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Back in Time : January 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 January 1991 when Amiga gamers were held 'Captive' with Tony Crowther's latest Amiga release, Navy Seals infiltrated the C64 in catridge form, the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles impressed with its colourful Speccy version and John Madden began his domination of Football games on the Mega Drive...

In C&VG issue 110, Robert Swan took a look at the Super Famicom, Nintendo’s super 16-bit console that had just been released in Japan. Games available with the launch were Super Mario World and F-Zero, with the likes of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, R-Type II, Final Fight, Gradius III and Populous on the way. With the super console yet to be released in the USA and Europe, importers have been charging between £350-400, over three times the £100 price tag in Japan. There was also news of the Turbo Express this month, NEC’s new handheld console that could use PC Engine cards, giving it a vital head start in the gaming catalogue stakes. However, an awkward screen and extremely short battery life would surely hamper the machine’s success.

  CVG 110
Paperboy (88%, Master System), Cover game ESWAT was first up for scrutiny in the reviews section as Richard Leadbetter looked at the C64, Amstrad and Amiga versions of the arcade smash. All versions received 88%, with the Amiga version getting the main comment box. “The graphics are fine,” wrote Richard, “the sound is fabulous… ESWAT is a great game that is very satisfying to play – make no delay, go for it!” Scoring top ratings of 95% was Speedball 2 on the Atari ST and John Madden Football on the Mega Drive. Among the glut of other hit games were Toyota Celica GT4 (87%, Amiga & ST), Extreme (85%, Spectrum), NARC (92%, C64; 91%, Amiga), Sky Shark (90%, Mega Drive), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (88%, Amstrad; 85%, Spectrum), Masterblaster (89%, Amiga), Knights of the Sky (88%, PC), Prince of Persia (90%, Amiga), Golden Axe (91%, ST), Gauntlet (92%, Master System), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (85%, Master System), Covert Action (90%, PC), Line of Fire (85% Amiga & Spectrum).

In Arcade Action, Julian Rignall took to the wacky roads in Race Drivin’: a 93% rated game with a “winning formula of the original applied to an even more challenging and varied set of courses, this is an incredibly addictive game which keeps you piling in the cash until you’re skint.” With 90%, Pit Fighter also gobbled up the spare change. The Gremlin Challenge saw staff writer Rob Swan, along with C&VG reader Johnny Lee Adkin, take on Gremlin’s PR Supremo Ian Richardson and Tony the Top Games Tester. Disappointingly, both Ian and Tony topped the scoreboard after two rounds of both Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge and Toyota Celica GT4. However, top Gremlin man Ian Stewart declared that Ian (Richardson), Tony and Rob were disqualified, meaning that Johnny was declared the winner.

CVG110-Madden Football
Madden

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ACE 40   With issue 40, ACE checked out the latest happenings in the virtual reality world with a look at a VR arcade machine and ATOL, the first game written for the Virtuality 1000 SD unit. Never heard of this? At £20,000, I’m not surprised. In ‘Gold Digging’ ACE readers visited US Gold for the latest ACE Conference and a whole heap of monkey business… Part one of the Intertainment ’90 report from New York featured the latest gaming news and technology, including the Terra PC (a PC/Mega Drive hybrid) and Mattel’s Powerglove.

The ‘On Computers’ section yielded a handful of ‘ACE rated’ games. Coming on top of the best was Prince of Persia with 915. “When static, Prince of Persia looks a bit on the dull side,” explained Jim Douglas. “Don’t be deceived,” Jim added. “When it’s moving, it’s a dream. You’ve certainly had games  
described as ‘like a movie’ and ‘cartoon-like animation’, but for once it’s as true as it’s ever likely to be with the current level of technology. And the playability, difficulty and puzzle solving elements are balanced to perfection.” Coming close behind were 4D Sports Boxing on PC and B.A.T. on Atari ST with 900 and 908 respectively. The PC version of Midwinter was given an update review and came away with 950. ‘On Console’ delights this month included Strider (919, Mega drive), Boulderdash (908, Gameboy) and Pipe Dream (910, Gameboy).

