Issue Review: CF 6 (March, 1991)

It was in March of 1991 that Los Angeles police officers were caught on camera beating up Rodney King. In the Persian Gulf war was at an end, and the US began pulling thousands of troops out of Iraq. The Comedy Central TV channel launched outside of America, and the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie (The Secret Of The Ooze!) was in the cinema.With the C64 conversions months away, there were no Turtles in this month’s CF (issue 6). But there wasn’t a shortage of ninja action, with March 1991’s lively Last Ninja/Shadow Dancer mashup cover one of the best the magazine was ever to have. It was a storming month for the Commodore 64, as the first Creatures game and Turrican 2 also put in an appearance.

Commodore Format 6 cover

Look at how Roger Frames is already becoming one of the magazine’s stars. In issue 1 Roger was a black and white column near to the back of the magazine. Half a year later, he’s got his own colour spot on the cover (top left).

The half-year-old Commodore Format had found its feet. It was now 99% games, with editor Steve Jarratt knocking out all of the unneccesary bits of the reviews in ruthless fashion. “Games explained, not described” was a key point of difference for the magazine.  And it showed, as Steve toured readers around the 97% corker Last Ninja 3 with enormous screengrabs and useful captions a reader could come back to once they’d bought the game. Sections of LN3 were stuck together – a new thing in 1991 – so that it was easy to see just how big the levels were. Steve was trying to make CF a useful companion you would come back to over and over. Other magazines were beginning to look old fashioned. Gordon Houghton’s Creatures review went further, treating us to level one in its entirety across two pages. And the Clyde Radcliffe’s Amazing Gadgets boxout explained just how many different powerups could help you get through the game. “Creatures is beautiful”, said Gordon – only bemoaning a lack of passwords for each level.

The Commodore 64 was still seeing some major names in 1991. Total Recall (based on the original Arnie movie) and comic book conversion Judge Dredd fared OK this month, but special mention has to go to the utterly abysmal Dick Tracy. After getting the previous month’s cover and a two-page preview spread, the 11% review was hidden away on page 41. It was utterly demolished by a magazine sometimes accused of overt generosity. “Awful backgrounds…jerky, blocky sprites…you’ll be so fast asleep that eight million volts won’t wake you” said Gordon, awarding it the lowest mark CF would ever give a game. Something of the spirit of ZZAP! there, perhaps. (EDIT: you can now read our special feature on the game and find out why it’s so bad here – Ed)

Commodore_Format_PowerPack_6_1991-03

Tenth Frame was a surprisingly interesting bowling sim’, and Chameleon was unusual – if frustrating – fun. But it’s the demos that stand out on this month’s Power Pack. Cut down versions of three brand new full priced games. It might have been 1991, but the C64 was still massive.

Elswhere, the Gamesbusters section had been revamped (“but Andy Dyer‘s still crap as ever!”, chirped Steve). Andy Roberts had stayed up all night to map out Rick Dangerous 2 by hand, and the first ever game to be reviewed in CF – the quirky Time Machine – had also been cracked. Roger Frames was in hospital after yet another accident (although his Mum sneaked him in a C64 so he could road test Top Cat and Gemini Wing), and Gordon Houghton talked us through the best guns and bombs in games ever. On the Power Pack, nifty US Gold puzzler Chip’s Challenge and cover game Shadow Dancer were the try-before-you-buy demos (remember the weird dancing dog when you used a power up?). There was also a pretty neat bowling game called Tenth Frame and Martin Walker’s Chameleon. The covertape was now coming in a plastic box with a proper inlay. For the first few months it had been attached to a piece of cardboard wrapped around the cover. Now, it looked like a proper games release and you could collect them on your shelf.

It was such little touches – and those like the promise of a tips booklet in the next month’s magazine – that already had CF on top of the market just half a year after launch. “We’re not designed to be different”, The Mighty Brain told readers in this month’s letters column. “We’re designed to be better”. CF


 

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2 thoughts on “Issue Review: CF 6 (March, 1991)

  1. This was my first issue of Commodore Format; I spent ages playing the demo of Star Control, but never found the full game. Eventually I got it preowned for the Megadrive some years later.

    Weird, but the cover is something I barely remember; my memories of later covers are much clearer. But that Power Pack art; that stirs that wonderful nostalgic feeling in me.

    Thanks very much for writing this!

    Like

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