Commodore_Format_PowerPack_14_1991-11The fourteenth issue of Commodore Format arrived in late October, with a cover date of November 1991. Its 74 pages included a surprisingly hefty 23 pages of advertisements. Even more surprisingly – for the amateur games historian at least – is that most of the ads were for new software. At odds with the media chatter about the SNES and other consoles like the amusingly ill-fated 3DO, British publishers were banking on a worthwhile Christmas for the Commodore 64. All the big licenses were scheduled: a Simpsons game, the Terminator 2 franchise, a WWF sim’, and the biggest craze of the moment: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The pizza munching, crazily popular amphibians were back on the Commodore for the second time in a year thanks to Imageworks (the first game, a deathly conversion of the NES beat ‘em up/platformer, had sold very well but played very badly back in 1990). A demo led this month’s tape alongside a front cover and exclusive review. This deal with Imageworks scuppered CF‘s plans for a  Halloween special, which we’ll come back to later.

TURTLES: THE COIN OP

The Ninja Turtles (renamed heroes for British kid’s television by a Daily Mail fearing BBC) were everywhere in 1991. The dark comic strip went mainstream when a children’s version of their adventures was commissioned for Saturday morning TV in the US around 1987; by the early ’90s, they – or rather their merchandise – was everywhere. You could get Turtles shirts, duvets, ready meals, shampoos, toys, VHS tapes and a fair few video games, too.

This one here is a demo of the sideways scrolling arcade game by Konami that first enticed kids with quarters back in 1989. It was a four-player cabinet, letting you and three friends take control of their desired Heroes in a Half Shell and give chase to their arch enemy Shredder, who’s kidnapped their friend April and mentor rat Splinter. Each Turtle had its own strengths and weaknesses – Donatello, for example, was slow but could attack for longer. Whoever you controlled, you ran left to right slamming enemies into walls, attacking them with your specialist weapon or using fire hydrants and traffic cones in creative ways.

ZZAP! mag saw the arcade on first release in ’89, enthusing over its famed attract mode (a perfect recreation of the cartoon’s titles) and four-player action. Sadly, the C64 version we see here doesn’t even let you play with two players simultaneously. All the Turtles are there, but they appear separately in different levels across a one-player experience. It’s a huge disappointment, and so are the unresponsive controls: the game boasts a huge range of moves, apparently, but getting them to work is another matter.

If you persevere, though, there’s value to be had here. The action is frantic and you can see the game’s coin-op roots. Huge fires rage in the foreground, oversized bowling balls tumble down staircases for some reason, enemies get you in arm locks and you can even end up plummeting back into your native sewers if you don’t watch your step.

The C64’s sprite limits traditionally cripple this genre on the machine, but that isn’t especially evident here: there’s always lots going on. The real issue is with those unresponsive controls. You don’t expect perfection when you’re dealing with one button joysticks, but if you intend to jump the computer shouldn’t punch. Still, if just to see a slab of commercial history it’s worth a look. PACK FACT: According to tape duplicators Ablex, they received more orders for this in 1991 than anything else. Close second? The Creatures games.

ALIENS

Long before Doom, another first-person shooter was well-known for making users of a Commodore machine need a hefty supply of spare trousers. The cack-inducing Aliens by Electric Dreams was given away in full here on Power Pack 14, and 28 years later this adaptation of the 1986 James Cameron horror can still set the anxiety off.

This is the UK version of Aliens, originally released in April 1987 (a different US version, by Activison, was also released and was reviewed by ZZAP! in May of that year). Unusually, you take control of a six-strong team in a giant complex high above earth. Your task is to safely move them room by room towards an alien nest where the queen alien lays her eggs (gross- Ed).

Each of the team – or marines – has a camera strapped to them, and that’s how you see what they see. A jab of a key flicks you between the crew members, and they’ll take your orders. They can move up to nine rooms at a time, but it’s up to you to devise a strategy to catch and kill the aliens you find en route to the queen. There’s a super-useful map, the exciting ability to launch a rescue mission for marines who’re being face hugged and some truly mortifying moments when the lights go out and you just know you’re not alone.

In 1987, Aliens was held up as one of the first movie tie-ins to really capture the essence of its source material. By this magazine re-release in 1991, it still held up. Today, it’s initially jarring to only be able to move left to right, and it’s clear that basic sound effects like a heartbeat would’ve made things even freakier. But get over the little gripes and you’ll be rewarded with a frightening adventure without equal on C64. PACK FACT: Psytronik released an Alien(s) inspired game last year, and it’s great. Search for Organism – you won’t be disappointed.

TERROR OF THE DEEP

Oh, now here is something beautiful and just very very different. In this game – which Imageworks/Mirrorsoft gave to CF for free in return for running the Turtles demo – you’re on the hunt for the Loch Ness monster! Bit of a change from rescuing kidnapped princesses and all that, eh? It gets even quirkier: this game’s set in Victorian times, and you play a mad old professor who’s built a primitive submarine for the specific purpose of finding Nessie. In essence, you just follow the fish using a sort of flight sim-at-night perspective. But the craft, enjoyment and real purpose of the game is mastering the submarine. Long before thoughts turn to finding the beast, you should have fun turning wheels to make electricity and then using that power for light. You’ve also got to keep an eye on the meter for oxygen (and remember to listen for the bell when it’s low), and master a deeply satisfying plunger to prime bombs. For what? Well, there aliens down there too. It’s a computer game, so of course there are. There’s all sorts going on besides, but it goes way beyond a simple chase ’em up (hunt me down? – Ed). The best way to get absorbed in this one is to get on board and, er, immerse yourself. Let us know if you spot the monster – we never have! PACK FACT: Like this? Have a look at Lucasfilm’s Eidolon. It’s superficially similar but has a great level of depth that some people crave during Terror of the Deep.

TILT

Not to be confused with the 1990 Codemasters game which had Roger Frames on the box, Italian softies Genias dropped this neat puzzler in Autumn ’91 and CF got this three-level demo. Tilt is a sliding block puzzle game where the aim is to simply guide your ball to the exit. The ball keeps moving forwards, you’ve just got to slide tiles around and construct a safe route for it. The trick’s to trap your balls (I’m not saying it – Ed) in a corner whilst working on the path to the exit before releasing the thing. There are transporters, black holes and a, er, fatal red blob to contend with but it’s all pretty easy to pick up and very very engaging. Deserves a butchers. PACK FACT: There isn’t enough love for Italian C64-ing. This is from the guys who also brought us 8-bit Chuck Rock.

328875-tilt-commodore-64-screenshot-get-ready

SUMMING UP

This month’s magazine came out in time for Halloween. The original intention had been to put Elvira: The Arcade Game on the cover and fill the issue with spooky stuff – hence Terror of the Deep and Aliens. The deal with Imageworks required a Turtles cover, review and demo though – so an Elvira cover and demo were saved for ish 15 and we got an amphibian special instead. The spooky half of the cassette is great: Aliens still stands up today and Terror of the Deep is better with adult eyes. As for Turtles….we can’t get away from the poor controls, but the game has its fans. And Italy’s Tilt? Bueno (that’s Spanish, you idiot – Ed) CF

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