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 Back in Time : May 1991

'Back in Time' is a monthly feature where we look back at the classic video gaming magazines twenty years ago this month. This month it is May 1991 when Cyberzone hit the Virtual Reality TV headlines, The One magazine split into two (one for Amiga and one for Atari ST), and two new games dedicated magazines launched: Amiga Power and the weekly Games-X....

C&VG 113

In issue 44 of ACE, David Upchurch visited the TV studios in Anglia, England to get the lowdown on Cyberzone, a virtual reality game show hosted by Craig Charles. The show pitted two competitors against each other as they attempted to guide their computer generated digitised character through a puzzle filled scenario. Think Driller or Dark Side with rogue cars and UFOs out to get you and you’re looking at Cyberzone.

Major ACE Battles the Licence Overlords was an article looking at the process of the licensing business, from TV to movies to sports. In the Coin-Ops, ACE went to Blackpool to check out the latest gaming action in the arcades. Most interesting – or not – was Photo Star, which isn’t really a game, rather a flash way of getting your face plastered next to a celebrity. Moving on to the real stuff with a slight disappointment with RoboCop II, which seemed to have lost something from its first arcade outing.

The screentest section kicked off with in style with the front cover review of Switchblade II. The Amiga platformer from Gremlin was given a rating of 900 and praised as being a console beater with its quality graphics and gameplay. “Perhaps unlike any other Amiga game to date, Switchblade II successfully provides the feel of a console title,” explained Jim Douglas, “it’s distinct from playing any of the other shoot-em-ups on the Amiga.”

The Killing Cloud from Image Works also gained an ACE Trailblazer with a 915 rating. “Where Vektro Grafix [the designers] have really triumphed, and this is the reason they’ve won themselves a Trailblazer, is in generating atmosphere,” stated David Upchurch. “The ten missions are diverse, and the plot thread running through them lends a feeling of consequence to your efforts...”

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Games-X 1

The first issue of Games-X hit the streets in May 1991. The weekly dedicated games magazine was the brainchild of the magazine’s publisher Hugh Gollner, who also oversaw the launch of the magazine as Editor. The magazine featured the usual content as its monthly peers – news, previews, features, arcades and reviews – but at a staggeringly fast weekly rate.

Feature wise, the first issue had Street Talk with mini interviews with gamers out and about in London, The True Love Story of How Games-X is Created with an interview with Hugh Gollner himself and there was The Making of Utopia – the Story so far...

Receiving the full five x-ratings for the first issue was the Amiga conversion of strategy board game HeroQuest. “Gremlin’s brilliant adaptation manages to recreate the simplicity of the original perfectly,” commented Alex Simmons, “and also includes that spooky and mystical atmosphere as well… A strong product based on the original, and a really refreshing change to the usual boring role playing game”

Not far off the five X mark were Darius Twin (SNES), Shadow Dancer (Amiga), Gauntlet III (Amiga), Warbirds (Atari Lynx), Eye of the Beholder (Amiga), Chip’s Challenge (PC), James Pond (Mega Drive) and Joe Montana Football (Master System) all with four x-ratings.

Games-X 1
HeroQuest

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Sinclair User 111

With issue 111, Sinclair User upped the ante on the Speccy covertape wars by placing their Ten Pack on the cover. What this actually meant was seven full games (including H.A.T.E. and Highway Encounter) and three other features such as pokes, music demo and other tips.

Battle Command blasted onto the monochrome screen of the Spectrum with a SU Silver medal of honour. The 3D arcade tank sim from Ocean Software proved a direct hit with a rating of 85%. “The 3D on the tanks is quite spectacular,” commented Steve Keen. A “real enjoyable romp through a war zone...”

Another 3D game, this time Gauntlet 3D, was given the SU Silver award treatment with 85%. “The 3D element addes a new perspective to a tried and tested product,” stated Garth Sumpter.” 3D Gauntlet should keep you blastin’ away for quite some time… definitely worth a whirl if you’re a fan of the genre.”

Predator 2 topped the other  games with a SU Silver rating of 86%. The Mirrorsoft licence game took scenes from the movie and merged them with an Operation Wolf style interface. “Quite an enjoyable game,” wrote Garth, “and if you haven’t got one of the 1st person perspective shot [sic] ’em ups in your collection but it. It’s the best of this year’s bunch.”

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YC 79

Zzap!64 issue 73’s MegaTape featured Mike Singleton’s classic Quake Minus One, as well as Slayer, Orion and CJ’s Music Demo. Topping the Commodore 64 charts this month was Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Chip’s Challlenge and Golden Axe. With the development of Creatures II having begun, the Rowland Brothers were back with their diary notes in The Fuzzy Factory.

In the The Think Tank, Zzap’s adventure and strategy section, a handful of games generated some high rated games, including Genghis Khan on the Amiga. The war game strategy title from Koei/Infogrames garnered a Sizzler award with a 93% rating. Another Amiga game, Bandit Kings of Ancient China, also from Koei/Infogrames, sizzled with a 90%.

