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 Back in Time : October 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's October 1991 when one of the 1980s most iconic and influential publishers shuts shop, The Bitmap Bros’ Magic Pockets appeared to mixed reviews, Speedball 2 arrived onto the humble C64, Future Publishing along with Amstrad Action celebrated their sixth birthday, Alien Breed entered the gaming arena and a new magazine dedicated to the PC entered the fray...

ACE 49

With Newsfield Publications falling victim to liquidation, Raze was one of the big casualties and it turned out that issue 12 would be the last of the underrated multi-format magazine. In the meantime, the magazine carried on oblivious. News wise, , Nintendo, in partnership with Philips, were set to launch the Super Famicom CD-ROM unit in August 1992. Having been left out of the deal, Sony were rumoured to be releasing their own unofficial CD-ROM unit.

Electronic Arts’ bone crunching EA Hockey arrived on the Mega Drive with a slap shot score of 90. Julian Boardman praised the game aplenty, stating that “Electronic Arts are onto a definite winner here. EA Hockey plays like a dream, is highly addictive and looks great. The action theme should make it even more successful than John Madden’s Football…”

Marvel Land took the honour of receiving the highest rating in Raze’s short history with an overall rating of 96. Les Ellis rounded off the ‘Rave’ review by stating that “if you like games that look good and play for ever – and, let’s face it, who doesn’t? – then Marvel Land is the answer to your prayers. Move over Sonic, Marvel Man has arrived.”

Marvel Land
Marvel Land review

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CVG 119

The 119th issue of Computer + Video Games went straight into the games reviews with the 93% ‘CVG Hit’ Geoman Warrior on the Super Famicom. “There’s something deeply brilliant about this game,” stated Tim Boone. “With so much to choose from you’ll be bowled over first time you play… Totally original, utterly vast and darned funny to boot, Geoman Land is a bit of a must buy…” Paul Rand concurred with consensus “that Geoman Land is a fantastic arcade adventure, incorporating so many extras it makes a dodgy, 100-game Nintendo cart look barren in comparison.”

Magic Pockets on the Amiga followed up with its own ‘CVG Hit’ rating of 93%. “Considering the time it’s taken, Magic Pockets had to be something a bit good,” stated Paul, “and as usual, the Bitmap Bros have delivered the goods spectacularly… the best thing from the Bitmaps yet.” Tim also voice his approval: “Lucky enough to be treated to an early preview of Pockets, I knew we were all in for a bit of Bitmap brilliance once again – and here it is at last! Magic Pockets is just that: Magic.”

The Super Famicom racked up its second ‘CVG Hit’ this issue with the 94% rated UN Squadron. “Surprisingly enough, I’ve never had the opportunity to play the UN Squadron coin-op, so I can’t compare this Super Famicom conversion to its arcade parent,” admitted Paul. “What I can tell you is that to my mind this is probably the best shoot ‘em up available on the Fammy at the moment – even better than Super R-Type!”

Not to be left out of the ‘CVG Hit’ accolades, the Mega Drive got in on the action with the classic side scrolling beat-‘em-up Streets of Rage getting 93%. “I almost wet myself and called the police when we first plugged in the Streets of Rage cart,” admitted Frank O’Connor. “The game starts up with a stupendous opening sequence and a great house remix of some fabulous oriental music. From here on, things just get better and better… If fast, mindless, pointless violence is your cup of tea, then get hold of Streets of Rage and have those Famicom owners wishing they’d never up-graded. Here’s the game that actually makes the Famicom look a bit feeble – and that’s saying something!”

The massive 50 meg Neo Geo game, King of the Monsters, managed to achieve a 91% ‘CVG Hit’ status despite retailing at a wallet busting £120. Starflight launched into the Mega Drive stratosphere in search of a ‘CVG Hit’ and came back with 91%. More ‘CVG Hit’ praise reigned down on Amiga God sim, Mega lo Mania, while F117-A flew on to the PC with a 93%.

