There were two cassettes on the front of issue 27. This early Christmas present was the third time in a year that the Power Packs had doubled up (CF16‘s second set of spool featured the Graphic Adventure Creator, and just two months earlier ish 25 had boasted Saracen Paint). This time around the second tape was there to help accommodate two hefty multi load games and – flip! – something genuinely useful.

ALTERNATIVE WORLD GAMES

To the agonies of cassette multi load first, then, and something we didn’t see often enough on the Commodore 64: a parody. AWG takes the piss out of Epyx’ (Summer, Winter, California) Games series, but this wrist destroying genre was fashionable all over the place in 1988. Waggle fests Combat School and Track ‘n’ Field also jostled for attention that year, causing levels of excitement from joystick manufacturers not seen since Daley Thompson’s Decathlon.

The “hilarity” starts when you’re asked to pick a country to represent. Choose the UK, and you get to hear Rule Britannia. That’s not the national anthem, chaps, you might think – but try another country. France’s tune is the Can-Can. Each ear-piercer is played on vinyl by the world’s smuggest parrot, so there are no excuses for being surprised at what lies ahead from the get go.

The first event is a sack race against the manhole littered backdrop of Naples (the whole thing’s in Italy. There are some nice C64 versions of Pisa and Venice here too). The next load is a plate balancing act where you need to get the most crockery to the finish line in the fastest time. Third up is boot throwing (discus), then there’s river jumping with a pole (the vaulting thing that’s always in these games), pole climbing (!), “running up a wall”, pillow fighting on a gondola (easily the most fun) and a pogo stick race.

You already know how this one plays. Left, right, waggle a bit, double left, circles, fire. The thing is, it’s all or nothing. Once you’ve sussed it you can get the same scores every time unless your mate gives you a dead arm (up to five people can compete IRL). The graphics are nice, with some really beautiful animated option screens and exceptional animation throughout (check out that water effect). But get stuck in a trench on your pogo stick or lose the sack race because of the “helpful” dog and you’ll feel like the actual game has suffered at the hands of the humour, no matter how lovely it looks. Still, if you’ve got a friend or two over instead of going against the predictable computer opponents you’ll discover that multi play is this game’s heartbeat and longevity.

PACK FACT: AWG turned up in the US with Epyx’ blessing as Sports-A-Roni. It’s got pizzas on the box. Heeeey!

 

DEFLEKTOR

Hey, it’s another one you’ll have seen again more recently on your Commodore 64 Mini/Maxi. And you’d be forgiven for turning it off as quickly as you loaded it because the instructions are as bad as the ones Commodore Format gave us to work with back in ’92. That’s a darned shame, ‘cos it’s an engrossing puzzler when you actually know what’s going on.

In Gremlin’s winter 1988 game every screen holds a laser generator and receiver. The generator’s beam can be manipulated by turning mirrors. Using them, you must first destroy every grey cell on the screen pew-pew-pew style before more thoughtfully connecting generator and receiver with a solid stream of light. If you reflect the beam back on itself the system overloads, and the same happens if you hit a mine. There are also bricks, doors and other obstacles to contend with.

On original release, CF launch editor Steve Jarratt was a young reviewer on ZZAP! 64. He thought the game owed much to Rebel (which was in turn inspired by the mirror puzzle sub game in Dan Dare, if you want to go down a rabbit hole). “The game play is simple and the puzzles are well designed” said Steve, who was only disappointed with a lack of passwords for each screen. Julian Rignall agreed: “it’s dull having to work all the way through the lower screens to get back to the high ones you haven’t solved.”

The other thing about Deflektor is that until those late stages it’s really easy to just twist your mirrors around and hope for the best instead of using logic. But as you progress, there are teleport boxes that send your light all over the place and little “enemies” who’ll screw up your mirrors. It does force you to think a bit more if you get that far.

It feels picky to look for fault in this absorbing slice of logic, really. It might’ve stumped you if you were a younger reader back in the day, but you’ll get a good evening out of it now. Remember to use the save feature on your device for a much easier time.

PACK FACT: Deflektor’s had a few fan remakes, our favourite being this ‘un from the late ’90s. The original team endorsed it. 

 

THE MUNCHER

The other multi load on this month’s Power Pack is The Muncher, better known as the Chewits game ‘cos it’s tied in to this series of TV commercials from the late ’80s:

But wait! There’s a story here before we start. Aussie devs Beam Software coded this pastiche of the Japanese kaiju movie genre under the name Monster, mashing up ’60s horror with bits of the arcade hit Rampage. When their parent company Melbourne House quit the publishing side of the business, the game ended up in the hands of Gremlin who changed the name to T-Wrecks. It was briefly advertised as such:

twrecks

Soon, though, a deal was struck with Chewits and it was renamed again as The Muncher after the commercial’s star. There’s a static screen advert for them before the game, but other than that it’s the same code it ever was. On the “fire to start” screen, it even still calls itself Monster.