However, it was Utlima VI – The False Prophet that proved to be the biggest hit with a massive 98% and a Gold Medal. The C64 RPG classic was rated highly in all its categories with the reviewer describing the game as “simply incredible… an enthralling plotline with untold depth, and a high level of character interaction with an intricately detailed and delicately balanced world that will take a long, long time to explore.”

The cover featured C64 game Skull and Crossbones surprised the reviewers following the somewhat lukewarm preview version the previous month and was given an overall 81%. “Skull and Crossbones adds little to the beat-‘em-up genre other than a novel theme,” admitted Stuart Wynne, “but it’s well executed with lots of colour and humour.”

On the Amiga, Armour-Geddon came away with a 94% and a Sizzler. “Great fun to play,” commented Phil King, “and well worth a look even if, like me, you wouldn’t normally touch military sims with a long –range missile!” Also on the Amiga, Railroad Tycoon achieved Gold Medal status with a 96%. Stuart Wynne described Railroad Tycoon as being “constantly demanding, utterly compulsive and addictive beyond belief.”

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Amstrad Action 68

With issue 68 of Amstrad Action, we had reach only the second Action Pack coveratpe, and it would prove to be a controversial one. It wasn’t the inclusion of the licensed Biggles or Predator 2 games that caused the fuss, but rather the content of How To Be A Complete Bastard (rather than repeat myself, I suggest you head over to the appropriate article on Retroaction for the full lowdown).

The Readers Charts of 1990 were finally compiled and published. Top of the shoot-em-ups was Turrican, while Rick Dangerous II came top of the platforms and Sim City topped the simulators. Overall, Rick Dangerous II, Turrican and Fantasy World Dizzy were voted most popular games of 1990. In the actual Gallup charts, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles were still clinging on to the top spot, with Dizzy Collection and Total Recall close behind.

Having looked at the GX4000 version of Switchblade, it was now the turn of the trusty old CPC to get its own version. And with a 90% rating and a Master Game award, the game fared just as well. “The only discernable variation is the slight lack of colour on the CPC,” explained Frank O’Connor, “but this does not effect gameplay, and barely detracts from the graphical appeal of the game.”

Taking centre stage on the front cover and with a double page review at the centre of the issue was Total Recall. The Ocean Software movie licensed game was given a Master Game rating of 91%. “Although the game follows a somewhat tried and tested formula, it is polished and exciting enough to make it rank among some of the best film tie-ins ever,” enthused Frank. “A real treat, and a game no Arnie fan can afford to be without.”

F-16 Combat Pilot also landed in with a Master Game award. The flight combat sim from Digital Integration impressed with a 92% rating. “Once you’ve got to grips with flying the plane. F-16 Combat Pilot is great fun,” gushed Adam Waring. “Flight sims are not everybody’s cup of tea, but F-16 is the best there is.”

Rounding off the quartet of Master Games this month was the disk only adventure game BAT from UbiSoft. Frank O’Connor was full of praise for the game and gave it an overall rating of 91%. “The control method is a dream in operation… The depth and wealth of options available is breathtaking… The challenge set before you is an immense one and is chock full of surprises… The graphics are unbelievable… just about the most professional product ever on the CPC…” and “Gameplay is a dream…” were just some of the comments from Frank.

Total Recall
TotalRecall

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The One Amiga 32

If you were wondering where Matt Bielby went to after leaving Your Sinclair a couple of months back then you need wonder no more. He was busy working on the launch issue of a brand new Amiga games dedicated magazine called Amiga Power. With its in-depth games coverage, infallible writers and a no nonsense approach to games reviewing, Amiga Power would become one of the most respected games magazines in the industry and gain a cult following.

With its first issue, Amiga Power gave away Tony Crowther’s classic puzzle game Bombuzal on the coverdisk. To accompany the full game, a four-page guide to the game explained the loading, gameplay controls, the display, tips and more. The Amiga Gallup chart looked pretty good with Lemmings sitting on top and Turrican 2 and Speedball 2 in second and third place.

Cybercon III from US Gold kicked off the Games of the Month section (where the best and most interesting games are featured) with a rating of 88 percent. “Cybercon III is state-of-the-art as far as games go,” stated Jonathan Davies, “a deeply serious, immensely playable and generally enormous 3D explore-‘em-up that’s quite possible the only game you’ll need to buy this year.”

Exile, the Thrust style game that originally appeared on the BBC, finally arrived on the Amiga and managed to get an impressive 89 percent. “Exile is a bit tasty,” stated Gary Penn, “it’s entertaining, highly rewarding and so involved that you won’t get through it in a hurry.”

Electronic Arts’ PGA Tour Golf was next up with Rich Pelley giving the first outing of the future golfing franchise an 88 percent. “PGA is utterly (utterly) addictive – whether you’re practising ‘en seul’, playing a friendly with some pals or competing in the tournament, it’s one of those games which’ll have you itching for ‘just one more go’ before bedtime.”

