A look at the August 1994 issue of British C64 magazine, Commodore Format.
- This issue had no subscriber’s newsletter.
The 47th issue of Commodore Format arrived just as the 1994 school holidays started. Late July and August were hot by northern European standards, but the 30 degree days in Britain were punctuated by violent thunderstorms. At the cinema Forest Gump and Natural Born Killers were both playing for the first time, and in the week Commodore Format 47 hit the streets Skunk Anansie and The WonderStuff headlined the second Pheonix Festival in Stratford.
A Pentium computer beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov at his own game this month, too. Computers were getting powerful. And with Sony’s Playstation superconsole confirmed for a winter release, a C64 mag really did seem less plausible than ever. But Commodore Format pulled it out of the bag again, with confirmation of ten new games.
It was Lions of the Universe that the magazine seemed to be most excited about: it wasn’t an original shooter, but CF enthused about its “energy and thrills” and end-of-level bosses. Dark Caves didn’t seem to go down as well – at least with writer Dave Golder – but the space-themed mix of exploration, platforms and guns at least looked more like the commercial stuff the machine was now desperate for rather than tarted up public domain. Platformers Bobix and Fred’s Back looked great, too. All were set for reviews in the coming months, with just one snag: they were only available on disk. Speaking of which…
The Commodore 64 had always shipped in the UK with a C2N tape drive. Unlike the US and Australia, Commodore’s 8-bit micro had serious competition in Britain from the Spectrum and Amstrad CPC range. To stay in the same price bracket, Commodore had kept UK users on cassette. Now, though, with the likes of Fred’s Back or Lions of the Universe only coming on a floppy disk, C64 folk had to look at some new hardware. Electric Boys were offering to bulk import a range of disk drives, hard drives and other add-ons this month which CF reckoned could “soup up the computer to 16-bit standards”. As we’ve said before, though, there was one obvious elephant in the room here. A lot of people were still using C64 because it was cheap, or a hand-me-down. Kids, and those on lower incomes, didn’t have a few hundred quid for a disk drive (and if they did, they’d probably buy a SNES). If the UK cassette culture was going to change, it would’ve done so years ago. This stuff was really for the hardcore enthusiasts.
AN OLD FRIEND
Longest-serving editor Trenton Webb made a guest return in August 1994 to host the Facton Kryptor. It was essentially a cute look at the greatest puzzle games on the beige box, and Trent makes some really good points: many Commodore games, he notes, actually have their roots in pre- 1970s children’s toys. Look at Tilt, for example. And who knew the backstory to Nightshift? The machine in this great game supposedly makes Star Wars toys. Cool.
BACK TO THE…
Trent’s welcome return is the only point of nostalgia in August 1994, though. The news pages are stuffed with details of yet more games, Jon Wells returns to talk about another month producing his fighting sim’ Tenth Dan and, most encouragingly of all, Commodore Format subscriptions were back. Future Publishing was asking readers to put their money where their mouth was, even offering 4 free issues of the mag to anyone who bought direct. A computer might have been powerful enough to beat a man at chess this month. Sony might well have been making apocalyptic noises about the future of gaming. But here was the proof from CF: they didn’t just see the Commodore 64 as having a glorious past. They were willing to invest in its future. CF
ON THE POWER PACK
The Legend of Sinbad led this month’s cassette. 1986’s tough-to-define arcade adventure is really four-games-in one: there’s a bit of platforming, a bit of running about in a maze, a sort of Missile Command bit and a shoot ’em up. Even in 1986 it looked old hat, so in 1994 it was positively dated. That said, it has something. Neat sound, too. Reaxion was a straightforward and nicely presented puzzler from Sean Connolly and Jason Kelk (the latter of which you may know from Retro Gamer), and the Mean Machine demo flipped through some very nice (but not very useful) graphics in the way PD does. You know the score.
- More issues of CF
- Commodore Format 47 is dated August 1994. It first appeared on Tuesday July 19th.