Commodore Format 42: A look at the March 1994 issue of British C64 magazine, Commodore Format. Featuring Stormlord and Deliverance on the Power Pack.
“And then there were three”, was how CF greeted its readers on page four of Format 42. Assistant art editor Lisa had been promoted to Amstrad Action this month and hadn’t been replaced. The same was true of production editor Dave Golder when he jumped to AA a few months earlier; within 6 months, CF had slimmed from five to, er, the three of the headline. This, along with the increased cover price and drop to 50 pages was unsettling, but not yet too worrying: the dip in revenue was actually largely in part due to software companies no longer advertising. In terms of readers, there were still in excess of 25,000 Commodore Format fans stumping up £2.95 a month. This was a drop of over 50% from the mag’s prime just two years earlier, but still enough – with these hefty nips and tucks (you’d make a good MP – Ed) – to make the venture worthwhile.
After a techie heavy February, March ’94 was a more games oriented issue of CF. This month’s Heaven and Hell cover illustration was a blinder, arguably better than the feature itself. This look at the best and worst of C64 was written entertainingly enough, but fell short of any real substance. And what’s the point of including Dick Tracy in Hell on the cover if you’re not going to assassinate it for sport inside, eh? (read our full investigation into one of the worst C64 games ever here instead! – Ed)
BIT O’ CLASS
Way cooler was A Touch Of Class, which had its roots in editor Andy Hutchinson’s teenage years playing on C64 himself (read that in his own words here). It looked back to games of the mid 1980s which CF‘s typically young audience would not remember, encouraging them to track down stuff like Racing Destruction Set and Mancopter at car boot sales. This really was a great way to do retrospective content: to most Format fans, these games were new. And Hutch’s passion for that era of the Commodore 64 leaps from the page with an enthusiasm almost unparalleled in the mag’s history: “you’ve got to play Mancopter before you die”, he enthuses. And of California Games, he writes of the “Californian colour scheme, all pastel shades and subdued blue”. These, you can tell, are the games he loved. If you ever want to find the perfectly executed example of CF‘s mission to be the “cooler older brother” who knows all about games, this is the one to reach for. It is utterly authentic and it’s ace.
The month’s other highlight was Arty Party. Back in issue 25, Commodore Format had given away the full art utility Saracen Paint, and more recently invited readers to send in stuff they’d created with it. It does exceed expectations on occasion (check out those Speedball pics) and you are left wondering why the feature didn’t extend to more pages. The images are small and sometimes obliterated by captions, which is all the more baffling given the blatant filler elsewhere in issue 42. We’d point, for starters, to the Robocod review. It definitely wasn’t re-released this month, as that had happened earlier in the year. A last-minute need to fill some space, we’d suggest: by this stage, advertisers were dropping out at the print deadline quite often.
STILL DOING IT RIGHT
It’d be unfair to end on that note, though, because this month’s mag really is grand. It is easy to take Gamesbusters for granted because it was so consistently excellent. But have a good look at this month’s section: Nobby The Aardvark and Sceptre Of Baghdad are both beautifully mapped and with complete solutions in a way no other magazine for any format was doing. Simon’s Back To Basics wonderfully illustrates some simple coding routines by asking readers to “program their day”, and there’s another haul of games on EDOS to go and check out at John Menzies too. And let’s not forget the return of the CF “easter egg” at the footer of most pages this month, either: they’d long been missed since the magazine’s redesign in mid ’93. Now they were back, with a Hutchy sort of twist, and demanded you read and re-read the mag to make sure you got every last drop out of it. Sterling work.
The mission was to keep people feeling good about owning a C64. It was working. CF
ON THE POWER PACK
Two massive Hewson titles this month. From 1989 came graphically awesome Stormlord and from 1990 its sequel Deliverance. The former is noted for the somewhat manufactured controversy around the “naked” statues in its early stages; the latter was actually reviewed in Commodore Format issue 1, notching up 74%. Both games look beautiful, yet suffer a joystick smashing level of difficulty. The tape was completed by three Shoot ‘Em Up Construction Kit games submitted by readers, intended for last month’s tape but delayed because, get this, Future had not bought enough cassette tape.
AND FINALLY…D’OH! OF THE MONTH
Back over in Arty Party, Simon Forrester fawns over a brilliant Speedball 2 picture, noting “we want Speedball 2 for the C64″. Erm, except it already existed on C64. And was on the cover of issue 12. With a playable demo. Such is the danger of hiring an Amstrad man for a Commodore mag, eh?
- More issues of CF
- Commodore Format 42 is dated March 1994. It first appeared on Tuesday February 15th.