A look at the May 1993 issue of British C64 magazine, Commodore Format.
Almost exactly halfway through the magazine’s lifespan, we’ve now reached the very last issue of Commodore Format to use its traditional design. The magazine’s iconic logo, clean look, and its use of images and graphics to convey information instead of paragraphs of dry text had influenced titles across the industry since 1990: more than one magazine was now looking a bit like Commodore Format, and to this day things like the Early Warning! scanner still crop up in Future titles. But as games dried up, the Commodore 64 scene was changing. CF’s redesign was in response to this – and we’ll have a look at it properly next time, when a virtually unrecognisable magazine would appear.
A MAGAZINE ON TOP OF ITS GAME
The last few issues had seen elements of the new look being very slowly introduced, and the result of this final crossover Commodore Format is, thus, a little inconsistent in appearance. New colours and fonts sit uncomfortably in the old review templates, and flicking page to page can be like looking at two different magazines. The idea is understandable, though, and the content of issue 32 is top drawer again: Gamesbusters maps four games this month, walking readers through Lethal Weapon, Dalek Attack and two Seymour games in an expert way simply no other magazine, C64 or not, was doing. It’s incredibly impressive stuff. Then there’s the piece on sprite editor Frost, accompanied by the whole program on the Power Pack, encouraging readers to create their own software (a taste of the CF that was to come). And the Rowlands brothers are back with the seventh installment of the Making A Monster diary. This month, they decide to use music that had been intended for Creatures 2 in Mayhem In Monsterland, and the dust around our hero’s feet was added as he began to run (the effect was inspired by the Roadrunner cartoons).
SOME INTERESTING STUFF TO REVIEW
Zeppelin had been busy in the last few months, with over ten games in for review. The reality, though, was that the company was rush releasing the C64 titles it had in development before shops stopped stocking C64 games: this month, Fist Fighter, International Truck Racing and World Championship Squash were all the stuff you’d load up once and never again. Hey ho. Far better was Flair’s unexpected full-price release Trolls, based on the big-haired dolls of the same name. Commodore Format didn’t go big on the game after Flair, unusually, decided to give the exclusive look and demo to rival mag Commodore Force. But the two page review was positive: “at its best, fast and frantic”, said Trenton Webb. Its colourful, multidirectional scrolling levels and premium feel were a treat at this stage for the C64’s life: Trolls is worth a look, particularly if you’re looking for something on the machine that’s close to Amiga Zool.
Grandslam had been busy, with Nick Faldo’s Golf at the start of the year and an official Liverpool football game on the horizon. This month puzzler Stone Age hit the shops, chalking up 79%. Quite why the company had such a late splurge on the C64 is unclear, but Grandslam were somewhat heroes in 1993, releasing great game after great game.
Arnie 2 isn’t to be forgotten, either, and how could it be – star of the final cover of CF as we knew it. The sequel to 1992’s surprise hit is a divisive game, and we’ve a full feature on it as part of our top rated budget titles here.
This month, Roger Frames’ reviews budjit games one more time. For this special occasion, Roger gets more pages to “properly” review three games (probably due to a need to fill pages rather than any sentimentality!) and there’s one final adventure, drawn beautifully by Mike Roberts. In it, Roger’s Dad gets a job playing on cruise ships so his family set off to travel the world. That included Roger’s dog, Debit, hidden inside a Commodore 64 box.
Not exactly. But the departure of the hugely popular Roger Frames was massively symbolic. He’d been with the mag from day one and actually been a surprise hit, soon moving from a couple of monochrome pages made up mostly of text to a full blown monthly cartoon adventure. But with so few budget games left to be released, his very raison d’être was gone. As we’ll see, Roger did carry on popping up in cameo form but if anything was indicative of the computer and magazine’s change, this was it. “I hated it”, editor Trenton Webb told us in his interview. “It was like axing a friend”.
And so that’s that. When CF launched, editor Steve Jarratt figured the mag would be good for “two years. Maybe three”. His original vision for the title had in fact lasted a spookily accurate two-and-a-half years: incredibly, though, Commodore Format was only halfway through its run. Join us again next time when we take a look at a very different magazine for a changing Commodore 64. CF
ON THE POWER PACK
Three full games led this month’s tape: Thrust was Firebird’s tough 1986 space adventure with a Rob Hubbard soundtrack (which made it worth the load alone). Corya was a neat original text adventure, and Steel saw you playing a robot in an actually-quite-engaging arcade game in which you went around disabling bits of machinery. Frost – or Format’s Really Original Sprite Thingy – tied in with Jason Finch’s feature on making your own moving graphics, and the tape was completed by a multi hack program that let you cheat on 80 games. A brilliant package.
- More issues of CF
- Commodore Format 32 is dated May 1993. It first appeared on Tuesday April 27th.