Here’s the third part of our series on Commodore Format and the C64 at Christmas. Things were winding down for the machine, and this festive season belonged to the SNES – but there was still a movie tie-in, a celebrity endorsed sports sim and a brand new Dizzy game on the Commodore. And CF was still shifting nearly 50,000 copies a month! Not bad at all…
Christmas 1992, then. It was only two years since the launch of CF, but it felt much longer. The world was a different place – the USSR had fallen, Charles and Diana were separated, McDonalds was open in China and Bill Clinton was now US president. The world of tech was moving quickly, too: this was the year we started to hear the words “world wide web”.
So where was the Commodore 64 in all of this? Well, it was still kicking. There were ominous signs, though: Aladdin was the big Christmas film, with a spectacular game on the Megadrive to match. But there was no C64 conversion, when in previous years such a thing would’ve been a certainty. US Gold had managed to sneak out a preview of Streetfigher II to CF in time for the holidays, but it was a mediocre effort. And the slapdash conversion masked a harsh reality. Sure, it could have been better. Everyone could see that. But no version would have been remotely close to the arcade or SNES version that everybody wanted for Christmas.
There were some surprises this festive season, though. Bizarrely, the C64 was treated to both Des Lynam (Match Of The Day) and Kim Bassinger (a decent license of Cool World) this month. Dizzy was back and this time it wasn’t a port from the Spectrum! And CF itself was still huge, shifting well over 45,000 copies a month. Here are five games the magazine was talking about that were on the shelves for christmas.
CRYSTAL KINGDOM DIZZY
Dizzy with the lights on! For years, Commodore 64 owners had – bafflingly – had to make do with Spectrum ports of the hugely popular Dizzy adventure series. The camp, boxing-glove clad egg’s final outing on the Breadbin was in full C64 technicolour, though. And there is more substance here than blue skies and sunshine: it’s a bigger, four-level game (each with its own access code) and a way better control system that lets you change where Dizzy’s going mid-air and how high he leaps. Each level’s pretty different, too – the first is pretty standard Dizzy stuff, but you need to go underground (once you’ve got a torch) and eventually onto the deck of a ship in search of stolen treasure. You know the score – Walk. Jump. Talk to the other Yolk Folk. Jump a bit more. Pick things up that seem useful. It’s a good laugh, but pretty easy. The novelty is the sheer size of the thing and playing Dizzy on a Commodore with some decent graphics. Sort of Dizzy Deluxe edition, really.
CF SAID: “If you love Dizzy it’s the best thing since sliced bread. For everyone else it’s more of the same.” (73%, issue 27. Read review)
The Kim Bassinger movie Cool World did so badly in the US that it went straight to video in Britain. All every excitable teenage boy knew was that it was supposed to be a bit raunchy, and the adverts Ocean ran for the C64 version – featuring the lead character, Holli Would (Jesus – Ed) in her underwear – took advantage of that.
But this is an Ocean movie convo running in chunks of 64k. So what we got, of course, was a platform adventure. You play Harris, and the cartoon doodles from another vortex called Cool World are nipping into our world via his living room. They’re stealing stuff – his VCR, his television, his furniture. And it’s all with the wider aim of taking over the world. Your job – yup – is to stop them.
Like the movie itself, the games feels like it lacks a concrete purpose. You have to switch between our world and Cool World retrieving, say, the toaster that the doodles have stolen but once you do you don’t feel much of an achievement ‘cos by that time something else has been nicked. It’s large, it’s colourful and it has some beautiful animation. But it gets samey very quickly.
CF SAID: “Smooth scrolling and fast action.” (85%, issue 28. Read review)
Slicks was an unexpected budget treasure, and a game Codemasters could justifably have put out at full price (and in the same month everyone was annoyed Crystal Kingdom Dizzy was being sold for a tenner, too).
It’s simple enough – a top down F1 racing game. You have a practice on any of the top tracks in the world, then enter a season. Drivers can occasionally challenge you, and if you beat them then you get their car to race next time around. Eventually, you can challenge other drivers too. It’s always worth challenging the next best car ‘cos you get to keep it for the rest of the season!
All you do is hammer fire to accelerate and move left and right. Your car stays in the middle of the screen so you can see the track that’s coming pretty well, but things are always tight and fast. Eventually you’ll work out how to cut corners and shave off a few seconds from your lap times, and when you’ve beaten it there’s a beautifully executed two player mode. Excellent stuff.
CF SAID: “Tough, sure. But worth the effort.” (83%, issue 25. Read review)
NICK FALDO’S CHAMPIONSHIP GOLF
Golf, eh? Assuming you know (or aren’t that arsed) about the rules, what made Faldo a 93% Corker? Well, the main thing that strikes you is the speed. Unlike, say, World Class Leaderboard it doesn’t take forever to redraw the screen.
Then there is the wealth of options before you take your shot. Eight of them, helping you to position your feet and take advantage of the wind direction and speed. Impressive stuff.
A map will help you with the high and low points of each green, and when you’re ready to take your shot the animation is beautiful.
What sets this golf sim apart from ones before it is that there is a real learning curve – the more you play, the better you get. The slightest nip and tuck of an option can make all the difference and you’re soon using it all for the good. It’s fast, it’s accurate and the only downside was the £24 it cost on disk.
CF SAID: “A sure fire winner. Leaves the Leaderboards of the world for dead. Don’t wait for your next birthday.” (93%, issue 28. Read review)
A lost classic. How many people have played or even know about the Commodore 64’s very own caveman simulator?!
Ugh! is actually the name of the caveman you play. And he runs a flying taxi service. You pedal your cab from platform to platform, picking up passengers as they wave for you. Each ride has a fare, which starts decreasing the second you pick the person up. So it’s in your interests to be quick! If you’re especially speedy you can even get a tip.
Of course, you can’t pedal all day on an empty stomach. So now and then you have to give up a fare in search of fruit to eat. And you have to be careful as you drive – get too close to a passenger or touch down on a platform too roughly and you can end up knocking them into the water. And if you annoy one of the dinosaurs that roam your world, they’ll try to trash your propellers!
It’s a silly, original, hugely playable game. And when you’re done, there’s a two player mode that will keep you coming back forever. If Ugh! had appeared in the Commodore’s heydey, people would remember it as an all time classic. If you haven’t played it before, you know what to do.
CF SAID: “It’s just very, very good.” (92%, issue 24. Read review)
ON THE POWER PACK…
The now traditional two Power Packs were on the front of CF‘s main Christmas issue (CF27). Included was a demo of the upcoming Sceptre Of Baghdad, and three games – although in truth, none were much to write home about (see the original tape pages here). The second Christmas issue (CF28), appearing on December 23rd, was much better: the single tape included a demo of the month’s major release, Nick Faldo‘s Golf, and a specially written Christmas PD demo. There was also a neat racer, Fifth Gear.
- Download the CF Christmas demo from CF28 (runs in any C64 emulator)
The year ahead was one of goodbyes. It had been a decent Christmas, but now even the likes of Ocean and US Gold were planning their final ever releases for the Commodore 64 – Sleepwalker and Streetfighter II respectively. By Christmas 1993, there were virtually no games on the shelves and even fewer shops willing to stock them as the 16 and 32 bit machines became the commercial standard and Atari unleashed the 64-bit Jaguar. The games that did trickle out were some of the C64’s best ever, though – and we’ll talk about them next time. CF
- Go back to the CF at Christmas homepage
- Download the CF Christmas Demo from issue 28 (runs on any C64 emulator)
- The Cool World and Nick Faldo videos were created for us by Paul Morrison, who’s writing a book about 8-bit games. Read about it at http://www.theywereourgods.com