THEY WERE OUR GODS author and ZZAP! 64 fan Paul Morrison remembers how CF crashed into the C64 party late and changed everything. “It’s only a shame that it didn’t arrive earlier”, he remembers.
It was wonderful, being a teenager in the 1980s. The decade ushered in the dawn of a new entertainment medium… computer and videogames. OK, we all know they didn’t originate then, but that’s when their popularity really exploded. It meant that we were often spoilt for choice, but with pocket money and milk or paper round money limited, we had to choose wisely when it came to buying games. That was where magazines came in.
If you owned a Commodore 64, ZZAP! 64 reigned supreme from 1985. Staffed by enthusiastic young writers who were games players first and foremost, they really hit the mark with their recommendations. The other mags, at least for me, just didn’t measure up. It remained this way until 1990, when finally a worthy challenger arrived – Commodore Format.
Five years down the line, ZZAP! 64 didn’t hold quite the appeal of its early days. The original reviewers had gone, as had their replacements and their replacements too, meaning the connection was no longer as great. So when a new magazine sprang up, edited by two writers from ZZAP!‘s earlier days, it caught my attention.
As did the very impressive tape on the front of the magazine. Commodore Format really pushed the boat out with their cover-mounted offerings, making it a worthy purchase regardless of the magazine’s content. The first issue alone gave you the mighty Tau Ceti, plus two more games and demos of upcoming releases. For less than the cost of a budget game, it was impossible to argue with the value for money.
Unbelievably, the Power Packs managed to improve. I think my favourite was the one that contained Beyond the Forbidden Forest and Bounder, along with demos of Robocop 2 andLotus Esprit Turbo Challenge. It seemed ridiculous that you could get all this for ‘free’ on the front of a magazine, but there they all were.
Even though I was getting several excellent games free with my magazine every month, the demos were what really excited me. When deciding whether or not to buy a game, reading reviews was all very well, but actually getting to play was something else. Those demos really helped me to determine where my money was going. Sometimes, I’d be put off something I’d been looking forward to. Others, I might be really impressed by a game I’d had no prior interest in. Occasionally, I’d play the demos more than the games… a sure-fire sign of a winner!
The magazine itself, as it happens, was also well worth the money and time. Combining sensible reviews with the right mixture of news and previews, then adding some real top quality features, it hit the ground running and became not just a viable alternative to ZZAP! 64, but a true rival. The only shame was that it didn’t arrive earlier. In fairly quick time it had grasped the mantle of top-selling Commodore 64 magazine, only to see the computer start to wither and die.
As a result, you were left with a great magazine with very little to fill it. Still – for a time there,Commodore Format made itself the place to go for C64 entertainment. CF
- The They Were Our Gods blog is a running commentary on Paul’s book of the same name. It’s about 1980s computer programmers and their games.www.theywereourgods.com
- More reader stories here