CF put the words “ZZAP! 64” at the top left of its cover this month – direct in the eyeline of people who’d be looking for it on the newsagent shelf. Future Publishing had tried to buy the title when Newsfield was wound up and “incorporate it into our existing title”. IE kill it off….

As Commodore Format 14 went to press in late October, ZZAP! 64 was not on the shelves. When sister Spectrum mag Crash didn’t turn up either, the rumours began. The tame truth was that following an audit during Autumn 1991 it became clear that ZZAP! and Crash parent company Newsfield would no longer remain solvent beyond March 1992. The company’s directors signed for voluntary liquidation in September 1991, and the liquidator’s report was clear enough:

Newsfield established itself during the initial computer boom period with two very strong titles, Crash and Zzap!, but failed to follow up its initial success with further profitable titles to consolidate its position. It was clear that the company needed to find lucrative replacement products before the particular market areas, the Sinclair and Commodore C64 markets, would decline and gradually fade away. Unfortunately none of the efforts within and outside of the computer market area proved to be successful and left the company in a very vulnerable position.


Commodore Format had appeared in October 1990, taking Newsfield by surprise and overtaking ZZAP’s circulation in under ten months. More damagingly, ZZAP’s advertising income was hit by a whopping 75%. But the story was far bigger than the C64 market or ZZAP: Newsfield had, in attempting to recreate its earlier successes, wasted huge sums of money on failed magazine launches and London offices.

That wasn’t to be the end of either ZZAP! or Crash, thoughex-Newsfield directors Roger Kean, Oliver Frey and Jonathan Rignall bought the titles and published again as Europress Impact, lasting until administrators were called in the spring of ’94. The reasons were much the same: their Nintendo, Amiga and Sega titles just weren’t able to compete.


It was nearly Christmas and it looked like Commodore owners were in for an avalanche of quality software in time for the festive season. This month’s CF coverstars were the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (who by the time this arcade conversion had arrived, were already becoming unfashionable). The game itself was much better than Imagework’s 1990 effort, which was rushed in time for the holidays and really showed it. This was a beat and thrash ’em up, with colourful graphics (including some neat fire) and a good array of enemies. Repetitive, but that goes back to the arcade it’s based on. Not bad!

Another coin-op convo was Toki, released on cartridge and the first to appear at the new reduced price of £14.99. The C64 GS console had been a disaster, but Ocean wasn’t giving up on the computer compatible carts that enabled bigger, more complex games without the multiload. Toki is miles more fun on the format. It’s a multi-scrolling platformer, and the hero (a giant gorilla) can swim, gob fire and even don an American football helmet for protection. The graphics are great, the bosses are huge and there’s no waiting for the five levels to load. Ace.


A new C64 package was announced this month by Commodore. The machine came with Terminator 2 and a graphics and music package all on a cartridge. Here is the television commercial which ran on ITV for it, which was Commodore’s last broadcast campaign for the machine in the UK.

There was still no C2N, which was part of Commodore’s well-intended but utterly misguided attempt to wean the C64 off cassettes. The problem for Commodore was that the datasette was actually as expensive as the C64 to produce, so to keep the cost at a place that would rival the NES or Master System something had to give. It was the wrong decision to compete with the consoles at all, and with 99% or more of games in the UK on tape the decision to lock out new users from them was ridiculous. What’s more, the constant fluctuation in packages and price had angered the country’s biggest C64 dealers, Dixons, who decided not to stock the computer at all anymore. A final C64 pack would be unveiled, in 1992, which saw the UK finally have the machine bundled with a disk drive. But it was too late, and no high street stores wanted to stock it. Available only via mail order, it was to be the C64’s last stand. Commodore didn’t learn though, going on to make many of the same mistakes with the Amiga 500+ and the CD32 console.  The business was broke by 1995.


The thing is, C64 users were still out there in their masses regardless of how much Commodore tried to foul it up for themselves, and this month’s CF showed that the computer was good for a while yet: Creatures authors John and Steve Rowlands moved their diary of the game’s sequel to CF this month after ZZAP!‘s closure, and the game looked better than anything the C64 had ever seen. First Samurai was also previewed, which would go on to be an all-time classic. And with a fantastic movie-tie in of Hudson Hawk also appearing this month the machine could hardly said to be over just yet. There were signs, sure. But the C64 was still breathing, and about to experience a better Christmas than it had enjoyed in years. CF



You could try the new Turtles game with CF‘s level one demo this month, and there was a cut-down version of new Genias puzzler Tilt to try as well. There were two scary games in time for Halloween: Imageworks’ terrifying submarine-based Terror Of The Deep and the claustrophobic full version of Alien from Electric Dreams – the latter one of the most atmospheric and unsettling games you’ll come across on C64. READ THE FULL POWER PACK FEATURE HERE AND DISCOVER HOW THIS MONTH’S MAG COULD HAVE BEEN VERY DIFFERENT! 

  • More issues of CF
  • Commodore Format 14 is dated November 1991. It first appeared on Thursday October 17th. 

1 Comment »

  1. My first issue after I just missed #13 but what an introduction not only to CF and the C64 but to magazines as a whole! I’d only read comics up to this point and I was simply blown away by Commodore Format! To this day this issue remains my favourite and it got me so completely hyped for the computer I wouldn’t even own until that Christmas! I must’ve read and reread this dozens of times that month in 1991.


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