A look at issue 27 of C64 magazine Commodore Format, from December 1992.
We’re now entering the final months of the C64’s commercial life, and certainly its last proper Christmas. Commodore Format 27 was also the final time the magazine enjoyed a significant spend by advertisers. Boosted by funds from an industry keen to drain the last dregs from the market that festive season, CF was able to swell to 82 pages (from its usual 66) and include two covertapes.
Christmas 1992’s coverstar was the ever-polarising Dizzy, but Crystal Kingdom was different: after years of Spectrum ports, this adventure had been written specifically for C64 and was, as Clur says, “Dizzy with the lights on: blue skies and sunshine.” The separation of the game into levels and the use of passwords also made the game a bit different and easier on the player, but CF is spot on in saying that it’s still more of the same with a lick of paint; surely Codemasters could have done so much more with the franchise, and you wonder what is really behind the enduring and undeniable popularity of the games. For the Speccy, they’re OK, but surely people should expect more from C64. Hey ho.
A NEW FACE
With James Leach leaving the mag to move onto new launch Gamesmaster (more on that in a bit), this month was Clur Hodgson’s first on the magazine. A hugely popular writer, she’s also one of the few we haven’t been able to convince to sit down and talk to us (yet!). This month’s Crazy Cars III review is a fine example of what an asset to Commodore Format she was: the description of the game’s shorcomings and decision that “there has to be some point to the racing” evoked the early days of the magazine; harsh but fair and really easy to read. Little wonder Clur became like a reader’s best mate over the next two years, and one of the mag’s most fondly remembered stars. We’ll keep trying to convince her to do an interview, we promise!
Other games were thin on the ground this month, with most softies having pushed out their big christmas titles a month earlier. What really makes CF so good this month is another cracking set of features: the 13 page Gamebusters special dedicated to finishing Creatures 2 is one of the magazine’s finest ever moments, so much so that we’ve a special page on the site dedicated to it. Andy Roberts’ exclusive, behind-the-scenes feature on the making of a piece that defined everything great about Commodore Format is here.
In the second installment of Face To Face, US Gold’s Danielle Woodyat took questions from readers, and this month the feature began to hit its stride: Danielle explained that US Gold didn’t re-release its back catalogue on cartridge as planned because it had proven too difficult to get some old code onto the development system and says she thinks Commodore Format‘s reviews are constructive and fair. Which is probably why US Gold didn’t let CF see Streetfighter 2 before it came out in the shops this month. More of that later in this series – but you have to feel sorry for any kid who got that for Christmas.
Finally, the Arty Party was another nice change of pace. Readers submitted stuff they’d drawn in Saracen Paint which had been given away with issue 25, and the results of teenagers creating digital art with joysticks wasn’t quite as terrible as you might think.
All in all, it’s a brilliant installment of Commodore Format and the Gamesbusters special really is the mag at its very best. The lack of games didn’t stop the team creating a truly memorable issue, but – there’s always a but by this stage! – the storm clouds were gathering. Future launched a new magazine this month. It was in fact where James Leach had disappeared to (replaced by Clur). Gamesmaster was to be the official title of the Channel 4 television show and is still running today, considered an elder statesman of the industry: it’s the longest running games mag in Britain. But in December 1992, it was symbolic of a change in the face of the games world. Slowly, our hobby was being pushed into the mainstream. As the C64 spluttered, the new 16 and 32-bit machines were about to hit fifth gear. CF
ON THE POWER PACK (S!)
Two cassettes had now become something of an irregular treat on CF, with this month’s duo being led by a demo of Sceptre Of Baghdad. It was a neat collect ’em up adventure that had its roots on the Spectrum. There were also three full games: the multiload Alternative World Games took up a lot of the second tape, joined by arcade puzzler Deflector and Rampage clone The Muncher. Finally, there was the genuinely useful utility LoadMaster which could help you sort out your shonky C2N. Here’s our long read with a ton of secrets about this month’s tape.
…AND ONE MORE THING
For reasons that weren’t explained, this month CF changed its iconic Power Rating boxes from the red and white we knew to something much…er…worse. It was a short-lived experiment, with the boxes changing again a few months later. In retrospect, this was the start of the “change”: within a year, CF would be unrecognisable.
- More issues of CF
- Commodore Format 27 is dated December 1992. It first appeared on Thursday November 19th.