Issue Review: CF 21 (June, 1992)

cf21_Jun1992

There was a Steg The Slug “wipe-clean score card” this month free underneath the Power Pack. Not so wipe-clean if you used a Biro, mind. Anyway. See it here, along with all the other freebies.

First things first. If you’re reading these features in order (you are reading them in order, right?) you’ll remember that we ended our look at CF20 with news that Gremlin Graphics would make Nigel Mansell’s F1 for the C64 if readers showed enough interest. Well, this month CF revealed Gremlin had received hundreds of positive responses and that work on the game had begun. The racing sim’ never appeared, though, and people have subsequently wondered if Gremlin were telling the truth. Well, we’ve done a big of digging and can tell you that it definitely was pretty far down the line, with some supposedly fantastic visuals: however, when the deadline for completion passed with an estimated six weeks’ worth of work still to do, Gremlin did pull the plug: they just didn’t think the C64 market was strong enough after all. Bummer.

YOU’RE CHUCKED

It wasn’t panic stations yet. C64 games were still being planned and released – two of the summer’s big flicks, Batman Returns and Alien 3, were due to appear for example – but if you want to pinpoint a month where things start to go awry, June 1992 is probably it. Take, for example, CF21’s cover star Chuck Rock. The C64 had the only 8-bit micro version of the game and Trenton Webb’s review hailed its “classic platform action”, with the only fault being that it’s “over too soon”. Frustratingly, though, the game never saw a UK release after Core got cold feet about how much money they’d recoup. It did hit the shops in Italy, where the game was made – but  copies are rare. How rare? Well, in 2013  a tape and disk version of Chuck Rock appeared on eBay. Combined, they fetched 1,800 Euros.

Perhaps the ultimate in frustrating stories is connected to the back cover of Commodore Format 21, though. If you look, you’ll find an advert for Parasol Stars. It’s the third in the Bubble Bobble/Rainbow Islands series, and the C64 version had been farmed out to veteran coder Colin Porch – responsible for a string of greats like Head Over Heels and Operation Wolf. He was working on Parasol Stars freelance, from home, and things had been looking good. Three months in, Colin remembers taking his work to Ocean. They were pleased. “Most of the elements of the game play had been included”, he recalls. And then, disaster:

parasol stars

At the time, the official story was that Colin’s house had been broken into and all the source code nicked. In fact, his wife had gotten drunk and wrecked all his stuff. Cheers for your work, Colin’s ex wife. No, really. Appreciate it.

DRUNK WIFE: A STORY YOU WON’T BELIEVE

“My wife and I had not been getting on very well, (usually rowing about her drinking habits) and she decided to go back to her first husband of twenty years earlier. Before leaving, she broke or corrupted all the disks she could find, including all the Parasol Stars developments and back-ups. She expressed extreme remorse afterwards, (she was two different people depending on whether she had been drinking) but the damage was done. I only had a disk previously shown to Ocean, about three months old, which had remained in my briefcase since showing it to them. They, unfortunately, could not spare the time for me to repeat the work.”

With the C64 falling out of favour with many of the big softies by 1992 – and with so many projects cancelled – the destruction of a confirmed title like Parasol Stars’ is one of the greatest tragedies of them all. It wouldn’t feel so bad if the thing had been called off because there was more money to be made from the SNES – plenty in the industry were doing just that – but “stolen from us forever by a drunk wife” is a little harder to swallow. Cheers, Colin’s ex wife.

Elsewhere this month, TIB released a new 3.5″ disk drive for the Commodore. It was the size of a VHS videotape, it plugged straight into the computer with no external power pack and it loaded 64k in six seconds – “faster than the tape version would find the file name”, enthused reviewer Bones. Codemasters said they’d definitely be supporting the new format, and Ocean were up for it too. At just £99, the Ultimate Drive seemed a good deal. It sold poorly, though, and in retrospect it was an indicator of the real reason many Commodore Format readers were still on the C64 – they couldn’t afford to upgrade.

Happily, people were still buying budget stuff on tape. And there was loads to rummage through this month: Steg The Slug was a platform save ’em up with a tangential nod to Lemmings. James Leach score it at 76%: a little low, we think, for an innovative slab of game. Only four quid, too. The Bod Squad, meanwhile, was a more conventional platformer. It looked beautiful – particularly the animated sprite of Bod himself, who bore more than a passing similarity to Slimer from Ghostbusters. 

When CF launched, editor Steve Jarratt figured it’d be good for “maybe two years”. But with Robocod, Streetfighter II and a new football game based on the upcoming Euro ’92 all set to appear over the summer, the magazine – and the Commodore 64 – were set to smash through that target and keep on trucking. There were stumbles, but it was still game on. See you next time. CF

PS: A NEW FACE!

Jason Finch joined the magazine this month, though the Tech-head’s column wasn’t Techie Tips yet: it still had the old name, Inside Info. Read about Jason’s time on the magazine here.

Commodore_Format_PowerPack_21_1992-06…AND ON THE POWER PACK

Three demos this month! Euro Football Champ was no better or worse than many soccer games, really: it was a sport the C64 never properly emulated. It was joined by Codemasters’ Arnie and one of Ocean’s last big tie-ins for the computer, The Addams Family. The latter is given a decent review at the back of CF21, but it’s nowhere near as fun as the console versions.

If you ever wanted to drive a steam train there was the full version of Southern Belle to mess about with, and Jeff Minter was back to give everyone eyestrain with the multicoloured Ancipital. Which you liked if you like Jeff Minter and, er, didn’t if you didn’t. The full Power Pack pages are here.

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