Commodore_Format_PowerPack_3_1990-12This was the month that the cover tape got a sexy (are we sure about this? – Ed) box and inlay, making each month’s cassette an immediately more collectable offering. To further distinguish it, the Smash Hits name was dropped in favour of Power Pack (it’s possible this was also to avoid trouble with Smash Hits magazine publisher, EMAP).

Two full games, an art package and three demos were on offer in December 1990 and it was easily the most exciting tape to date. It’s also one of the most vividly and fondly remembered, not just for its contents but because it was the first Commodore Format a lot of people remember. Having already broken sales records, becoming Future’s most successful launch to date, the publisher had given the go ahead for many more copies to be printed and it was distributed more widely than ever before.

GUTZ

Special FX’s 1988 game for Ocean Software was presented in full on this tape. It was one of the famous “trade offs”: in return for featuring a demo of upcoming blockbuster Midnight Resistance (which we’ll come to later), Ocean gave CF this one for free. It’s certainly a unique proposition: you are a human inside the guts of a giant space monster that’s trying to take over the earth (tiresome – Ed). You have to scurry around the drippy innards destroying all the major organs. The beast’s tubes, arteries and other messy bits make up a maze and series of puzzles. There’s a map on hand and some shooting to do, too – but most people remember it for the looped, thumping and some might say utterly irritating soundtrack. It’s a laugh, though.

SPLIT PERSONALITIES

This very much of the time political puzzler was given to CF by Domark in return for the Badlands demo on the other side of the tape. The programmers originally wanted to call it Splitting Images, but Central TV – creators of ITV’s Spitting Image – wouldn’t let them.  In essence, it’s an 8-bit computer version of those sliding puzzles you have as a kid which eventually become a face. The faces in question here are politicans of the era, which really sets the game in a place and time: there are surprisingly decent representations of Thatcher, Reagan and Gorbachev. But they have to be, really, for the thing to work. And it does, with a few other little elements thrown in (bombs, a time limit, that sort of thing). There’s a picture on the right side of what the completed image is supposed to look like too. Well programmed, well presented, thoughtful fun. Is this (video thumbnail below) the C64’s one and only Princess Di image, by the way, or did she turn up anywhere else? Let us know.

VIDCOM 64

Flippin ‘eck. Here’s one of the first packages which really set out CF’s stall as a provider of top notch covertape software. Vidcom 64 was a complete art program used in commercial software and had been available at retail for serious cost back in 1986. A 4,000 word manual was available by sending off an SAE, and Andy Roberts provided a tutorial later on in the mag. What strikes you now is how easy it is to create great looking things with Vidcom with very little knowledge, but if you DO take the time to learn its tricks you can do things even better.

MIDNIGHT RESISTANCE

This is probably one of the most fondly remembered Power Pack moments of all time, and we’ve written about this glorious 60-ish seconds of game many times before. As the member of a resistance movement fighting against some crazed movement or other, you set out left to right shooting everything that comes at you. You destroy the tank at the end before going into the weapons store, buying cool stuff with the keys you collected from dead guys and going on the rampage again! A thumping, spine-tingling soundtrack adds incredible atmosphere to proceedings – it’s one of the few C64 games that’ll genuinely give you anxiety as it jolts you in to action – and the neat trick of making the screen shudder as the tank trundles in to view has the same effect. That this sneaky peek of a great shooter is only 60 seconds long yet remains so impactful says an awful lot; how this game did not rate way into the 90% marks on review we don’t know. Glorious.

BADLANDS

This demo showcases Domark’s conversion of the 1989 arcade game. Minus the steering wheels and booming arcade speakers, the racing loses a fair bit of its impact and even though you can get multiple friends involved, it isn’t exactly fair when some people have a joystick and one poor sod’s got the keyboard.

SPIDERMAN, AKA THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN    

Everyone’s favourite web slinger (in so much as you’re only left with actual spiders without him) featured in a specially cut-down demo of The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman this month. It’s a flick screen action puzzler, with each room parodying different film genres. But what’s most noticeable in this silent outing is the incredible Spidey animation and the pleasing way in which he can swing from obstacle to obstacle with his webs. The object of the demo is rescue the infamously always-in-trouble Mary-Jane, and it’s a pleasure. Frustrating, at times, and tough for sure: but as a contained mini adventure, this one feels better than the full game really.

SUMMING UP

This is the best tape yet, and it’s the sheer range of what’s on offer that is as impressive as the incredible value for money. There’s puzzle stuff, shooty stuff, a thoughtful art application and a bit of driving. All for under two quid even before you’ve read the mag. This is the sort of tape that really puts into context why some kids bought a games mag once a month and quite often nothing else for their computer – what else do you need? CF  .

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