At 462 pages Gaming Hacks packs a hefty punch and covers a wide range of topics which should have something for almost everyone, be it simple tweaks to some of the more popular well known titles, to more in-depth hardware modification and adaptation.

Gaming Hacks book - ISBN: 059600714

The book is split up in to eight main chapters, covering aspects such as playing classic games with emulators such as those from the C64 and Atari 2600, to Mame ROMs and emulating SNES games on the Dreamcast.

Dreamcast owners get a fair few number of hacks dedicated to the machine, with details of how to play online games without the official servers which were shut down long ago - fortunately this hack gives the built-in modem on the Dreamcast a whole new lease of life and should make a good few Dreamcast fans more than happy.

Boot discs and creation of Dreamcast CD-R images using your PC's CD writer are also detailed, with a selection of popular homebrew titles also showcased. A cool use of the Visual Memory Unit (hack 52) sees the memory cards with LCD screens being turned in to tiny Game Boy style machines - not only that but a thorough list of sites which have VMU minigames and concept demos are listed, whilst a boxout gives details of how to find out more about developing games for the VMU.

Hardware based hacks from simply positioning of your speakers and fine-tuning your TV to accept your consoles AV input is all covered in a hardware section, whilst PS2 and Xbox gamesave and ROM hacking is all covered to great depth in Chapter 6 of the book, where the Game Engine is torn apart and put back together again by the books author Simon Carless.

Impressively the book doesn't just limit itself to traditional gaming devices, and during the chapter looking at portable gaming it covers the ability to play games on the Apple iPod, composing music on the GameBoy, and even installing a PlayStation 2 console in to a car.

Several hacks cover the creation of Infocom style adventure worlds, with each of the hacks go in to some seriously mind-boggling detail - including example code allow the adding of puzzles and nonplayer characters to your games - even making them move and talk so as they can add an additional amount of randomisation and interest to your game.

Whereas most of the hacks featured in the book give details of how to achieve some faily impressive results with hacks, the "MMORPG Lingo" (Hack 29) seems little more than a glossary of terms - which weighing in at just over seven pages feels like a slight waste of space which could have been better spent on a more in-depth hack. There's no doubt that it's vitally important useful information, but seems so out of place compared with other hacks in the book.

Other hacks well worthy of a mention include Hack 6 which shows you the basics of creating your own Atari 2600 games, whilst pinball fans will be impressed with Hack 80, which gives you the ability to play fully interactive pinball tables and design your own using the built-in visual construction kit editor.

A huge amount of information is featured in Gaming Hacks and although it may appear to cater for the most hardcore of gamers at first glance, it's actually got something for even the more casual gamers who simply want to have a bit of fun, whilst managing to do something with their games and hardware which without this book they'd probably never have known was even possible, yet alone so easy.

Overall score: 8 out of 10
Publisher: O'Reilly
ISBN: 0596007140
Recommended Price: 17.50
Available: Now
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