Commodore Format 16 cover
As we entered 1992, with people looking even beyond the SNES and Megadrive, it’s incredible to think that the Commodore 64 had such an exciting Christmas lineup of games. The Simpsons, WWF and Blues Brothers all arrived in one month. 

December, 1991. The last days of the USSR. The end of the cold war. John Major’s the British Prime Minister. Queen are top of the charts following the death of singer Freddie Mercury. The Last Boy ScoutJFK and a new Star Trek film are at the cinema. In America, Hulk Hogan’s just defeated The Undertaker to win the WWF title…and he’s on the front of Commodore Format 16, too.

Many had written off the C64 by this Christmas. But the fact that a new wrestling game featuring Hogan saw its release on the machine this month – as well as an official license of Sky TV’s hot new American import, The Simpsons – was certainly at odds with that. And sales of Commodore Format were at a high, too. New editor Colin Campbell – installed in the job just a month before –  was about to oversee the title breaking through the 60,000 copies a month barrier. It was a product in growth, not decline. C64 owners were still out there in droves and hungry for games.

What a month it was for games, too. Joining The Simpsons and WWF were official licenses of The Blues Brothers and World Class Rugby. Domark gave us Super Space Invaders, Virgin’s platform puzzler Rolling Ronny was harshly reviewed by Stuart Campbell and Imageworks were on the naughty step with an abysmal conversion of the excellent arcade drive ‘em up, ‘Cisco Heat. Read our feature on the latter here: “not quite in the same class as Dick Tracy“, said CF. “But not far off”.

All were reviewed by Colin Campbell’s brand new team, which was the biggest the magazine was ever to have. Pooling talent from across Future Publishing to review the month’s releases, Colin’s version of Commodore Format was a contrast from the “Steve Jarratt and Andy Dyer double act” that had come before. And it worked. The wide range of opinion and style in CF16 make it one of the most polished and enjoyable that there ever was. Take, for example, Linda Barker’s review of Super Space Invaders: it leaps from the page as if it’s your mate from school enthusing about their latest purchase.

Amiga Power’s Stuart Campbell wishes he’d stayed at home to watch black and white movies instead of coming in to the office on a Saturday to review Rolling Ronny – and you can tell he means it. The game’s creators strongly disagreed, as did CF’s rival magazines. Stuart’s review is largely believed to be the reason Rolling Ronny flopped in the UK, which demonstrates how powerful Format was.

It’s tough to disagree with Colin Campbell’s dismay at ‘Cisco Heat, calling it “the worst game of 1991”. Sean Masterson loves “screamer of an all direction scroller” The Blues Brothers, while Mark Ramshaw reckons WWF is “mindless…which is why I love it so much”.

Meantime, two brothers called John and Steve Rowlands write a diary about life working on the sequel to C64 megagame Creatures. This month they’ve been coding a routine to make it snow on the game’s famous “torture screens”. If you can’t beat it, you also get “treated” to the sight of the hero, Clyde Radcliffe, frozen to death in a block of ice.

Elsewhere, Andy Roberts guides us through Codemasters’ brilliant budget adventure Spike In Transylvania. And for the benefit of anyone getting a Commodore 64 for Christmas, Mark Ramshaw gives us a heads up on the ten best games ever. UridiumNebulus and, er, Kick Off 2 all feature. Great, great issue.

Commodore_Format_PowerPack_16b_1992-01ON THE POWER PACK

With circulation in growth and Future’s research suggesting cover tapes were a major reasoning behind the magazine’s quick success, CF16 sought to stand out on the shelves at WH Smith with not one but two cassettes for Christmas. Brilliant demo versions of the eye-popping  First Samurai and a Christmas themed Creatures 2 (featuring that snow!) were joined by two full games: Mission Impossabubble and Head The Ball. The second Power Pack was dedicated to The Graphic Adventure Creator. It was a full utility that would let you create your own adventure games and was accompanied by a passionate tutorial piece from the original programmer. Here’s our full feature on the tape, including some First Samurai secrets and more on that snow!


The extra cover tape was a nice touch in a month full of them. Commodore Format had gone from what launch editor Steve Jarratt called “a standing start” to “total dominance [within a year]. We made Future Publishing a stack of cash.” This issue was to be the best selling ever, shifting almost 70,000 copies. It wasn’t just Future’s accountants that were happy, though: C64 owners were too. Many of our readers think CF16 is the best issue of Commodore Format, and whilst it does get a helping hand from a staggering month of software to talk about it really is the mag in its prime. CF 

  • More issues of CF
  • Commodore Format 16 is dated January 1992. It first appeared on Thursday December 18th. 

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