pp2

Issue one’s Next Month panel mentions the upcoming Power Pack contents before anything else. That reveals two things: one, that the cassette really was a central, crucial part of the mag even from those early days. And two, the tape contents always went right down to the wire. This second tape – still actually branded as CF Smash Hits at this stage – was supposed to include a demo of Mindscape’s Days of Thunder. The California-based softies had been purchased earlier in the year by Les Crane’s ToolWorks, primarily for their Nintendo license. Mindscape’s offices around the world – including the UK’s Sussex branch – remained, but there was a definite feel of the business fulfilling its obligations before moving on to the consoles exclusively. Days Of Thunder – a tie-in to the Tom Cruise movie – was a shoddy, jerky race game. In issue 4, CF rated it at just 43%. Whether CF decided not to demo such mediocrity on principal or Mindscape didn’t want people to see it before release – a tactic also used by Titus in cancelling their demo of Dick Tracy – we’ll never know. But it’s not here and it was probably removed very late because nothing is there to replace it. What is on the second Commodore Format covertape, though, ain’t too shabby.

PIG TALES

The source of much online confusion, Pig Tales is actually CRL’s 1987 game Oink!. It’s a license of the hugely inventive Viz-for-kids comic which ran between 1986 and 1988 and was the home of some amazing talents: Charlie Brooker (Black Mirror), then still in school, submitted strips to the mag. CRL owned the code but not the Oink! name, hence a rebadging in order to sell it to Commodore FormatPig Tales is really a series of sub games with a neat storyline. You’re a comic editor, Uncle Pigg, charged with creating a new issue. There’s a Breakout style bit, a shoot ’em up bit and a maze bit. And it’s good fun, if somewhat limited. It rated well on release, with ZZAP! 64 giving it 84% and CVG a 10. Both scores seem a bit puzzling now, really. It’s alright for free, though, and fans of the comic would love the humour.

LORDS OF CHAOS

This is a demo of Bladesoft’s 90% Corker reviewed in issue 1.  It’s a complex strategy game for up to four people. This slickly made preview is a complete adventure in itself called Escape From Zol. You play a wizard stuck in a dark prison, thrown there by Zol. Foolishly, the latter has left keys strewn around the place so you have to collect them all, escape and find the door to another world. It’s almost board game-ish, with you taking a turn and then Zol – controlled by the computer – having his (in the full game, your friend could be playing Zol, for example, or others). There’s combat, stuff to collect, things to defend and even creatures to hitch a ride on. The instructions for this demo alone take up over a page and it’s a great advertisement for the depth of the full game. CF‘s review recommends you take at least 30 minutes to read the manual, and it is probably only its complexity that stops it being more popular today. It’s easy to find and download but to understand it minus the proper documents, less so. It’s a Corker, alright – once you get your head around it.

EMPIRE

Firebird’s 1986 space combat game is first up on side two. It’s a rotating, top down 2D view with one aim: build a great galactic empire (aha! – Ed) spanning many star systems and generally become master of the universe. Your ship’s instrument panel is so complex it requires a half-page annotation in the mag, taking in your ship’s temperature, radiation levels, fuel and more. There’s real satisfaction at being in control of all of this and a huge feeling of vastness as you dock on planets and enter into other solar systems. Unofficially, it was being hyped around its time of release as a sort of Elite II, and the elements of trading and building do add depth to what initially just looks like Asteroids. It’s not edge-of-your-seat stuff, but if you like to sit with a beer or three for hours with a game, Empire is your sort of thing.

THE BLOB

Er…this is Pac Man, basically. You’re a small yellow sphere who lives in a maze, and when you’re invaded by the Wibblies you have to rush off and eat your power ups in order to become stronger, chase after the Wibblies and kill ’em. In any other month this might seem a wee bit like filler, but given the complexity of what else is on offer The Blob is a great change of pace to end the tape with. Better than Days of Thunder, too.  

SUMMING UP

The first year of Commodore Format covertapes are exceptionally strong, but this isn’t the best of ’em. Pig Tales (or Oink!) is fun, but limited, and the depth of both Lords of Chaos and Empire might be a bit much for junior joystick jugglers. But there’s Pac ManCF

 

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