Topping the all formats chart was Manchester United Europe, followed by Hero Quest and Rainbow Collection. Manchester United Europe also dominated the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, and C64 charts, while Flames of Freedom topped the Atari ST list and the Dizzy Collection moved up to the Spectrum top spot. Super Mario Bros 2 moved up to number one on the NES and Super Mario Land hung onto number one on the Game Boy.

Geoman Warrior
Geoman Warrior

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ST Action 42

Issue 37 of The One For Amiga Games featured its third “Sneak Preview Disk” with playable demos of Pitfighter and Knights of the Sky. Amiga chart happenings included Manchester United Europe at the top, natch, with The Secret of Monkey Island and Thunderhawk close behind. Charting the same positions two years previously were Falcon: The Mission Disks Vol. One, Powerdrome and RoboCop. In ‘That Was Then’, The One team looked back two years to October 1989, including news of the non-starters of the ST laptop and the Konix Multisystem.

Within The One profiles this month were programmer Shaun Southern, publisher Henri Coron and programmer Steve Screech. Having been the design brains behind the popular Kick Off series of soccer games, Steve was now developing the upcoming Basketball game, Tip Off. The One asked Steve if the Kick Off success worried him… “In some respects…” began Steve, “other companies will have to go to extreme limits to produce something which matches Kick Off 2, especially with Kick Off 3 on the way. It’s going to be at least three years before another decent footie game comes out.” - Really, Steve?

Kelly Beswick looked at the problem of software piracy with input from a few people in the industry itself. Some true words from Bob Hay (CEO of FAST, aka Federation Against Sofware Theft): “Pirates say that they rip off the software because of the high price and that otherwise they couldn’t afford it. I can’t afford a Rolls Royce, but that doesn’t give me the right to go out and pinch one.” Roger Bennett (Chairman of ELSPA – European Software Publishers Association) also had some stark statistics on the subject: “A software publisher can only expect to reach 10 per cent of a particular machine’s users with a new product – and that’s even on the best full-price arcade game.”

In ‘My Ideal Compilation’, Gary Bracey from Ocean Software chose his, erm, ideal compilation, which included SimEarth, Manic Miner, F-29 Retaliator, Valhalla, The Zork Trilogy and PGA Tour Golf.

First up in the reviews was Rise of the Dragon which was awarded 92%, but there were doubts of the game’s value for money, which Paul Pressley posed and countered. “…there’s a lot in Rise Of The Dragon, but thirty-five quid’s worth? I’d say yes, mainly because it offers a kind of quality that’s missing from most home-grown products. It’s not quite as big as The Secret Of Monkey Island, but neither is it as easy – which makes a rather nice balance really.”

The latest entry into Sierra’s famous adventure series, King’s Quest V, made its appearance with a solid 90%. More questions raised by Paul about the game’s worth. “Well, it certainly doesn’t look like anything that’s come before – the graphics and sound are nothing short of incredible. Of course, that usually means the game itself suffers, but not so here… the best adventure to be seen on the Amiga since The Secret Of Monkey Island.”

Fans of Gauntlet and Aliens (the movie) were in for a real treat as Alien Breed took inspiration from both titles to create a 90% rated shoot-‘em-up. “It plays like a cross between futuristic versions of Crackdown and Gauntlet,” explained Paul, “and is great fun, especially with two players. The myriad of little touches (such as the way the computer system flickers on and off while accessing and then offers you a game of Pong) give it a sense of humour as well as tension… a classy product, very professional and very enjoyable.”

Other games that scored highly were the submarine sim, Silent Service III, with 90%, Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 with 91% and the hugely playable run ‘n’ gunner, Zone Warrior, with 92%.

The One 37
Alien Breed

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Crash 93

The 78th issue would seem to be the last of “The original and best Commodore 64 action mag” as the Newsfield Publications magazine, Zzap!64, closed its doors for what seemed the last time. But what a fantastic covertape to go out with: two complete Sizzlers (Spy vs Spy & Doomdark’s Revenge), a playable demo of Terminator 2 and a reader’s game from R Hezseltine (Game Master).

