Issue Review: CF18 (March 1992)

“All change!” read Commodore Format‘s editorial this month – the first since issue one. Just three months on from being installed in CF’s top job, Colin Campbell was promoted at Future; enter, then, third editor Trenton Webb (read his CF story in his own words here). He’d joined Future’s original magazine Amstrad Action in the late 1980s as staff writer before moving up to be games editor on Amiga Format. CF was his first editor’s job, and he was joined by Future’s 99th employee; a man who’d go on to write some of Commodore Format‘s finest reviews. That guy was James Leach, who’d later win a BAFTA and still writes the back page for Edge today. Yes, that James Leach! Read his own CF story here.

CHEAP AND CHEERFUL

That wasn’t the only change in March 1992. The Commodore 64 might have been seeing some of its greatest ever titles of late – Creatures 2Smash TVFirst Samurai – but the volume of releases was diminishing. Trenton’s immediate broad stroke change was to give original budget titles the same Power Test treatment as premium games and even to put demos of the best on the Power Pack. The first was Demon Blue, and a two-page review accompanied it. And why not? Arguably, it was better than some of the full-price stuff. And a C64 game is a C64 game.

Except when it isn’t. We refer to the curious case of Beavers in this month’s Early Warning! preview section. Cute platformers were massive in 1992 thanks to the influx of them on the 16-bit consoles, and this looked the part. It featured a beaver called Jethro who was on a mission to save his girlfriend in classic videogame style. There were four valleys for our buck-toothed hero to conquer in search of his love, each with an end of level boss. “One of the best things is the gorgeous movement that goes into Jethro’s movement”, said CF. “If you leave him alone he looks at you with a bored expression…when he uses up all his lives, he lays on the floor, kicking his feet and crying his eyes out.”

THIS IS A BIT NAUGHTY

beavers1

Beavers didn’t look quite right, and with good reason. Grandslam had mocked up these “C64 screenshots” on an Amiga. Screenshot credit and Beavers words: Frank Gasking

It sounded good. But the accompanying screenshots looked…well…wrong. The colours just didn’t look very C64. And everything looked rather staged. With good reason, too: Beavers didn’t really exist on the Commodore. CF’s beautiful screenshots were actually created by creators Grandslam on an Amiga to generate some excitement for the game, which was quickly abandoned when they decided the floor was dropping out of the 8-bit market. Whether CF were taking Grandslam’s word on that “beautiful animation” or had actually seen it on another machine, we’ll never know. Grandslam’s Richard Underhill recalls that magazines tended to let their imaginations run riot off the back of mockups or Amiga screenshots in pursuit of a decent news story, which is almost certainly what happened with Beavers.

ROBOCOP, WINTER CAMP AND A LEMMING

There was some cutsey action for real on the C64 this month, though, with the  late John Ferrari’s Summer Camp sequel Winter Camp. Maximus Mouse skates, canoes and runs away from snowballs in this twist on a sports sim’, and it’s really cool. New reviewer James Leach drops a clanger, mind, referring to Creatures‘ Clyde Radcliffe – who guest appears in the game – as “a yeti”! He was more a Spectrum man, apparently.

There wasn’t a third Robocop film but Ocean did do a third C64 game this Spring: Robocop 3 was the last of their games released on the C64 compatible C64GS carts, following the C64 console’s flop. It failed for many reasons (see previous installments of this series and our interview with Mev Dinc) but Ocean emerged with nothing but credit, having fully supported the machine and the ability to make bigger, better C64 games from the beginning. A shame more hadn’t followed, really. Robocop 3, by the way, featured arguably one of the greatest C64 tunes ever – by Jereon Tel, of course. Check it out:

Finally for this time, a Lemming! An actual Lemming. The series had been out a while on other formats, but Psygnosis had experienced real headaches getting enough of the suicidal critters digging, exploding and blocking on screen at the same time on C64. Now, though, something was really happening and Commodore Format confirmed a Christmas 1992 release. Little did we know it wouldn’t really appear until January 1994, and be the last game you could ever buy for the C64 in a shop. That’s for much later down the line in Issue Review, though. This month – March ’92 – was, even though we didn’t know it, the start of a special time for Commodore Format. As we’ll see as we go through Trenton’s issues, the magazine was never warmer or more positive or easy to read. And with £3.99 games now getting the budget treatment it meant that more kids could actually buy at least one game each month they read about in the magazine. Good times. CF

Commodore_Format_PowerPack_18_1992-03ON THE POWER PACK…

Demon Blue was the first budget game to get a demo on the CF tape. It was joined by three full games this month. What a barg! First up was hugely popular Freescape 3D-er, Sphinx Jinx. Then there was 21st Century Entertainment’s engaging adventure collect ’em up FireLord – which was still selling at retail separately for four quid! – and a reader game called Fast which actually wasn’t your usual SEUCK snooze-fest. It was a cool racing game topping off a great covertape.

…AND ONE MORE THING

In early ’92 you could buy a Roger Frames Ugh! Girls! t-shirt. It’s the only piece of Commodore Format merch we’ve been unable to track down. Did you have one? Have you still got it? Let us know as we’d love a picture!

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