while reading the pixel book, may find yourself reading the new and never-before-seen scenes from actually known - and possibly played through - titles suddenly appearing. A look into the book not only reveals a completely different perspective, but also allows you to take your time to marvel at the “pixel art” of yore, in all its facets. You don't remember your favorite games so pretty, impressive, colorful and detailed. And because that is the case, the literary excursion into gaming nostalgia is not only informative, but touching. On many pages you can find yourself and your childhood or youth: you can feel the frustration at Mega Man rounds, in which Spark Man or Needle Man showed you where the pixel hammer is; one remembers the candy-colored adventure worlds in Kirby's Dreamland or celebrates his most beautiful goals at Fifa 96 - or was forced to play sensitive 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 had pre-ordered the “Unofficial SNES Pixel Book” received a 16-bit adventure with “Captured in the Retroverse” as a bonus. Because the landscape-format adventure book has been so well received, a version for retailers is now to be created from it. There is nostalgia in that too. The concept is well known and had its best time sometime in the nineties: They are 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 decoupling 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 adventure in the “Retroversum” is much older, with strong roots in the games segment: Dungeon adventures in pixelated environments repeatedly confronted players with decisions: turn left, straight ahead, open the chest, choose a dialogue option? In the end, every decision was the wrong one and you were drawn deeper into a ramified cave system full of monsters, mostly without a chance to escape.

The game book “Gefangen im Retroversum” is for lovers of role-playing games and bridges the gap between digital adventure and analogue pen-and-paper role-playing games. Two dice and the book, that's all it takes to plunge into a video game-like adventure that especially game fans get their money's worth. The design of the book - it is 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

The “character sheet” should at least be familiar to pen-and-paper fans: Here you rely on 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 re-blossoming trend of hands-on books. Well-known publishers put fairy tale classics like Alice in Wonderland or detective classics like Sherlock Holmes into interactive novels, always paired with a portion of role play. Once started, it is difficult to escape 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 25.09.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API