The multi-format (cassette, disk and cartridge) movie tie in of Terminator 2 just fell short of gaining a ‘Sizzler’ with 89%. “Most people will find completing T2 difficult, but is it worthwhile?” quizzed Stuart Wynne. “Well, there certainly isn’t much in the way of originality… However, the levels are all well programmed, the graphics are good and gameplay enjoyable.”

The Fuzzy Factory, a development diary on the upcoming Creatures 2, continued. So what did the Apex lads do this month? Friday 12th: prepare for holiday to Majorca, Tuesday 16th: enjoy the sand, sea water and topless entertainment, Monday 22nd: attend beach party, Thursday 25th: lose track of day as every day is Saturday in Majorca, Sunday 28th: fly back home, Monday 29th: sleep all day, Thursday 1st August: back to business with CRIT (Clyde Radcliffe In Torture Trouble). “We’ve been given the idea that if we add ‘ERS’ to the end of the abbreviation we end up with CRITTERS… swear words aren’t allowed!”

Amazingly, the 16-bit futuristic sports game, Speedball 2, made it to the humble 8-bit Commodore 64. Not only that, but it is on par with the Amiga classic, coming away with a ‘Sizzling’ 90%. “What a brilliant conversion this is,” enthused Phil King. “Not only have the Amiga’s features been included, but incredibly they’ve been crammed into a single load.” Stuart added that “although we now see the odd flaw in 2, this is an astounding conversion, a great game in its own right and one of the best sports sims around. Rapid-fire action and a good management element make this highly recommended.”

The Action Pack covertape adorning the front cover of Amstrad Action issue 73 featured playable demos of Turrican 2 and Thunderjaws, along with the complete game of Marsport. Moving up to the top of the Full-price charts was Manchester United Europe, followed by Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and the Dizzy Collection. Meanwhile, the ever popular budget charts featured revivals of old classics such as New Zealand Story, Shinobi and Bubble Bobble. Domark released its Freescape compilation which featured classic titles such as Driller, Total Eclipse, Castle Master and Castle Master II: The Crypt. With a verdict of 87%, the compilation gained an ‘AA Rave’.

Adam Peters, the new Staff Writer, following the departure of Frank O’Connor, made his debut review with the impressive looking Robozone. The Game of the month was given a rating of 86% and an ‘AA Rave’. “Graphics throughout are superb,” commented Adam “The big, colourful sprites and complex animation in level one set this game apart right from the start… More addictive than methadone, cooler than a well-chilled Sol. And hotter than a chilli bean tostada,” explained Adam. “Not bad at all.”

There was birthday celebrations as Amstrad Action looked back on six years covering the Amstrad CPC range. Former staff members dropped in to give their fondest memories of working on the magazine. Bob Wade commented on how bad issue one was. “Thank heavens we got better fairly fast.” Trenton Webb looked back at the catastrophic Emlyn Hughes International Soccer competition. “…nobody entered. To enter the compo you had to have played the game. The game finally came out (late) three days before the competition’s closing date…”

As with Newsfield’s sister publication, Zzap!64, the “Crucial Sinclair Spectrum action” magazine, Crash, featured complete games of Doomdark’s Revenge and Spy vs Spy. Barely a week into her new Assistant Editor job, Lucy Hickman was faced with the prospect of the long running magazine being no more. Newsfield were going into liquidation and every magazine ceased production and all staff were laid off. A tough blow for the staff and readers of the innovative and influential titles.

