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cf48_Sep1994Lions Of The Universe was the last game ever to grace a Commodore Format cover in September 1994, some nine months since the last (Lemmings). It had almost been a Thalamus release some years earlier, but having been submitted to the Ludlow publishers and recommended for release it was taken no further, the C64 market deemed too risky for a business already wobbling. So here it was instead via CP Verlag in Germany, another of the European games CF had enthused so much over. It’s easy to see why Thalamus were interested: Lions Of The Universe is a fast-paced, gorgeous looking shooter easily up to commercial standards. The review was firm but fair, crossing out the final score of 90% and settling instead on 82%: “marks deducted for being so hard”, read the disclaimer.


The playability of homebrew stuff is often its Achilles heel: after all, if the only people playtesting are the ones who’ve written the game and know it inside out, how can the difficulty curve ever be right? Mario clone Bobix, also reviewed this issue, suffered similarly maddening gameplay issues – and that’s if it didn’t crash. Joystick waggler Ostfriesland Games was a piss-take of stuff like Daley Thompson’s decathalon, and then there was Super Nibbly, which was a twist on the popular Snake games. “It’s a well-designed, fast-moving puzzler” enthused Dave Golder. “It’s massive. In theory it sounds like another puzzler-by-numbers, but it hooks you in”. 


All four games were being imported by the likes of Electric Boys from CP Verlag in Germany, but the UK scene was starting to stir again. Long-time CF writer Andy Roberts travelled to glamorous Droitwich this month to meet Jason “Kenz” MacKenzie, founder of one of the country’s first “new wave” of small, independent companies making things for C64. Perhaps best known for publishing Jon Wells’ conversion of the Speccy adventure Sceptre of Baghdad, incredibly Psytronik Software are still releasing new C64 stuff today. “The C64’s commercial software scene was in its twilight days when Psytronik was born”, remembers Jason. “The off-the-shelf magazines were on their last legs and we had absolutely no budget whatsoever to work with for advertising or packaging (so much for my Psygnosis dream!) – I literally had to make do with scissors and a Pritt-Stick in order to create the tape inlays and disk-labels for the games. I also think people may have been put off by the later Psytronik games that were mainly enhanced SEUCK productions. Despite the fact the SEUCK games were excellent in their own right AND featured enhanced front-ends and music etc, people still didn’t want to pay budget prices for SEUCK games. Ah well!” (Visit the Psytronik site and buy new games here)

As Gamebusters decreased from ten pages to five (and soon fewer pages still), Andy Roberts’ First Samurai maps never got published in CF. But they were finally prined, in Bitmap Books’ C64 Visual Commpendium II.

Many of the old CF crew – James Leach and Trenton Webb in particular – have noted to us what amazing enthusiasm and interaction there was from the magazine’s readers (“it was them that made it great”, recalled James). As CF and the C64 world grew smaller, this actually seemed more apparent than ever. The quality of letters to The Mighty Brain notched up markedly in late ’94: this month a reader lets everybody know where to get tons of free stuff on an American bulletin board, and from the Netherlands two separate letters had info on new C64 hardware. Meantime, over in Techie Tips, it’s apparent readers are actually using the magazine’s tutorials and utilities, with separate letters wanting help with CF45’s Speech.

So the C64 world was smaller, but no less passionate than ever. In the interview with Jason MacKenzie, Kenz wonders what might happen were Commodore Format to close. Editor Dave interrupts the piece: “that’s not going to happen for a while yet”. CF


Commodore_Format_PowerPack_48_1994-09The first belting game from CF‘s deal with Codemasters arrived this month; the 93% rated puzzler Tilt was the lead Power Pack game. It had been reviewed back in issue 1 and was the top rated budget game in CF‘s history: amusingly, though, Commodore Format provided the instructions to a completely different game from Genias – also called Tilt – in the mag. D’oh! You can read the full Tilt story in our feature here.

The facepalms didn’t stop there, either, with a “public domain” game from Electric Boys’ collection called Wizard’s Pet actually turning out to be a Mastertronic title from the 1980s; it shouldn’t have been in the public domain and CF  had no right to publish it, though the mistake was clearly genuine. In better news, Jon Wells’ City Bomber was a classy playable demo of the sort of thing we could expect from the British home brew market, and the tape was completed by 1988’s shooter Repel (which really was PD this time).  

  • More issues of CF
  • Commodore Format 48 is dated September 1994. It first appeared on Tuesday August 16th.   

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