Issue Review: CF19 (April 1992)

cf19_Apr1992

Commodore Format was selling more issues than ever by the Spring of 1992. The latest six monthly data – for July to December ’91 – showed another increase to 55,178. That was up from the previous figure of 50,135 revealed in CF12 (for Jan-Jun ’91, see our feature here), which meant CF was the country’s biggest selling Commodore 64 magazine by a long way. They also claimed the title of “world’s best seller”, though we can’t verify that. Germany’s 64-er probably came close, but probably didn’t sell quite as well because it was never translated to English.

Anyway. All was good in Commodore Format world, and this month new editor Trenton Webb declared a Jeff Minter special! With the majority of CF’s readers new and younger users who had the machine handed down to them or bought as a cheap first computer, the long-haired sheep fanatic – and master C64 coder – was unknown to most of the audience. They were treated to two Minter classics on the Power Pack, namely Sheep In Space and the epilepsy inducing Attack Of The Mutant Camels. Innovative and quirky as they were, though, the hulking great pixels and blippy SFX were dated by 1992, especially compared to stuff like Creatures 2 and the recent, classy First Samurai. Inside the magazine, Jeff spoke to CF’s new games editor James Leach at his cottage in Wales – which looked like “a ten-year-old’s bedroom”. Jeff revealed that he actually received one of the world’s very first Commodore 64s to code with and that it came with virtually no documentation: he just worked it out for himself.

SOME GOOD WORDS WERE WRITTEN THIS MONTH

Back in the present day, this month’s cover was the new Indiana Jones gameThe Fate of Atlantis wasn’t a movie, but US Gold were bringing the story to the C64 in some style. The 3D adventure let you switch views between Indy and Sophia as you use your head to navigate the map (finding secret rooms and cracking codes) and use your gun to blast away the Nazis. CF‘s preview of the game included screenshots of the game’s development graphics (like sheets of sprites) and a chat with the programmers. It was real journalism, way beyond describing the game and obliterating anything ZZAP! were doing. As James Leach told us, editor Trenton Webb just let his writers do what they were best at with no interference. This month’s Indy preview and the Jeff Minter interview show how effective that was.

As for the games on the  shop shelves this month, Catalypse was a frantic and classsy sideways shooter. It did what it did very well, but with a million other games like it the £9.99 price tag was a tough ask. A better buy was Super Seymour on budget (read about it in our Best Of feature here), a sort of Bombjack clone for four quid. And then there were the latest mid-range outings from Hi-Tec’s Hanna Barbera deal: The Jetsons was ridiculously under-rated at 39% (though reviewed by Stuart Campbell, who’d done the same to Rolling Ronny back in issue 16 and – if the programmers are to be believed – trashed its chances in the UK entirely), whilst nobody had really heard of the cartoon Jonny Quest was based on.

BUT THE C64 WAS GETTING ON A BIT

Over on The Mighty Brain pages, readers were starting to notice that the Commodore 64 was struggling. Two readers were angry at US Gold’s pitiful Final Fight conversion, a port so pathetic it wasn’t even sent to magazines before its release (always a sign they’re fearful of bad reviews). CF had reviewed it here in issue 18 after it hit the shelves, but its scathing assessment was too late for those who’d shelled out a tenner. It was to be the same in coming months for stuff like StreetFighter 2. The C64’s future, if it had one, certainly wasn’t going to be keeping up with the consoles. Because sadly, it no longer could. The readers were right: Final Fight was beyond awful.

Yet if you knew where to look, it was still not bad for the Commodore. There may have been just nine new releases in April 1992, and the coveted “inside front cover” advertising space hadn’t been sold for the first time ever – but the games that were out were good. And with a 10% increase on its circulation, Commodore Format certainly wasn’t going anywhere. This month’s issue is a doozy: the best of Steve Jarratt’s original formula and Trenton’s twist work wonderfully. Trent even introduced a new character to join Roger Frames and TMB: on the back page this month was the first, brief appearance of fact fan Ian Cyclopedia, who’d go on to play a bigger part in forthcoming issues.

Overall, there’s no doom and gloom: the computer was winding down but you could still buy games in the shops. It felt great to be using a C64. CF

Commodore_Format_PowerPack_19_1992-04ON THE POWER PACK (AND MORE!)

Joining Jeff Minter’s classics this month were reader game Aqua Blasta – the sort of shooter you already know without playing it! – and UDG System 2, a utility to make fonts with. Finally, there was a demo of new diskzine Club Light, edited by CF’s Jason Finch. A good tape if you were new to the work of Jeff Minter and could deal with the gaudy graphics – and certainly there’s huge variety this month!

This issue also had a badge taped to the front. Depending on your luck (or which you picked off the shelf) you got The Addams Family or Space Crusade. See them on our covermounts page here. This was the first in a stretch of “free” gifts under Trenton Webb.

EASTER EGGS

Did you spot Clyde Radcliffe of Cteatures hiding in the maps for one of Apex’ other games, Cyberdyne Warrior this month? He’s on page 21, bottom right!

 

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