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With The One issue 28, Amiga users were in for a treat as Rick Dangerous 2½ was given away on the coverdisk, which meant an exclusive new level. Atari ST users were given a demo of the forthcoming Midwinter 2 on the Atari ST. There was just eight games covered in the reviews pages, although there was a Rollerbabes calendar bundled inside to make up for that. In ‘The One on One’, David Braben talked to The One about his life, his loves, his loathes, his laughs and, most importantly, Elite II. Among those eight games reviewed, Lemmings on the Amiga undoubtedly topped the others, coming away with a stunning 96%. Not a million miles away were Prince of Persia (93%, Amiga) and Blue Max (90%, PC).
  The One 28

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Zero 15   It was Viz madness with issue 15 of Zero, including a front cover, preview and a playable Amiga/Atari ST demo on the coverdisk. In ‘DIY DTP’, Jonathan Davies took the readers through the process of producing your own fanzine. The first ‘Zero Hero’ game of the month went to RoboCop 2 on the Amiga, which was given 90%. Kights of the Sky impressed Duncan MacDonald who gave the PC game 91%. “An atmospheric and rather wizard World War One ‘kite’ simulator,” commented Duncan “Unmissable if you’re a ‘seat of your pants’ man.” Lemmings on the Amiga received similar praise as Duncan awarded it 90%. “Lemmings deserves a ZERO Hero for the originality alone,” explained Dunc, “but besides that, five minutes and it’s got you by the short and curly addictiveness organs. Either that or you’ll just go ‘what’s the point”’, in which case get back to Beadle’s About immediately. This is way above your head.” Elsewhere, Speedball 2 and Klax rated highly with 93% each on the Atari ST and Atari Lynx respectively.

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For issue 3 of Raze, Les Ellis traveled almost 400 miles when he heard what Vektor Grafix were offering. What this meant in gaming terms was a sneak peak at forthcoming games such as The Killing Cloud and Space Shuttle. In ‘Hands Up’, Andrew Banner looked at Nintendo Game & Watch, Sega Game Gear, Nintendo Game Boy, Atari Lynx and NEC PC Engine GT. Once again, Speedball 2 was receiving plaudits: “What the Bitmaps have here is a remarkably playable and even more violent future sports game,” enthused Julian Boardman in his 94% rated write up of the Atari ST game. “With extra points on the pitch and the very useable manager section that give it a variety and an element of strategy that Speedball lacked.”

  Raze 3
Wing Commander on PC was rated 93%. Paul Rigby wrote: “Frankly, I was overwhelmed at the professional manner in which Wing Commander has been produced. Cinematic effects, thrills, spills, depth of gameplay, beautiful animated sequences – Wing Commander is, without doubt, a strong contender for game of the year.”Also rated 93% was the Mega Drive version of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Julian said that it was “essentially a hack ‘n’ slash, but very atmospheric and with enough little surprises and situations that require brain instead of brawn to lift it above your average ‘axe slayers of the world unite’ type game.”

Other ‘Raze Rave’ action was to be found with M1 Tank Platoon (90%, Atari ST; Amiga 91%), Klax (92%, Atari ST), Gazza's Eurosoccer Live (91%, Atari ST), The Revenge of Shinobi (92%, Mega Drive), Golden Axe (92%, Mega Drive) and Super Sprint (92%, NES). The Neuro Venture section also yielded some highly rated adventure games, including The Secret of Monkey Island (93%, PC), Legend of Faerghail (90%, Amiga), Silent Service II (92%, PC) and Buck Rogers Vol. 1: Countdown to Doomsday (92%, PC)

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MM4   In issue 4 of Mean Machines, the 'Consoles We Once Loved #4' column looked at the Intellivision. “The Intellivision proved to be quite a rival for the Atari VCS. It sported better graphics, better sound and bigger memory...” Top coin-op conversions such as Defender, Donkey Kong, PacMan, Pole Position, Dig Dug and Commando and original games such as Dungeons and Dragons, HERO and Pitfall. Julian Rignall checked out the Super Famicom, its launch games Super Mario Bros. IV (aka Super Mario World) and F-Zero. With an official release date of 1992, Europe would have to wait a while longer to see the machine invade their local stores.

Top of the Megagames this month was Mega Man II on the NES, which was given 95%. “Every time I play Mega Man 2,” wrote Matt Regan, “I just seem to like the game more  
and more! Everything required to make a platform game incredibly entertaining has been crammed in.” Julian Rignall added: “Mega Man 2 is one of the finest platform games ever seen – invest your Christmas money in it now!” Other Megagames included Switchblade (91%, GX4000), Pin Bot (90%, NES), Snake Rattle 'n' Roll (94%, NES) and Castle of Illusion (93%, Master System).

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Issue 107 of Sinclair User included a Six of the Best covertape, including Robocop 2 in the form of an exclusive demo, full games with Draconus, Trantor, Stardust and Piggy Punks. Not much in the way of high rated games this month with only RoboCop 2 achieving the ‘Sinclair User Classic’ accolade with 92%. Garth Sumpter mentioned that “a large chunk of memory has been used up with the digitised images that greet the start of each level but gives the game an overall BIG feel. I like it, and I’m sure that most people will find the directive BUY THIS GAME, an easy one to follow.”   Sinclair User 107

