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Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Review - Deus Ex Machina - Four out of Five stars

Deus Ex Machina - The Best Game You Never Played in Your Life - Mel Croucher

Subtitled, "The Best Game You've Never Played In Your Life," this is the story of Mel Croucher and his artistic creation Deus Ex Machina. Is it a game? Is it a multimedia experience? No, it's D.E.M :-D


Croucher's early star rose and fell in the fledgling home computer markets of the UK while I was still a school child. I never really knew of him other than the game I used to play, "PiMania," which in itself wasn't so much a game as a gateway to a prize in a competition.


So here I am, an adult with a toe in the retro games along with resurrecting my interest in vinyl. Looking up PiMania led me to the limited edition vinyl of Croucher's music (which should, perhaps, have been even more limited than the 500 pressed, but that's for another review...) and I tripped all over the history of Croucher and Deus that I had missed all those years ago.


For the physical book, the artwork is in mono, while the e-book preview does have colour, so if you're considering this book, it might be worth noting this.


Croucher did take part in the crowd funded documentary, "From Bedrooms To Billions," but although I've never seen the documentary, I have little doubt that the book is a completely different beast.


He was ahead of the game in more ways than one, and the rebellion against the corporate middleman that eventually took over the computer games industry, is being echoed by the general population today. To that extent, this book is about his journey and those who rode the roller coaster that was his company, Automata, at the time from its eventual winding down, to its rebirth in the present day and the follow up, Deus Ex Machina 2.


A good chunk of the book is delivered with Croucher's charismatic, self-deprecating humour (as well as some funnies that he has at the expense of people that he no doubt believes had it coming) so buckle in and prepare for the ride. It also contains all the story material for both versions of DEM along with some of the story behind how they came from his experience and on to the story board. (The story behind the story, in effect.)


This book contains a chunk of early computing history that those interested in retro games might be interested in. Croucher's antics, the famous people he met in the process of creating DEM, the not-so-famous people that he met, and re-met because of DEM, including some guilt trips, tirades against piracy, the mistakes he made not once, but twice... this book is a little gem in the window it opens on the UK games market of the time, as well as opinions of humanity from then to now.


I do believe that if someone wasn't interested in computer games of that era, then four stars would probably be considered a little high for this kind of book.