Commodore_Format_PowerPack_9_1991-06ZAMZARA

Interesting one, this. Zamzara – which means “go to sleep” in Korean(잠자라) – initally appeared just three years earlier on Hewson’s budget Rack-It label. C64 software sales in 1988 were, if not quite at their peak, still enormous. But unlike in the early ’90s, the quality was always at full-price level: “budget” was a byword for rubbish. Zamzara, retailing at a penny under three quid, was one of the first to change perceptions. In its ZZAP! review, Kati Hamza and Maff Evans couldn’t believe it wasn’t being released for a tenner.

Zamzara is a left-to-right-and-reach-the-exit platform shoot ’em up which sees you taking charge of a slimey green alien with a cone shaped short of head. The game’s title refers to the planet you’re trying to save from invaders by blasting the hell out of everything. You know the score here: run, and jump, and shoot, and duck. But it’s the little touches here that make it stand out. The animation is smooth and detailed. If you shoot a laser, they can bounce off walls. There are different sounds on every level, too, and best of all it loads in a single 64K. It’s everything that’s good about budget software, only hampered by a problem that’s all too familar in games coded and playtested by one person (in this case,  the late Jukka Tapanimäki). It’s really, really hard. But the game’s slickness constantly rewards, so you’ll probably keep going until the end.

PACK FACT: Zamzara could have been very different. In fact, version one of the game was rather like Impossible Mission, with the aim of collecting genes and building DNA. Hewson loved it but thought it too complex for a young market, though, and the game was scaled back. More on that here.  

BULLDOG

This is the game that had people wondering if Gremlin Graphics had lost their golden touch, initially released to a lukewarm response at Christmas 1986. At almost ten quid, it also had the opposite reaction to that of Zamzara, the feeling being there wasn’t enough of it or sufficient thrills and spills to justify the price tag.

It’s an overhead shooter, seeing you scroll vertically over a well defended landscape the same way you’ll have done many times before. There are at least some power-ups: fly over “S” and you’ll speed up, or “F” and you’ll get extra fire power. The attempts to create tension as bigger enemies scroll into view, to a humming backdrop, must be applauded too. And we’ve got to mention that scrolling: it uses the clever parallax technique the same team used in Bounder, which in itself was later copied and refined to form the basis of Sensible Software’s Parallax. So there’s legacy, for sure. But your journey to the mothership is generally pretty pedestrian, especially if you’ve just been playing Zamzara. It’s fun for an hour or so – at which point you’ll probably never load it again. PACK FACT: The best thing about Bulldog – some might say the reason to load it up – is the atmospheric music by Ben Daglish. 

FIREPOWER

Both of this month’s demos are also reviewed in CF issue 9. The first is Microillusions’ FirePower. It’s a justifiably loved game on the Amiga, particularly in two-player mode, but it hasn’t transferred to the C64 especially well. It would seem like Microillusions were aware of its shortcomings, too: FirePower was initially released to the press for review before CF even existed, in the winter of 1989, with ZZAP! awarding it just 36%. What we’ve got here, it seems, is a demo of a slightly improved version – CF scored it at 68%.

Whether with a friend or against the computer, this game is always head-to-head: you control a tank, with an overhead view, and your task is to capture the flag and take it back to your base. You’ve got five lives to withstand enemy fire, which includes hails of bullets, helicopters and soliders. You’ve got the same, and there are neat little ideas like being able to pick up your wounded and take them back to hospital. Save 15, get an extra life.

The problem isn’t the idea, it’s the C64 execution. There just isn’t enough action, and there initial comedy but then pure frustration at stuff like being able to run over your soldiers more easily than pick ’em up. Still, some people do find enjoyment here. PACK FACT: in June 1991, CF offered this mini version which didn’t include the two-player mode and you only had limited fuel. Funnily enough, the restrictions made it a bit more frantic and fun. 

HEROQUEST

Here’s what Gremlin got in return for giving CF the full version of Bulldog: the chance to show off their brand new Commodore version of the 1989 board game, Heroquest. The problem with the physical version was that you always needed two people to play it. No such issues on C64, of course: and the action was otherwise transferred to the micro computer perfectly, with an infinite number of adventures possible and the added advantage, as Andy Dyer said, of “chucking out your mates at midnight and continuing adventuring on your 64 ’till the early hours”. There’s terrific lastability here, and even on an 8-bit in murky Commodore browns and greys, the atmosphere is captured in a way the board game could never manage. PACK FACT: Gremlin followed this in 1992 with a convo of their futuristic board game, Space Crusade. It got a demo on the Power Pack too. 

SUMMING UP

It’s all about Zamzara, really,  a wonderful looking and very playable – if tough – game which people still talk about today.

 

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