The game, then. It’s mid twentieth century Japan, and scientists have stolen eggs from a prehistoric beast. He’s pissed, and on the warpath (some might say Rampage – Ed). Rather than taking control of a helicopter or tank to take down the Muncher, in this game you are the beast and wow – does any other C64 game leave you in control of such an enormous sprite? The decision to turn this story upside down and let you destroy stuff is glorious: you can swipe down helicopters, kick tanks, breathe fire and crouch down to pick up a man-sized snack.

Muncher scrolls left to right, but moves accordingly if you want to scale a building and eat everything inside. This is where the game really comes into its own and lives up to its kaiju aspirations: helicopters swirl as you bash in the roof and you have the choice of toasting ’em or just chomping them straight from the sky. From the corner of your eye, you’ll see little sprites falling from buildings and soldiers scampering alongside you to pump fruitless bullets into your legs. Push down and – munch! – they’re gone.

There’s great fun to be had here, with some really nice humour like the “welp” noise if you pick up a hapless pedestrian. After a while, it’s a bit samey and you’d have to say hauling around the massive sprite can sometimes feel a bit cumbersome – but it’s definitely a good one to play if you’re in a bad mood. Just don’t forget to collect all the eggs amid the carnage. Chomp!

PACK FACT: The game was advertised on over 8 million packs of Chewits in 1988

SCEPTRE OF BAGHDAD

Oh, blimey. This Sceptre demo has a bit of a backstory too. The Dizzy-ish collect ’em up with a few nods to Jet Set Willy is set in the days of Ali Baba and his friends, first appearing on the Speccy back in ’87 as part of Atlantis Software’s two quid range.

If you’ve waded this far into an article about a cover tape, you’re probably now asking the same question we were. Why did Atlantis resurrect a nearly six year old Spectrum game for the Commodore? We asked the author of this ’64 version, Jon Wells:

“I had written to Atlantis in the past with ideas and demos of my own, which were unsuccessful. I really liked their original Spectrum release of Sceptre of Bagdad (as it was called then). I tried a different approach and wrote to them asking if they would be interested in a Commodore 64 conversion.”

“This sparked their interest and resulted in a phone conversation with the MD, Michael Cole. He suggested I produce a single screen playable demo as an example and send it to them for review.”

“I duly obliged and created the screen where the Caliph starts with the Magic Lamp. I included music, full bitmapped graphics and the player walking and jumping around as well as the Lamp speech. He was extremely impressed and said it looked great and agreed to the conversion on the spot.”

In this demo, you get to flick around a few screens enjoying the beautiful graphics and belting, haunting soundtrack from Feekzoid (somehow, FZ makes SID sing in a way others of the era never could). There’s just one puzzle (find the magic carpet and take it to the “airport”), after which you’re told to look out for the game around Christmas. Atlantis stopped trading before it could get into the shops, but it wasn’t the end for Sceptre. Jon released a remixed version of the game through Psytronik Software in Autumn 1993, which in turn ended up on the CF Power Pack in April 1995. Jon also released both versions in a special pack as part of his Supportware scheme. The remix has been nicknamed the “thin” version because the sprite is more Prince of Persia than fat old Caliph. We’ll have a look at that one in some more depth and talk to Jon again when we get to tape 55 in this series.

As for this version of the game, we had a lot of fun with it. The puzzles aren’t always logical, but this guide from CF43 will keep your hair intact. It was old hat compared to other releases of the time like Mayhem, Sleepwalker or Lemmings and reviews didn’t ignore the fact. In the abstract many years later, though, you won’t care about that. It’s the sort of thing you’ll enjoying mapping deep into a Friday night with a beer. There isn’t a ton of stuff about this version of the game out there, but the Format review’s here and this is how Commodore Force saw it.

PACK FACT: Go up the stairs in this demo and as far right as you can. You’ll meet an old man, who’s a brilliant straight-up reference to Jet Set Willy. Talk to him!

LOADMASTER

On the other side of the Muncher tape was Datel Electronics’ C2N SOS Loadmaster. “Have you ever found a fave tape works on your friend’s C64 but not yours?”, asks CF. “Or has your entire collection shown peculiar tendencies when loading?”

If the answer to both was a tearful yes – and let’s be honest here, it probably was – Loadmaster could help you get back in business. It’s, er, a terrifying thing to use for the uninitiated: you need a very small screwdriver to whack in the little hole above the second ‘O’ of ‘Commodore’ on the dratted datasette. By turning it and gauging the program’s feedback, you can theoretically get the C2N head alignment – and thus, all your games – working properly again. But use this one with caution OK? Better still, find a disk drive or some new fangled USB shizzle (technical term, that. From us, the experts – Ed).

SUMMING UP

This is a tape full of curiosities rather than the usual thrills and spills. There’s the early sponsorship of Muncher, a rare look at Sceptre V1.0 and an even rarer attempt at 8-bit humour in Alternative World Games. For our money, the most value here is the one game that was relegated to a foot note at the time: Deflektor is a corker. CF