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Crash 84   There was two cover tapes adorning the front cover of Crash issue 84. Amongst the action was Lightforce, Hypa Raid, Dizzy 3½, Talisman, Specimen, Omega Zone, as well as demos of Top Cat, SWIV and NARC. ‘Crash Smash’ing onto the reviews pages this month was Navy Seals with an impressive 94%. Richard commented that “Navy SEALS is one of Ocean’s 128k only products and it shows. It’s incredibly well presented and really makes use of the 128k’s power.” Oli added with the game “Oozing quality, Navy SEALS is one of the most well designed, programmed and produced products of the year… a bit of a landmark in Speccy gaming!” Also crashing onto the virtual streets of Detroit was RoboCop 2, which returned to police HQ with 93%. “Wotta game,” exclaimed Richard, “the programmers have packed so much into the varied styles of gameplay it’s one of the few games
actually worth the asking price!” Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge also fared well with 90%. Mark said that “all credit goes to the programmers for producing such a good looking and very playable racing game. The intro sequence is a masterpiece, whilst the game itself is so playable — especially against a friend.”

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Issue 61 of Your Sinclair and the Corking Christmas Collection Cassette featured such festive delights as Quazatron, Chubby and demos of Gazza II and The Hunt For Red October. Keith Pomfret went to Russia to check out the new Hobbit console, complete with cartridge port and backward compatible with existing Spectrum software via a tape deck port.

Matt Bielby test drove Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge, coming back with 90°. “I dunno,” commented Matt, “this is such a borderline Megagame case I'm not quite sure what to do. The two-player bit is seriously slow, but then so much else is good about it... I reckon it gets one, but only just. Off you go then, Lotus - you're a Megagame.” The arcade hit Golden Axe made its way onto the Spectrum with a 91°. Linda Barker
  Your Sinclair 61
wrote: “…you can now sit back, breathe freely and think – wow, what a good game. I have no massive niggles with one at all... there are loads of dragons and elves in it. What more could a girl possibly ask for?” Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles was next to receive the Megagame treatment with 90°. “Well, for me Turtles has been a very pleasant surprise,” admitted Matt. “Rumours had been circulating around the industry for ages that the game was really bad - apparently the American Nintendo and Amiga versions are absolutely terrible or something - but no, Probe have modified it rather a lot, and the finished Speccy thing only bears them a slight resemblance. In fact, it's really rather nifty.”

YourSinclair61-TeenageMutantHeroTurtles
TMHT

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YC 75
  With issue 75, YC announced a ‘new look’ issue, but in reality, the magazine was just as whacky, offbeat and monochrome in places as before. The covertape, however, featured a jolly festive platform romp with Frosty the Snowman, as well as Dartz, Post Apocalypse – The Board Game and Super Tact. Elsewhere, Dave Hughes checked out Darkman, a film that Ocean had secured the rights to produce a game on. Not much in the way of high scoring in the reviews section, but Last Ninja III certainly made up for any low scoring. The third game in the popular action adventure gained top marks in every category with an overall rating of 100%. “The highest ever score for the best game ever,” enthused Rick Henderson. “If anybody betters this I’ll eat my commie (and we’ll need a new scoring system).”

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Issue 69 of Zzap!64 and Megatape 13 featured two full games (Subterranea and Velnor's Lair) and two playable demos (NARC and Wrath of the Demon). Amongst the features, Stuart Wynne caught up with Manfred Trenz to speak about his career and the impending release of Turrican II and Robin Hogg spoke to programmer Grant Harrison about the forthcoming Super Monaco GP racing game for the C64.

RoboCop 2 was Zzap! tested on C64 and Amiga, coming away with ratings of 90% and 92% respectively. Stuart Wynne commented that it was “an immensely playable C64 game but sporting console graphics (something I can certainly live with, given the sheer size of the game). Great!” RoboCop 2 “plays and looks like an arcade game and is unmissable
  Zzap 69
for this reason, added Stuart on the Amiga version. “The puzzle sections are only okay, and the shooting gallery is too flat, but those three shoot-‘em-up sections are the best I’ve seen on the Amiga.”

Also ‘Sizzling’ with 92% was the C64 cartridge game Navy Seals from Ocean. “For anyone tired of the silliness of most shoot-‘em-ups,” wrote Stuart, “this brilliantly realistic and atmospheric game is the one to get.” Robin Hogg added “The cartridge is put to full use with presentation screens galore, while instantaneous loading makes for superb momentum. It gives a real coin-op feel and shows what cartridges really can do.”

The Think Tank adventure section was jam packed with ‘Sizzler’ hits with Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday leading the way on both Amiga and C64 with 92% each. The anonymous writer summed up their review by stating that “there is no doubt that Buck Rogers sits firmly as the king of the ‘Tactical’ RPG castle.” The other hits were Captive (91%, Amiga) and Supremacy (91%, Amiga).

