Issue Review: CF5 (February, 1991)

February 1991. The Silence Of The Lambs was released in theatres. The legendary Streetfighter II hit the arcades. On Baghdad radio, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein announced the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait. The soldiers set fire to Kuwaiti oil fields in retreat. Meantime, on British television, David Icke announced that he was the son of God.

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Dick Tracy arrived just too late for full review this month. But is the cover headling – “UNDER FIRE” – a cheeky late addition, warning readers of the awful game that was to come?

The latter was largely considered a media crucifixion, and you might be tempted to say the same of this month’s CF cover (smooth segue – Ed). Issue 5’s infamous front page was cruelly devoted to gaming disaster Dick Tracy, needlessly raising expectations of a game that was never going to deliver. The two-page preview actually spent the majority of its space talking generically about the comic on which the game was based, with just a small boxout devoted to the upcoming shooter. The few available screenshots were cause for worry, with a weird blocky main sprite who looked like he was wearing a dress. Worst fears were confirmed a month later, with the unfinished disaster rating at just 11%. Yup – CF had given the front cover to one of the worst Commodore 64 games of all time! There’s an interesting story behind the game, and we’ve got an exclusive investigation on it that you can read seperately here, including some words from the programmer. But for the purposes of this feature, we’ll sum up by pointing you to the words of Andy Dyer over in our interviews section: “I could have written a better game in BBC BASIC.”

Far more deserving of the month’s cover was 91%-er Exterminator. You play a giant hand, tasked with squishing bugs who’ve infested a suburb of Chicago. The atmospheric, digitised backdrops and the fantastically animated main sprite – which throbs when stung – are excellent, and it’s a shame the game isn’t more well-known.

Overhead racer SuperCars was just as good. Buying equipment and new cars with the funds won in each race added longevity, as you desperately saved to buy the wheels you wanted. But the infamous cheat mode – which allowed you to fondle the shop assistant’s breasts – is unfortunate and ages it. Lucasfilm’s NightShift (the world’s only overnight factory shift simulator) and shooter Dragon Breed were another pair of belters, though Imagework’s Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles had been rushed in time for christmas and showed it. The game arrived the week before for the festive season, too late for the magazines to review in their holiday issues. That played to its advantage, as the 70%-er was already a number one hit by the time CF got hold of it and mentioned the “blocky graphics”, “tinny tune” and “ropey collision detection”. “It’s poorly programmed overall”, said reviewer Kati Hamza. Of course, it didn’t matter – it had already been a number one hit just because it had a Turtles logo on the box.

This month marked a gear-change for Commodore Format. The first four issues had given equal space to games, coding, music, interviews and news. It was the classic Future Publishing Format mix that had proven so successful with ST Format and Amiga Format. Clearly, though, the results of a reader survey published in issue 4 had forced a rethink. Issue 5 is a 90 page games magazine save for just a few pages of techie tips.

The belief was that people were moving onto the Amiga and giving their C64s to younger siblings. Either that, or kids were getting the reasonably cheap 8 bit as a first computer. This new generation of Commodore owners wanted games, and so that’s what CF would now concentrate on giving to them. CF

ON THIS MONTH’S POWER PACK

Commodore_Format_PowerPack_5_1991-02Given the magazine’s tentative change of direction in February ’91, it’s kind of funny that CF served up its young readers a demo of Viz. The game was based on the British adult comic of the same name and the demo featured Buster Gonad, who ran around the screen holding onto his oversized testicles. It actually had some good graphics, but this preview was as frustrating and limited as the end product would be.

There was also an engaging one level preview of Gauntlet style shooter Warlock, and two full games. Sun Star was pretty good 3D arcade fun, a sort of maze chase thing with a map to help you. And Shockway Rider was slick beat ’em up fun based on the moving (and violent) sidewalks of the future. As a sidenote, CF was supposed to feature a Dick Tracy demo this month. It never arrived at the office. It’s almost as if Titus had something to hide…

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