Kieren has been writing about video games for over 15 years working for publications and websites such as Bitmap Books, RETRO, Pixel Nation, Atari User, What Culture, Hey Poor Player, GameSpew, Retro Fusion and the award winning Retro Gamer magazine. Other previously published works include his "A Compendium of" series (Atari 2600, Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 etc.), "The A-Z of" series (which covers almost every retro system you can think of!) and Homebrew Heroes, a digital book from 2013 about the world of homebrew gaming. He was also contributing author on such books as The SNES Compendium (Volume 1 & 2), Attack of the Flickering Skeletons, Let's Go Dizzy: The Story of the Oliver Twins and The Story of the Commodore Amiga in Pixels.

He has also appeared on the prime time Sky News technology themed TV show Swipe as well numerous podcasts as both a guest and co-host. His You Tube channel, The Laird's Lair, features a wide range of different videos focused on the world of retro gaming including his popular "The Story of" documentary series.

Retro Gaming - Volume 1 by Kieren Hawken

Retro Games: Volume 1 was inspired by two things: firstly the video game magazines of old such as C&VG, EGM, Game Pro and The Games Machine that reviewed games for a wide range of different formats as well as an old video tape I owned as a kid called What Video Game? For those unfamiliar with this, it was a VHS tape created by mail order experts and video game publishers Telegames 1989 to promote their own huge inventory of products, upcoming systems (such as the unreleased Konix Multi-System) and act as a buying guide for confused parents. The tape was sold on its own as well as being bundled in with large orders for consoles and games. I watched this tape over and over to decide what game I should buy next, it was like an early version of YouTube!

Retro Games: Volume 1 features reviews for over 50 different systems from hugely popular consoles like the Sega Mega Drive and Atari 2600 to obscure home computers such as the Sam Coupe and Oric 1. A wide range of different games are featured with full length reviews, screenshots, box art and other information. There really should be something for every taste here!


Blowing on dirty cartridges, feeding quarters into greedy cabinets, importing games from Japan… if you know, you know. If you don't, let retro fan and historian Kieren Hawken take you on a whirlwind tour of facts and anecdotes about some of the best games ever made. – David L. Craddock



  • "Downloaded this to read on the train as doing a lot of travelling this week. Brought back so many memories of getting a 2600 for my birthday and playing classics like Moon Patrol, Jungle Hunt and Asteroids. This book as as unpretentious as they come, unlike so many out there it doesn't pretend to be authoritative, an "ultimate guide" or a "complete history". It's a just a trip back to a simpler time when we played the same game for hours without getting bored and then swapped them with our mates. I am glad it says Volume 1 because I can't wait for Volume 2, plenty more classics left to cover!"

    – Amazon Review
  • "A must have book, very detailed and well-researched. I've gone through it multiple times it's that good! Go buy it :)"

    – Amazon Review
  • "Great read by this man who really knows his Amiga games. Well worth the purchase money!

    Try his other computer books as well.

    Expert author!"

    – Amazon Review



MSX2 Review
Namcot – 1989

I don't think I really need to tell anybody about the impact of the original Pac-Man game, not just in the world of gaming but the whole world full-stop. Pac-Man was not only a huge success in the arcades, he also became the very first video game character to cross over from gaming into main-stream pop culture, getting every kind of merchandise possible and even his own cartoon series. It was obvious that more games would follow and, after two pretty similar efforts starring members of his family in Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man as well as several spin-offs, Pac-Man would progress to the next logical step. This would see our rotund yellow chum jump out of the maze that had trapped him for so long to star in one of the very first scrolling platform games in Pac-Land, a title that was not only based on the popular Saturday morning TV series but would also serve as the inspiration for Super Mario Bros a year or so later. But creators Namco weren't done with his a-maze-ing adventures yet and in 1987, some seven years after the original game, they would send him back to his roots in Pac-Mania.

Aside from the change in perspective, with an isometric 3D viewpoint replacing the flat 2D maze of before, the most prominent upgrade to Pac-Mania is the ability to jump – a press of the fire button sees Mr. Pac launch into the air for just enough time to leap over an oncoming ghost. Timing is key to mastering this tactic but be warned, as Pac-Man isn't alone in this new skill as you'll find out on later levels of the game! Nobody will be surprised to hear that Pac-Man's old nemesis the ghosts reappear here, but the cast has also been upgraded somewhat. We see the return of mainstays Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde from the originalPac-Man game as well as Sue (fromMs. Pac-ManandPac-Land), who is now purple instead of orange. Unlike her original appearance in the earlier Pac-Man sequels, where she served as nothing more than a replacement of Clyde, she now homes in on Pac-Man's every move and will follow him around relentlessly. There are two new ghosts joining the cast too, coloured green and grey, named Spunky (stop giggling at the back!) and Funky. These are the spooks that you have to watch for as, like Pac-Man himself, they also posses the ability to jump, making avoiding them that little bit harder. As a way of carefully increasing the difficulty, the games starts off with the original crew of ghosts and more are added as the levels progress. On later stages there can be up to nine ghosts in pursuit of our hero!

Another new gameplay feature comes in the form of power-ups that, in addition to the regular power pills, give ol' Pac the ability to gain an advantage for the first time. These will appear in the same place as the regular bonus fruit that we all know and love and the first of these is a speed pill (as if Pac-Man's substance abuse wasn't already bad enough) that lets you shoot around the maze at a tremendous pace giving your foes no chance to catch you. Another handy pick-up ups your scoring abilities by doubling the point values of everything you munch. There are also several less notable tweaks to the gameplay too, but one that is definitely worth mentioning is the new side tunnels. Of course anyone familiar with the original game will know that these were a handy way to escape the ghosts and appear on the other side of the screen. Now that the maze is much bigger, seen in a 3D perspective and scrolls, these tunnels have been changed a little but serve the same purpose. You still wrap around to the other side of the level but they are much longer than before and also contain Pac Pellets that need to be eaten in order to complete the level.

One of the most attractive elements of Pac-Mania is the level designs, with each stage taking on its own unique theme. From the opening world, Block Town, with its copyright infringing Lego bricks to the Egyptian themed pyramids of Sandbox Land and on to the final challenge at the Jungly Steps, that features a series of steps or platforms seemingly suspended in mid-air! These have all been expertly recreated on the MSX2 and look great. What made these creative designs even more special is the outstanding soundtrack that accompanies them and that's been recreated pretty well here too. Each stage has its own tune and we defy you not to carry on humming them long after the game has finished. Given that Namco did the conversion themselves, you won't be surprised to hear they nailed the gameplay too with all the same tricks and tactics present that made the original arcade game so enjoyable. The only thing that really let's this port down is the scrolling, which can be a little on the jerky side, but this isn't a rare thing on the MSX machines unfortunately. Even with that in mind, there's no doubting the huge fun factor of Pac-Mania and it has to be regarded as a must-have game for anyone who owns a MSX2 computer.