Tag Archives: prince of persia

The Hentzau Review Of Books


(About video games.)

For a medium that’s been around for a good 35 years at this point there are surprisingly few books that do a good job of exploring the various facets of videogame history. I’ve always found this a little bit odd; modern videogaming has found itself inextricably linked with the rise of the internet and so you’re far more likely to find retrospectives on games and developers somewhere online, but the catch here is that anything published on the internet is going to be 1) superficial by its very nature (and I don’t mean that as a slight at all, it’s just that the amount of effort you’re going to put into researching even a long blog post or news article is always going to pale in comparison to what you’d do for a full-on book1), and 2) distressingly hard to find unless it’s got really good search engine optimisation. No, I much prefer the old-fashioned approach of sitting down with a book that’ll do an in-depth exploration of one specific area, even if the authors can’t seem to resist giving them cliche titles like Game Over or Insert Coin; the act of reading a book has a permanence that scrolling down a webpage lacks and which leads to my assimilating the information far more readily, and as I like reading history books in general I’ve ended up reading rather more books about the history of video games than a normal person should. As I’ve hit something of a slow period when it comes to writing about games, I thought I’d change things up slightly by writing about writing about games instead. Here are a few books that I liked (or didn’t), and why.

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  1. Okay, so I have a very low opinion of Games Journalism these days, but I should balance up the constant dunking by mentioning the exception to this rule: Eurogamer occasionally put up some really good retrospectives that are easily ten thousand words plus. The one on Tomb Raider was fantastic.
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Thoughts: Karateka.


I doubt many people reading this will have heard of the original Karateka. It’s an old game originally released for the Apple II in 1985,  at a time when Choplifter and Pacman represented the cutting edge of gaming. You controlled a tiny man in a karate gi who ran from left to right through a castle. Every so often he’d have to stop and fight a guard using his pro karate skills, and eventually he’d defeat the evil lord of the castle and rescue his kidnapped beloved, a princess. Apparently it was quite good by 1985 standards despite looking tremendously ropey today, but the only reason I’ve heard of it is because it was the first game by Jordan Mechner and basically functioned as a prototype for many of the elements he later implemented in the much better – and better-known – Prince of Persia1.

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  1. If you’re interested in games at all and ever get the chance, I highly recommend reading the Prince of Persia Journals. They’re a fascinating glimpse into the creative process involved in trying to make a game pretty much singlehandedly.
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