A look at Commodore Format Power Pack 12 from September 1991. Spindizzy, Speedball 2, PP Hammer, 3D Construction Kit and The CF Show.
- One full game
- Four demos
- 1 PD demo
- Read the mag tape pages
There’s a strong argument that 1991 was the C64’s last big summer, certainly as far as the AAA+ full priced titles go. There was an avalanche of new software released in time for the school holidays (this month’s ish went on sale in mid-August), and it was reflected with four demos on this month’s tape – the most preview-heavy Power Pack ever. Before we get there, though…
Billed by CF as one of the greatest things ever fit into 64K ever, the only full game on this month’s tape is certainly unique. Electric Dreams’ 1986 action and puzzle title was – according to programmer Paul Shirley – heavily inspired by 1984’s Marble Madness. You’re put in charge of a probe called a Gyroscopic Environmental Reconnaissance And Land-Mapping Device (GERALD). Gerald has been sent to a new planet to explore, which is where you come in. He transmits a very nice isometric view back to you of each of the game’s 492 screens. His surroundings include perilous paths, slopes and bottomless caverns. You’ve got to guide him through them all, of course, set to a time limit, though much of the game’s challenge is – bluntly – trying not to fall off damned ledges.
The game was very well received and wildly popular in 1986, with ZZAP! calling it “amazing”, “well-executed” and “varied”. 25 years on, Retro Gamer‘s Graeme Mason summed it up very well by saying the game’s genius was the the only enemy in Spindizzy is yourself (er, or how crap you are).
Spindizzy is a game with legacy, too: its isometric view is said to be part of the inspiration for Amiga classic Populous. It even got an outing on the SNES in the ’90s, a conversion with Paul Shirley disapproved of. Nowt wrong with this one, though.
So where are we again? Ah, yes. The summer of ’91. By now, Spectrum magazines were asking their readers to write in to sofware publishers begging them to release new games. Things weren’t looking so grim for the beige breadbox, though: top of the pile of new releases for Commodore 64 owners was a staggeringly classy version of the Amiga classic, Speedball II. It was issue 12’s main event, getting the cover, an exclusive 94% review and this demo on the tape. What a package!
The year is 2095 and you’re the manager of Brutal Deluxe. You play speedball – the most bloody sport the world has ever seen. Your job is to take your team back to its former glories. Ultimately, you win a game by scoring more goals than your opponent – but the fun is in the violent, off-the-ball clashes. A punch here, a kick there, it’s all terribly inappropriate fun – especially in two player mode.
By the way, this demo also includes the jaw-droppingly brilliant introduction featuring one of Martin Walker’s most thunderous, spine-tingling SID tunes ever. Worth loading up for the music alone!
Rod-Land, known in Japan as Yousei Monogatari Rod Land – 妖精物語ロッドランド – is a 1990 coin op from Jaleco. Storm got the micro computer rights, and this straightforward Bubble Bobble inspired game – demo’d here for ish 12 – is almost too simple to be fun. But it is.
Each screen is full of flowers, which the fairy you play – either Tam or Rit, or both in two-player – must collect. Get them all, and move on to the next level. Each stage is full of unusually cute and manga-esque baddies: fluffy rabbits, “cuddly” sharks and elephants. Pushing fire activates Tam or Rit’s rod; that bashes the enemies from side to side, and when they’re dead they’ll leave all manner of weapons you can activate by walking over them. You’ve got the ability to use a magic ladder to reach the next platform, too, by pushing fire and up. Only one at a time, though, and the baddies can use the ladders too.
The end-of-level guardians are like something from a ’90s console: giant whales, elephants and bunnies. It’s this constant cute-yet-evil dynamic that gives the game real character. It’s easy to pick up, infinitely playable and you’ll want to again and again.
P.P. HAMMER AND HIS PNEUMATIC WEAPON
The third demo on show in Commodore Format 12 is a game which – though bugged and a wee bit flawed – doesn’t get nearly enough as much love as it should.
In Commodore Format a few months after this demo Stuart Campbell called it a sort of Lode Runner for 1991, comparing PP’s platforms, ladders and digging with the ’80s Apple game.
Unlike Lode Runner, though, PP Hammer scrolls in every direction. It’s a sort-of platformer in which you use your pneumatic weapon (don’t say it – Ed) to drill to the end point, collecting all manner of treasure and power-ups along the way. Some collectibles are needed for puzzles later in the game, meaning mapping and planning are really important. There’s longevity here, if not thrills and spills. PP has character, from the way he holds on to his helmet (don’t say it – Ed) to the way he stands when using his weapon (I’m really warning you here – Ed). Extra points, too, for the password system at each stage and the smart loading system which automatically winds you to where you need to be. CF notes that this demo version is a bit bugged, and so was the full release: it’s still worth checking out, though, albeit in small doses. And, er, that’s it isn’t it? We got to the end without a knob gag (I really am so very sorry – Ed).
3D CONSTRUCTION KIT
Domark’s game creating utility was positively reviewed in this month’s CF, which anoraks should definitely take a look at because Sean Masterson creates a 3D, C64 version of the Commodore Format office.
There was much excitement about this release because – if you recall – “virtual reality” was a buzzword (or two – Ed) in the early ’90s. On C64, of course, you’re limited: once the thing’s loaded there’s only 5K left to play with, and 128 users don’t get any extra. But beautiful things are possible, not least CF reader Phil Boyce who used it to create Time Crystal. The thing is, the Commodore really does chug along slowly moving things in three dimensions. But knocking on for 30 years later, emulators can speed things up a lot and make both the games and the 3D Construction Kit itself way more useable. The game which came free with the utility is also the demo on this month’s tape. Have a look at it here, speeded up over 2000% (!), and you might take on a new appreciation for it.
THE CF SHOW
Now then. Here’s an interesting little extra. Created to tie-in with this month’s first major PD column, The CF Show was a rolling demo by David Dewar of Silverwing PD and the Entropy group and was a way of showing non-scene readers what PD demos were all about. It’s shows off some nice graphics and tunes, and there’s a cool CF logo and even a chance to move around some orbs using your joystick at the end. But what The CF Show is most remembered for is the teaser of a halloween-themed game that doesn’t ever seem to have appeared.
A single screen is shown, featuring a graveyard, skeleton and gargoyles.
Then, the words:
“Biggest main character ever on a 64!
Superlative graphics and animation!
Atmospheric in-game soundtracks and FX!
Challenging on screen sequences!
Fast addictive gameplay and much more!”
Sounds good, eh? Thing is, there was no other info. C64 expert Frank Gasking did some digging:
“The working title for this one was Spooky. It was a game by David himself. It featured a fully animated skeleton, which walked around and fended off flying gargoyles. The trailer was going to have some movement in it to show this, but David cut this out to fit more into the CF demo itself. The game was started. There were several playable levels. But it was put on hold to do this demo for CF, and never got going again.”
As for getting our hands on Spooky today, it’s the same old story. It could be in David’s parent’s house, or it could’ve been chucked out long ago. Damn you, CF. Anyway, want to see the full demo? Here you go:
For whatever reason, issue 12 is the one a lot of readers got on board CF with (it’s possible that the mag reached some parts of the country for the first time in August ’91, particularly if those areas didn’t have a WH Smith or Menzies). This tape, then, is fondly remembered for that first hit of the mag – but there’s no doubting it’s a barnstorming tape in its own right. Worth it for Spindizzy alone, this one’s got enough add-ons to last you until the clocks went back again.