Commodore Format is 1! The magazine celebrated its first birthday with the news it was the biggest-selling C64 magazine in the UK market. The once dominant ZZAP! 64 – which had “lost a lot of the things that made it great”, reckoned CF editor Steve Jarratt – was on the back foot, responding by dropping its Amiga coverage and redesigning the magazine so that it looked, er, a little “familiar”. A key moment was its review of Supremacy, which was almost box-for-box identical to the previous month’s Commodore Format design. “When they did it, I knew we had them beaten”, says Steve. Read more about that incident here.

CF had changed in its first year, responding to research which showed the average age of reader was 13 by dropping its mix of serious and fun to focus almost entirely on games. What played to Commodore Format‘s hand was that even though there were now more powerful computers out there, the C64 software being produced was some of the most exciting and advanced ever, pushing the computer far beyond anything its designers would have thought possible. A prime example was issue 13’s cover star Turbocharge. The mix of driving and shooting was made all the more frantic by a clever optical illusion. The car in Turbocharge never actually moves: it’s the road you’re controlling, and is a slick upgrade of the Powerdrift code programmer Chris Butler used a couple of years earlier. The “speeds” which are thus achieved, and the use of this technique to create forks in the highway, are just immense. The slick presentation, including an astounding introduction sequence, was System 3 and the Commodore at its best. Beautiful stuff.

Turbocharge had been intended by System 3 as a cartridge release, but with the GS console discontinued in under a year (and by now selling for just £30 on the high street), only Ocean continued to support the ill-fated format. It seemed, though, as if this was in order to fit better games onto the GS compatible C64, because this month’s cart release – Terminator 2  – included a prompt to press the “T” key if you got it in the box with a new c64 (and “M” for Music Maker on the same cart, for example). Fine if you had a C64, but if it was borrowed by a friend with a keyboardless GS? Impossible! The console was already forgotten. The game itself featured a lovely intro and intermission screens but was otherwise a sluggish shoot/beat/drive ’em up loosely based on scenes from the film. Pretty forgettable.

Hot on the heels of last month’s Power Pack demo, Rod-Land arrived for review and was perhaps harshly scored at just 82%: it’s a single-screen, platform collect ’em up with some fantastic graphics and Japanese style end-of-stage guardians like a huge, tearful elephant. Other magazines rated it in the 90s, and rightly so.

One of the more interesting stories this month was in the Early Warning! preview section. Silly Putty had been a technical marvel on the Amiga and a truly unique slab of game. A working demo of the putty impressively moving around a C64 screen was as far as the game got, though. Putty programmer John Levy: “The main character was very expensive on sprites (especially when stretched horizontally) so this had an impact on the number of enemies and the robot sprites that the player was supposed to rescue. None of these problems were so major that we couldn’t have got around them with a little effort but morale was pretty low.” The game was abandoned, but the original demo is now out in the public domain: read the full story over at Games That Weren’t.

Roger Frames got drunk on sherry trifle at the CF first birthday party this month, with a fantastic Mike Roberts cartoon of the crew to go with his adventure. It was New Zealand Story out on budget this month, too, rounding off a cracking month for games.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the competition to win a 3.5″ disk drive from TIB. The new drives were certainly exciting, but short of literally giving them away to everyone the project was doomed: at £100, you were three-quarters of the way there to a brand new 16-bit console. And (lack of) money was the only reason the majority of kids were still on C64 anyway. Still – a great bit of kit, just far too late in the day.



[READ THE FULL FEATURE ON THIS MONTH’S TAPE HERE] A demo of this month’s Corker and cover star, TurboCharge, led this month’s blinding tape offer. Level one of imminent platformer Rolling Ronny was also there, with Hewson’s full game Sunburst and quirky CCTV-’em-up (er…– Ed) Hacker II. To boot, there were some free Imageworks stickers inside the box – see ’em here. Worth your £2.20 alone! CF

  • More issues of CF
  • Commodore Format 13 is dated October 1991. It first appeared on Thursday September 19th. 

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