Issue Review: CF 7 (April, 1991)

cf07_Apr1991

April ’91, and CF had found its groove. Earlier issues of the magazine had more strictly followed its publishers Format recipe, with a fairly even split of games and tech coverage. Now, though, around 90% of the mag was devoted to new software.

April, 1991. Streetfighter II hit the arcades, and Comedy Central launched in a new, groundbreaking format. The first Starbucks opened in California, and trailers for Terminator 2 – featuring jawdropping new visual effects (remember that morphing?) – rolled out to cinemas.

The world, in short, was changing. It would soon be virtually unrecognisable from the world in which the C64 was launched, but the Breadbin was going nowhere. Terminator 2 was even to get a Commodore translation and be boxed with new machines for Christmas.  That package would get its own television commercial in the UK. A dying machine? Not yet.

Which was great news for CF. Now at issue 7, it was already outstripping ZZAP! 64 by over 10,000 copies a month – boasting around 60,000 readers. All of whom were still desperate for new games, which they certainly weren’t short of this Easter. Cover game Supremacy was almost an act of witchcraft: how did it fit into a single load of 64K? You can read all about it in our special feature here – and find out why, when ZZAP 64! reviewed the same game, Commodore Format editor Steve Jarratt “knew we had them beaten”.

C64 Escape From Colditz was very real and almost complete. Shame about that big swastika at the top of the page, eh? And that picture of the programmers dressed as Nazis. Different times...

C64 Escape From Colditz was very real and almost complete. Shame about that big swastika at the top of the page, eh? And that picture of the programmers dressed as Nazis. Different times…

A preview of Escape From Colditz looked equally exciting. Based on the German POW jail, it was an isometric 3D game kinda like Ocean’s Great Escape – but with proper colour C64 graphics. Drawn on an Amiga before being ported over, they fit into just 6K, leaving a lot of room for game. The 120+ rooms fit into only 4K! The idea of strategically dodging guards as you unearthed keys and tools to break out of Colditz sounded as if they might make it the game of the year. So far along was the development, it even sneaked onto the cover of Commodore Format 12 ‘cos it was expected to be ready for review. Alas, disaster.

Digital Magic Software had run up debts of over £100,000 during the previous few years, and the banks got twitchy. The company went under, and the game – not quite finished – went with it. There’s an enjoyable – if bugged – preview of the game online here, but all you’re left thinking after playing it is a great feeling of sadness that this one fell by the wayside. Why couldn’t it have been you, Dick Tracy?

Elswhere, Shadow Dancer was an impressive walk-and-punch ’em up, notable for the hero’s special power. Er, a dog. Press space and he’d savage the enemy – a neat touch. Back To The Future III was fun, too, even if it was just a collection of sub games. The same couldn’t be said for Gremlins II, which looked lovely but was frustrating to play. There’s never really been a spectacular version of the Gremlins franchise for any machine – baffling when you think about what there is to play with. Perhaps one that can finally make it on current gen!

Commodore_Format_PowerPack_7_1991-04

Lovely stuff on the covertape this month. A few of you have wondered why the tapes got progressively worse over time. The sad reality is, there was just less budget to buy the rights for stuff as the magazine’s circulation dwindled. Back in 1991, though – it was still amazing and exciting every month to wait and see what was going to be on each Power Pack. Andrew Braybook games, FFS!

We couldn’t let our review of Easter ’91 go by without a proper mention of the Power Pack. A lot of you have told us that it’s your favourite, and it’s easy to see why. It was the first to not include any demos of new software – but wow, was it ever made up for. Four games were featured – three from US Gold, one from Hewson. Uridium  was Andrew Braybrook’s classic sci-fi scrolling shooter, and a real coup.  Crystal Castles was kind of like Pacman in 3D. It showed its age, but was fun enough. A lot of people’s favourite was Blue Max, in which you control a WW1 biplane. You shoot down enemies and bomb targets marked by the computer on a  diagonally scrolling terrain. The graphics aren’t the best, the theme tune’s a bit screechy, but it is a lot of fun. It’s a challenge, but not too tough: newcomers will pick it up quickly and there’s nothing more satisfying than a decent landing or a direct enemy hit. Easily something you can play for hours.

Finally, there was Hewson’s 5th Gear. It was a sort of overhead racing game with weapons – if you managed to get it to load! Something weird happened when this game was transferred onto the tape, which meant a knock to the datasette could cause it to not load or crash if it did. A fixed version appeared, but it was a wait of over 18 months: 5th Gear finally turned up again on Power Pack 28 (Christmas ’92!).

Until Sean told us, we'd not noticed this one - staring us in the face, too.

Until Sean told us, we’d not noticed 1991’s April Fool’s Day gag – staring us in the face, too!

And one more thing before we leave behind our look at Easter 1991. A news story this month said that a university research project on computer owners in London had found that children and teenagers owning Commodore 64s performed, on average, 50% better in tests than those who played Spectrums or Amstrads. “Like it or not”, said CF, “you’re intellectual”.

“As if we ever needed to be told”, you might think. We certainly did. But then CF writer Sean Masterson got in touch about that story:

“Take a careful closer look at the original news item, think ‘acrostic’ and note the month of publication”. D’oh! CF

Escape From Colditz info thanks to Frank Gasking of the Games That Weren’t website. Learn about hundreds of unreleased Commodore 64 games here. Cheers, Frank! 

 

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