The Simpsons: Bart vs the Space Mutants came in for what looked like the last ever ‘Crash Smash’ awards with an overall rating of 91%. “If you’re a Simpsons fan the game’s incredibly appealing,” stated Richard Eddy. “Non-fans can still get loads of entertainment, but some parts may be frustrating if you’re not into the characters…”

Capcom’s seminal side scrolling brawler, Final Fight, made its way onto the Speccy with a ‘Crash Smash’ and 90%. “I’m usually not very impressed with beat-‘em-ups,” admitted Nick Roberts, “as programmers usually fall into the trap of producing mediocre games with nothing new to offer. Final Fight is different. With its detailed, gigantic graphics and loadsa whacky enemies it’s bound to be a real winner with all beat-‘em-up fans…”

Speedball 2
Speedball 2

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ST Format 37

Joining the ‘Jack of all Trades’ Format magazines of Amiga and ST at Future Publishing was PC Format. Like its siblings, PC Format started out with coverage of both serious and gaming. This coverage was quickly noticeable with the coverdisk, which included two playable demos (MiG-29 Super Fulcrum and Speedball 2), a screensaver, utility and an archiver package.

Interesting news included a new portable PC released by Amstrad: the ACL-386SX with 20 Mhz speed and a price tag of £4,000 and that Channel 4 had commissioned a computer and video games show called Games Master. Reports also showed that PC game sales were up 400% in the past year.

There was some pretty harsh reviewing going on in the games section with the shock of the month being the paltry 73% given to Speedball 2 (for shame, Jason Saunders). Other games that fared better were Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe (88%), Gunship 2000 (88%), and F-117A Stealth Fighter (87%).

Rather confusingly, iD Software’s influential shareware version of Commander Keen made its appearance in the Public Domain section, scoring a rather disappointing 5/10. Other, more fortunate, PD titles were Ground War (7/10), Word Fugue (a word processor, 8/10), Hugo's House of Horror (7/10) and Picture Puzzle (8/10).

For the inaugural PC Format issue, the team listed The 50 Best Games Ever. Grouped into categories rather than a top 50 list, there was non the less some impressive pre-PC Format titles named. In the ‘In Flight’ category, F-19 Stealth Fighter, F-15 Strike Eagle II, Knights of the Sky and Their Finest Hour all flew in for a mention. ‘In Space’ listed Elite Plus and Wing Commander. ‘Shoot-‘em-ups’ included Xenon I & II. The ‘Role Playing’ group had some classics in its midst, including Eye of the Beholder, The Ultima series and Captive. ‘Driving’ games were Indianapolis 500, Test Drive, Stunt Car Racer and 4D Sports Driving. Jostling for a mention in the popular ‘Adventures’ section were The Infocom range, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Secret of Monkey Island, Wonderland, It Came From the Desert and Rise of the Dragon. ‘Sport’ was surprisingly well catered for with 3D Pool, PGA Tour Golf, Links, Chessmaster 2100. The other staple PC genre, the ‘Strategy’, was also well catered for with Populous, Railroad Tycoon, Supremacy and Sim City. ‘Puzzles’ included the well known E-Motion, Lemmings and Tetris. The often-overlooked PC ‘Arcade’ genre was represented by the likes of Golden Axe, Prince of Persia and Rick Dangerous 2.


Notes:
• C+VG, Mean Machines and The One for Amiga Games were published byEMAP.   Scans were kindly provided by Mort atThe Def Guide to Zzap!64.
• Zero was published byDennis Publishing.  Scans were kindly provided by Mort atThe Def Guide to Zzap!64.
• Raze was published by Newsfield Publication .    Scans were kindly provided by Mort atThe Def Guide to Zzap!64.
• Amiga Power was published byFuture Publishing .  Scans were kindly provided by Amiga Magazine Rack.
• Amiga Action was published by Europress Interactive.  Scans were kindly provided by Amiga Magazine Rack.
• ST Action was published by Europress Interactive.  Scans were kindly provided by Andynick atMagazines From the Past.
• Sega Power was published byFuture Publishing .  Scans were kindly provided by Andynick atMagazines From the Past.
• Amstrad Action was published byFuture Publishing.  Scans were kindly provided by mipeha.
• PC Format was published byFuture Publishing .  Scans were kindly provided by Andynick atMagazines From the Past.
• Amiga Format was published byFuture Publishing .  Scans were kindly provided by Amiga Magazine Rack.
• ST Format was published byFuture Publishing .  Scans were kindly provided by Magazines From the Past.

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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