Starflight by Jamie Lendino a wonderful look at DOS games | Book Review


This is the fifth book from Jamie Lendino that I’ve read. While not the best book from those five, I think it is pretty good! Like his other books, numerous games are covered, and many probably don’t need to be here.

While reading this, I kept thinking about specific games I remember playing in the early 90s. Many of them are covered here. I was happy to read more about them and the experiences Jamie had while playing them, either in college or for this book.

This book feels close to something from Boss Fight Books. However, instead of covering a specific video game, it covers a type of game and how the PC managed to push out all of the competitors to PC-compatible computers.

While I wish there were more information on the PC business, I do like that he focuses on the games. However, like his other books, there can be too much focus on games that probably didn’t need to be included.

MS-DOS games

These are games that I remember fondly. There was a time when you had to enter commands to get a program to run. Once Windows replaced DOS, you didn’t have to do that. I still remember having to quit Windows to run some games. It was like Windows was a shell that operated along with DOS.

Jamie does a good job of highlighting the changes in graphics and how it took a while for game developers to catch up with the improvements to the hardware. He also explains how the clones slowly took over the PC market. It is a cool part of computer history.

He brings up how IBM, and the other PC companies, pushed out Commodore, Atari, and other companies from the 80s to become the dominant platform. He doesn’t get too into it, and I think he could have done this if he had cut down on the number of games he covered.

Structure of the book

Jamie has developed a template for writing these books. Each chapter starts with a brief explanation of what was happening. He talks about some of the popular games from the period he is covering, and then he wraps the chapter up with a little more information about the technical achievements of that year. In this book, he also adds the PC’s impact on the market.

Each chapter covers roughly a year. Jamie talks about the games released that year, hardware and software innovations, and how the market changed. It is fascinating; I would like to have seen it go more in-depth on history.  

There were parts of the story that I wish had been expanded on. Going over EGA, VGA, and Super VGA in depth would have been nice. The differences do get talked about, but they were rushed a bit.

I don’t think that a linear story was the best idea here. I understand why it was written this way, but I think it might have been better if it had been broken up by technical achievements, essential games from the period, and how the market changed.

Game Information

These are a staple of Jamie’s books. Not all of them are reviews, as Jamie seems to have chosen games he likes or popular ones from the time period. I like the variety of genres, but some probably didn’t need to be here.

You have strategy games, first-person shooters, platformers, and adventure games, to name a few. He talks about how some genres work better on a computer than on a console and how the graphics on the PC were better.

I also liked the selection of games once we got into the 90s. These were the games that I knew of but didn’t know much about. That was part of the problem that I had with it. I learned about games I had never heard of in Jamie’s other books.

This is probably on me, as I played many games on the PC during the early 90s. I didn’t read about these games in magazines; I heard about them from friends or played them on demo discs. Some of those games seem to have been lost to time.

While reading this, I kept thinking back to other games I remembered from the 90s. Especially one RPG, which was called Aspectra. It was a shareware game that a friend gave me. There were so many games like this that it is hard to count.

The games that Jamie lists were mainly iconic. You have Doom, Doom II, Dune II, and Warcraft. I remember each of these games fondly, and I’m glad to read about other experiences with them. A few of them seem to have been selected based on their technical achievements.

I agree with most of his selections for the games in this book. However, I don’t think they all need to be here. I would like to have seen him cut down on the number of games.

Likes and Dislikes

I like that this book doesn’t have too many repetitive game entries. Jamie would repeat games in his previous books and essentially say the same thing. That doesn’t happen here.

He also limited the number of games but could have paired the list down a little more. Some games are important for what they did to the genre; others seem to have been selected because Jamie likes them. It is one of the fun parts of books like this. Everyone has their own opinion on which games are important.

Jamie puts a few things in this that I like when discussing the game selections. He will bring up the technical achievements of the game or how the game advanced a genre. Still, there are some things that I don’t understand about some games being in here.

I wish there were more information about different companies that made PC clones. This is mentioned, but it isn’t explored in any meaningful way. I like the information in the book, but there is a clear focus on the games.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think this is the best book that Jamie has written. It isn’t the worst, but I think it needs more information about the PC market. Like the other books, there is a focus on games that probably don’t need to be here.

I understand that he puts these lists together by looking over several “best of” lists, but some of them feel a bit of a reach. It is still interesting to see what he includes and how I would choose different games. I still think he could have limited the games to three or five a year.

Jamie covers some interesting topics. However, always I wouldn’t say I like how he goes about it. There are some questions that I feel he should be asking that he doesn’t. The book gives me a few ideas for projects I might work on later.

Overall, it is a good book. If you like the other books that Jamie has written, then you’ll probably like this one.

Published by Paul Werkema

Hi! I'm here to share my hobbies with all of you. I love video games and books, so I write about the books that cover video games or are novels about video games.

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