Monday 3 June 2024

From Ants To Zombies Review


As much as we love the Bitmap Visual Compendium and Box Art books, it’s always nice when one of their more investigative releases appear. In the past we have had a host of great volumes such as The Games That Weren’t, A Gremlin in the Works and A Secret History of Mac Gaming, which aimed to make us all instant experts on overlooked areas of video game history. From Antz to Zombies falls more into this latter category as it aims to take us through the origins and thematic of everything horror, while unearthing a fair few overlooked gems along the way.

As we’ve come to expect the cover art for the book looks absolutely gorgeous. Adorned with various ghosts and beasties, it perfectly captures the feel of early creature features. The pages inside are no different with chibi pixelated monsters used to decorate pages and a good mix of screen shots and text. The consistent and thoughtful colour palette used is also well judged to fit the mood while keeping text easily visible.

Contents wise, the book is exhaustive. There are of course too many horror games for everything to be covered but you are getting over six hundred and sixty pages of curated coverage here. This covers pretty much every system from the Atari 2600 to modern day consoles (Or Atari to ZX Spectrum if you want to keep with the alphabet theme).

With such a wide area to cover the author has taken a creative approach to cataloguing all these games. Instead of by year or system, titles are categorised by their monsters. As a result, you get sections such as ‘Terror of the Abyss’ and ‘Dark Forests’ to go with the more conventional ‘Survival Horror’ tag. It’s an entertaining and effective way of linking games together while also retaining the fun B movie style the book nails perfectly.  

The writing itself is of an exceptionally high standard. The Book opens with an incredibly in depth look at the notion of horror as a genre generally, tracing it back to its origins in film and literature and then goes on to relate that in terms of how it applies to video games. It’s quite a theoretical approach but one we found fascinating, and we couldn’t help but think how useful this book would be for anyone studying game design or even horror as a genre generally.

When moving to the games themselves, the same standard of writing is present, but it changes tack to focus on what within the games acts to trigger the feelings of dread within us and how the mechanics of the games work to further help put this across. As a result, it’s an incredibly interesting read which will likely draw you in even if you have just come to flick through and look at the screen shots or use it as reference material for game hunting.

Overall, Antz to Zombies is a real highlight of the excellent Bitmap books catalogue. We always like it when someone brings a new idea and a new approach to the books and this one feels like something fresh and fun. It’s definitely up there with the constantly sought after Point and Click and JRPG Books and is pretty much essential for anyone interested in video games.

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*Picture from the Bitmap Books Website

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