The classic RPG adventure Eye of the Beholder was also given an overall rating of 88%. Mark Ramshaw pointed out that the game is “not really as big a leap on from Dungeon Master, but still sufficiently different to make it an essential purchase. Intelligent and (yes, it’s that word again) atmospheric, it’s a wonderful piece of software and no mistake.” Other Games of the Month inclusions included Chuck Rock (86%), Gods (87%), Armour-Geddon (87%) and The Killing Cloud (65%), while the Japanese arcade puzzle game Gem-X stood out from the normal games reviews with 88%.

Amiga Power asked 'Which Amiga Game Do You Really Wish You’d Written?' to several famous coders. Gary Bracey from Ocean Software chose Populous, as did John Phillips and David Braben. Steve Kelly (on of the Bitmap Bothers) went for Dungeon Masters, as did Steve Screech, Jo Bonar, Peter Molyneux and Herman Serrano. Lemmings was also a favourite, being chosen by Andy Beveridge, Mike Singleton, Marc Djan (Ocean France), Mark Cale, Jez San, Ian Oliver and Archer Maclean. Interestingly, Jon Hare (of Sensible Soccer fame) went for Kick Off.

In an interview special, Matt Bielby discussed the Renegade publishing house with fiunder Tom Watson, The Bitmap’s Brothers’ forthcoming game Magic Pockets with the programmer Sean Griffiths and the Cadaver levels disk with Steve Kelly. The ‘If I’d Known Then…’ feature looked at Peter Molyneux’s career past, present and future.

Exile
Exile

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The One Amiga 32

After 31 issues, The One has split into two: The One for Amiga Games and The One for ST Games. Ciaran Brennan led the ST version onto issue 32 as the numerical numbering followed on from its previous incarnation. With the new ST dedicated magazine, two coverdisks were placed on the front cover, featuring four playable demos (Elf, Lemmings, Chuck Rock and Skull & Crossbones).  Among the feature packed issue, That Was Then looked back at previous issues of The One and this time around, issue 8 was under the spotlight, Kati Hamza reported back on new virtual reality TV show Cyberzone, Rik Haynes interviewed Peter Molyneux and the CDTV was revealed.

The Golden Joysticks were considered the most prestigious awards event in the gaming calendar and 1991 was no exception. From the highly competitive Best Graphics category, Shadow of the Beast 2 from Psygnosis triumphed. Best Soundtrack went to Speedball 2 (Mirrorsoft), Best Simulation went to F-19 Stealth Fighter (Mircoprose), Best Coin-Op Conversion went to Golden Axe (Virgin Games), Game of the Year went to Kick Off 2 (Anco), Hardware Manufacturer of the Year went to Sega and Software House of the Year went to Ocean.

Lemmings proved to be the highlight game of the issue as Laurence Scotford gave the classic Psygnosis puzzler a solid overall rating of 95%. “Lemmings is one of the most playable and enjoyable games ever,” declared Laurence. “Graphically it may not look very exciting, but that’s been a deliberate manoeuvre to get as much of each level on screen at one. But where Lemmings really scores is in its addictive playability.”

Julian Watsham awarded Core Design’s caveman platformer Chuck Rock a rating of 91%. “It’s obvious that Core Design has spent a great deal of time on the thought, design and general preparation of this game,” remarked Julian. “If you don’t take your computer too seriously, you fancy a great laugh and lashings of stomping, puzzle-solving and general fun and chaos, then this is definitely the game for you.”

Lemmings
Lemmings



Notes:
• Computer & Video Games, The One for Amiga Games, The One for ST Games, ACE, Mean Machines, Sinclair User and CU Amiga were published byEMAP.
   Scans were kindly provided by Mort atThe Def Guide to Zzap!64.
• Sega Power was published by Future Publishing. Scans were kindly provided by Andynick atMagazines From the Past.
• Zero was published byDennis Publishing. Scans were kindly provided by Mort atThe Def Guide to Zzap!64. • Games-X was published by Europress Interactive. Scans were kindly provided by Andynick atMagazines From the Past.
• Crash, Zzap!64 and Raze were published by Newsfield Publication .   Scans were kindly provided by Mort at The Def Guide to Zzap!64.
• Your Sinclair and Commodore Format were published byFuture Publishing. Scans were kindly provided by Mort atThe Def Guide to Zzap!64.
• YC was published by Alphavite Publications . Scans were kindly provided by Mort atThe Def Guide to Zzap!64.
• Amstrad Action was published byFuture Publishing. Scans were kindly provided by mipeha.
• Amstrad Computer User was published by Avralite Publications Ltd . Scans were kindly provided by mipeha.
• Amiga Power was published byFuture Publishing . Scans were kindly provided by Amiga Magazine Rack.
• Amiga Action was published by Interactive Publishing Ltd . Scans were kindly provided by Amiga Magazine Rack.
• ST Action was published by Interactive Publishing Ltd . Scans were kindly provided by Andynick atMagazines From the Past.
• ST Format was published byFuture Publishing. Scans were kindly provided by Richard Davey atLittle Green Desktop.


This is an Out-of-Print Archive feature presented by Nreive ofRetroaction magazinefame.  Special thanks to Andynick atMagazines From the Pastfor providing info and cover scans for several magazines this month.

 
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