CF at Christmas: 1993

It’s the last of our series on Commodore Format at Christmas! The second half of 1993 saw the Commodore 64 take one final commercial breath: if you were still playing the Breadbin this holiday season, here are the new games you could buy for it. 

The industry had been predicting the death of the Commodore 64 since the mid 80s, but every year the machine had proven the “experts” wrong with both its popularity and ability. By 1993, though, the computer was really starting to show its age. Up until now, the Commie had been able to produce a decent version of pretty much any arcade or 16-bit game out there. See First Samurai, Lotus Esprit or Lemmings. Now, though, console classics like Streetfighter II were showing up the C64 for what it was: yesterday’s tech. Sure, US Gold’s conversion of the game was rushed and it was poor: but the harsh reality was that no version would ever have been accurate. And, of course, tech was only going to keep marching forward. Mortal Kombat didn’t have a hope.

So 1993 was a year of goodbyes and tidying up: in truth, US Gold probably didn’t want to release Streetfighter at all for C64 but had signed the contracts well before the machine declined. The same could be said of Alien 3 and Lemmings. But arrive they all did, and combat games aside they were pretty decent. This was the last year you could walk into a computer shop and buy a new C64 game off the shelf, and if you did you likely bought a game of a standard thought impossible back when the computer launched. Here are five of the best.

LEMMINGS

By 1993, all of the home computers had seen a conversion of groundbreaking Amiga puzzler/strategy/platformer, Lemmings. Even Speccy users had enjoyed a crude, mono version but the C64 incarnation – in spite of repeated assurances from Psygnosis – never appeared. In fact, numerous versions had been attempted and abandoned by multiple teams, the main sticking point being how to get all those Lemmings sprites moving, digging and hammering on-screen at the same time. By the time something was working to the agreement of all parties, there was another problem: the C64 commercial market had completely died. With such lengthy investment, though, Psygnosis did – to their credit – release the game. It isn’t a fan version, in spite of what you may read elsewhere. In fact, complete with keyboard overlay and the option to use a mouse, this highly accomplished conversion was the last Commodore game you could buy off a shop shelf in the UK. There was such demand, a second run of cassettes was ordered in early ’94. Quite a legacy. (84%, issue 39. Read review)

Above: C64 Lemmings on tape and disk, including the keyboard overlay. These went across the number buttons and you could press 1 to dig, for example. This sped things up a lot and was much needed on C64. 

 

LIVERPOOL FC

People talk about the best and worst football games on the C64, but it’s all relative really: the sport never got a truly accurate interpretation and quite often those which tried that fared worst. Microprose Soccer‘s arcade style fun was way cooler and more suited to the machine, and side-on chunky sprite-fest Emlyn Hughes Soccer was at least a laugh.

The Kick Off series so beloved of Amiga owners hadn’t really worked well on the Commodore, but after literally years of delays the last footie game on the ’64 came closer to top-down football fun than anything else. Looking at it in 2015 it’s a bit laughable if we’re honest, but at the time its speed (not something 8-bit footie titles were famed for), huge array of options and even digitised player pictures made it stand out.

CF SAID: “One of the best soccer sims for years on C64”. (90%, issue 34. Read review

SLEEPWALKER

Ocean’s last Commodore 64 release was an immense achievement on an 8-bit computer, and it’s a shame more people don’t know about it.

The official Red Nose Day game for 1993 featured a boy called Lee and his dog. As soon as Lee drifts off, he becomes the sleepwalker of the title. Playing Ralph the dog, you must ensure Lee’s safety, all the time ensuring you don’t wake him up (you know the old wives’ tale there). It’s a weird combination of puzzle and platform game, which’ll see you running ahead to plan a safe route avoiding the, er, crocodiles, overhead powerlines and water. Lee will dozily march forward regardless, so you have to keep dashing back and gently kicking or nudging him in the right direction.

Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’re hooked. An incredible game that you probably haven’t played. Seek it out, and consult your back issues of CF for a great player’s guide!

CF SAID: “Never dull and the more you play the more you like it”. (90%, issue issue 33. Read review

ALIEN 3 

From one finale to another, here’s the C64’s last ever movie tie-in. Alien 3 is another game that people are surprised to find appeared on the 8-bit computer, but it did – and very officially, in late ’93 via Virgin. And it stands up to the 16-bit console versions pretty well!

Following the plot of the third movie, you play Ripley inside a high security prison on another planet which houses not only inmates but the gruesome creatures of the film. It’s shooting and platforms, with lots of ladders and guns. The game scrolls in every direction, doing so by only revealing parts of the area you’re in at a time like in Switchblade (check out the video to see what we mean). It works well, heightening the feeling of claustrophobia. The moody graphics and soundtrack do that too. Great stuff.

CF SAID: “Initially fun, then slightly repetitive, but you can’t argue with that curious addictiveness.”  (78%, issue 37. Read review)

MAYHEM IN MONSTERLAND

What else is there to say that hasn’t already been said about Apex’ glorious, speedy platform game? We’ve a whole homepage dedicated to the game Commodore Format mischievously awarded a perfect 100% score to, including an interview with editor Andy Hutchinson. You can look at it two ways: the first is in the context of the time. It really was the perfect commercial swansong, and only other programmers seem upset with the review score today. It topped off the Commodore’s commercial life wonderfully. And then there’s just looking at the game in the abstract. Is it worth 100%? No. It has bugs, and it’s a bit samey. But has it been bettered since? Also no. After over 20 years, it’s time to enjoy this fantastic game for what it is – which is no doubt what many hardcore C64 fans did in ’93. (100%, issue 38. Read review)

ON THE POWER PACK…

Commodore_Format_PowerPack_40_1994-01To tie in with Commodore Format’s new “readers are the future” direction, the issue 40 covertape (dated January 1994) included two utilities to help us get more out of our computer this month. The Monster Mash Editor was for creating sprites for your own games, whilst InterWord was a pretty nifty word processor. Jockey Wilson’s Darts and so-so shooter IO made for an underwhelming festive offering, especially to readers who’d become used to two tapes at christmas. It also became apparent that InterWord hadn’t been designed for tape users, so it wasn’t even possible to save the documents you’d created. D’oh! CF