Commodore_Format_PowerPack_10_1991-07

Commodore Format‘s tenth covertape saw the magazine on the cusp of really hitting its stride: number one in the market and with a declining C64 software market, publishers were beginning to queue around the block to give CF their games for the covertape for a low price. It was a game’s natural last home after a full price and budget release, and from now on we’ll see an absolutely blinding game almost every month. Speaking of which…

PARK PATROL

Activision’s glorious park keeping sim’ (are we sure about this? – Ed) first appeared in the US back in ’84. Inexplicably, they didn’t put it out in the UK at premium price. In fact, Park Patrol didn’t officially get a release in the UK until 1987 – for just £1.99 on the Firebird label. On its eventual release, Julian Rignall and the rest of the ZZAP! crew couldn’t believe Activision hadn’t released it for a tenner themselves. It hadn’t aged a bit, they said, with Julian calling it one one of the best budget releases ever.

At its heart, Park Patrol is a simple collect ’em up. Its unique execution is what keeps people playing, though,  after – get this – 34 years (and that’s if you’re reading this on publication in 2018!).

You take the role of the head keeper at a US national park. The place has gone to the dogs, and all you’ve got is some snake repellent, a rubber dinghy and the occasional bit of food to help you. Your task is to clear up litter, kill off the poisonous wildlife and rescue any swimmers who’ve got into a spot of bother.

As the parkie (boy or girl – you decide at the start) you can walk on land or get into your boat. You’ll need to do both to get every last bit of trash, which is the requirement for moving on to the next stage. That’s your ultimate goal, but occasionally you’ll hear a high pitched noise and “help” will appear on the screen. That’s your cue to pick up a drowning visitor from the lake. As with picking up the litter, all you’ve got to do to rescue them is drive your dinghy nearby. Make sure you do: if you don’t reach them in time, it’s you who loses a life.

For a points bonus, you can try log rolling. There’s a trick to jumping out of your dinghy and on to the wood; a timer will appear, and if you stay afloat long enough the points are yours.

Under the surface, then, it’s as simple a collect ’em up as can be. And the game loops when you’ve finished every stage. It’s truly a game of its era, with the ultimate aim to keep beating your high score. But what it lacks in depth it makes up for in neat graphics, an earworm of a main tune you’ll be humming for days, and features like an options screen that allow you to change little aspects of the game once you get bored. Park Patrol makes the top ten list of an awful lot of C64-ers, and here in the summer of ’91 it was looking fresh for a whole new wave of gamers. Load it up today, and you’ll find it still does.

PACK FACT: We’re not kidding about that insanely hummable soundtrack. It’s by the late Russell Lieblich, whose was one of the pioneers of music/rhythm oriented gameplay. He did a lot of stuff on the NES, but never got to see the sort of incredible scores on the current gen of consoles: he died in New York in 2005. 

ANARCHY

Another from CF‘s deal with Hewson, this, and like last month’s Zamzara it came out via their budget label Rack It. Aussie author Michael Sentinella wrote this one and then seemed to vanish from the scene. Last known whereabouts? Making CD versions of the Yellow Pages in Cairns for the Australian government back in the ’90s. He’s proud enough of Anarchy, though, for it to be on his LinkedIn page – and rightly so.

Geeky enough gamers will probably clock that this appears to be a clone of Raiders5, the shooty/puzzle arcade game from Taito that you can get today on the Playstation Store. You drive around in your MK2 Interceptor Unit (or “tank” – Ed) destroying weapons containers and avoiding security droids. When you get every container, the security system of the building you’re in collapses and you’re on to the next maze. Every fifth building has nuclear weapons, a nice touch which involves some more work to diffuse. But what we’ve really got here is a standard overhead shoot and maze kind of thing which’ll give you enjoyment way beyond the budget price tag. The enemies do seem a little bit smart and you’ve got to learn their paths to proceed through its 15 levels…at which point, like Park Patrol, the damned thing loops. Argh! PACK FACT: The game’s psychedelic, occasionally hypnotic backgrounds make this one fun to play after a few, er, cigarettes. Apparently.  

EXILE

This enormous playable segment of one of Commodore Format‘s highest rated games ever really divided readers at the time. We’d put our cards on the table here and say that it’s because most people loading this up were very young and this BBC Micro port is long, slow and very complex – ie, all the things you despise when you’re 12. Return to it in mid-life, though, and you might suss out what CF‘s 97% review was all about.

You play the part of Mike Finn. He’s the leading member of Columbus Force, a space-exploration organisation who’ve been ordered to the planet Phoebus on a rescue mission. You have to save the surviving crew of a captured ship from the clutches of a psychotic renegade engineer called Triax. He’s the exile of the game’s title, and he appears briefly on the very first screen stealing a vital piece of equipment from the ship.

And so that’s where you begin – deep below the surface of Phoebus in Triax’ laboratory. Standing between you and the rescue of everyone else is a network of caves, tunnels and rooms filled with Triax’ insane experiments. There are robotic security guards everywhere and man-made obstacles to navigate. Objects and switches that might help you litter the floor and walls.

And that is one of the game’s real strengths: you can interact with pretty much everything. Flick a switch, move a brick, push a robot. Each object has a physical mass and reacts in a different way according to Phoebus’ atmosphere; you have to take into account what items might do in a severe lack of gravity to solve puzzles.

CF’s reviewer Gary Penn said it was the best thing he’d seen since The Sentinel – praise indeed. And CF’s final editor, Simon Forrester, told us that it’s his favourite Commodore 64 game. But the sheer volume of things to do and get your head around are the same reason that so many younger players were put off at the time, with many shutting off their computers in frustration after playing the demo.

Perhaps, 27 years later, it’s time to give Exile another go. PACK FACT: It isn’t widely known, but CF had a consultant editor in its first year – one Gary Penn, famous for his work on ZZAP! 64. He wrote a few feature, but only one review: this one, of Exile, and his name was considered to have such gravitas, it’s the only time a reviewer’s name was ever featured on the cover. Later, Steve Jarratt would tell us it was also a minor troll of ZZAP!

F1-GP CIRCUITS

Idea’s racing game took its cue from Sega’s old arcade, Monaco Grand Prix (precursor to the Super version). It’s an overhead vertical scroller in the same sort of mould, but it takes the old features and improves of them a lot. Coded in Italy, this demo lets you pick the Monaco street track, push forward and go. You’re in charge of the gears, which you can change by pressing fire. You’ve got to get into the pits to change tyres and repair your car, which often provides the game’s highest point of tension. You sit there, waiting for the green light to go, as competitors whizz by. Well, OK – “whizz” isn’t quite the word. But the overhead view does allow for some perception of speed, and there are neat touches like the scanner showing you what’s wrong with your car and the fade to black and white as you cross the finish line. It’s a well presented game – “gloss” is how CF described it – but beneath that, there’s only a small challenge and you’ll complete it no probs. 68% is probably right. What’s there is good. Great, even. But you won’t be playing for long. Still, fun whilst you do.

SUMMING UP

Park Patrol is an undisputed classic, and unlike so many of the covertape games from the early ’80s that showed its age, this one’s timeless. An absolute barg to have this on the tape alone, let alone such a huge chunk of Exile. An absolute barnstormer. CF

 

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