Zzap64-69-Navy Seals
NavySeals

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Commodore Format 4   Commodore Format issue 4 had a pretty decent line up on their Powerpack 4: Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge (Demo), Beyond the Forbidden Forest (full game), RoboCop 2 (demo) and Bounder (full game). In ‘Now Showing At a 64 Near You’, CF looked at the movie-tie ins that have graced the home screen of the C64. The Gauntlet, CF’s monthly gaming challenge between readers continued as Chris Jordan (reigning champion) took on Andrew Steele (challenger) in Rick Dangerous II. Chris retained his title with 7,810 points over Andrew’s 6,990. The ‘Commodore Format A to Z of Classic Games part 1’ looked back at some of the C64’s finest games. The solo ‘Corker’ this month was the all conquering part man, part machine as RoboCop 2 was given 90%. Steve Jarratt prophesised that “with 12 different levels, sub-games and shoot-outs, Robocop 2 looks all set to carry on the phenomenal success of the original!”

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It was the 74th issue of Amstrad Computer User and John Cook hit the arcades once again, taking a gander at the likes of Race Drivin’, Cisco Heat, Pit Fighter, GP Racer and Ghost Hunters. Andrew Banner headed up North to see what Ocean had up its sleeves on the console front… Pang, Special Criminal Investigation, Toki, RoboCop 2, Plotting and Navy SEALS, so there were some decent games on the horizon.

‘Amstrad Computer User Gold award’ and centre page spread review went to Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. “The gameplay looks superb and with the interchangeable Turtles option, the variety of action is dramatic,” wrote Dave Peach, “making this game a sure winner for the Festive Season and one that’s going to be well ‘ard to knock off the top of the charts.” Also rated highly was Flimbo's Quest, which was given a
ACU74
‘Pot of Gold’ verdict from Chris Knight. “As with many of the offerings from System 3,” stated Chris, “Flimbo is going to be a guaranteed classic. Its originality, graphics, varied sound effects and ease of controllability make it totally addictive…”

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Amstrad Action 64   Issue 64 and it was time for the annual Amstrad Action Christmas Covertape. Featured this time around were Puzznic (playable level), Lost Caves and the Tomb of Doom (complete game) and Space Froggy (complete game). 50 Best Games of the Year concluded with part 2 as Rod Lawton looked at the best games of 1990, from 'Console Classic' Burnin' Rubber, Bloodwych, Stunt Car Racer, Iron Lord, to the 'Platform Perfection' of Rick Dangerous II.

The Switchblade cartridge version gained the only ‘Mastergame’ award this month with 94%. “If Burnin’ Rubber on the console set new standards for driving games, then Switchblade does the same for platform adventures,” assured Rod Lawton. “It may not grab you by the short ‘n’ curlies straight away, but it slowly inevitably sucks you in
until you simply can’t leave it alone.” Accompanying the review was a mini-interview with Gremlin’s technical guru James North-Hearn discussing the game. Elsewhere in the ‘Action Test’ section, Magic Land Dizzy was given 85% and an ‘AA Rave’.

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Another coverdisk for Amiga Action with playable demos of Horror Zombies from the Crypt Game and James Pond 2. Once again, the Amiga Action crew were spreading their seemingly negative vibes on the reviews pages with only Gettysburg getting anything near a top rating with 89%. Captive and The Killing Game Show lagged behind with 86% each. It’s almost as if the team are trying to use an old Jedi mind trick: “These aren’t the games you’re looking for. Move along.”   Amiga Action 16

AmigaAction16-Captive
Captive

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Amiga Format 18   Amiga Format issue 18 featured two coverdisks. Gaming wise the disk included Lemmings (demo), Total Recall (demo), Bip (full PD game) and Interphase (full game). A four page pull out spread on Interphase featured instructions, tips, and the full lowdown on the game. In the ‘Screenplay’ section, Powermonger came away with the first of two ‘Amiga Format Gold’ awards with 94%. Trenton Webb praised Powermonger as being a “stunning marriage of innovative graphics and original game,” and “with 195 lands to conquer and a datalink option this one will run and run!” Also achieving similar status and ratings was Spindizzy Worlds. The game has an “absolutely-enormous galaxy of different puzzle planets,” commented Trenton. Meaning “vast scope for skill development... Intensive gameplay is alive and well and living on the Spindizzy Worlds.”

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The full game of Super Huey  graced the CU Amiga coverdisk this month. Meanwhile, the reviews pages featured a handful of ‘CU Screen Star’ games. First up was Prince of Persia with 87%. “Prince of Persia is immensely playable,” stated Mark Patterson, “The game owes a lot to the animation and ease of control of the main character. All the elements come together extremely well to form a game which is both playable and enduring.” Also gaining a final rating of 87% was MUDS. Just nipping in there for the 'CU Screen Star' accolade were Wrath of the Demon (86%), Ninja Remix (85%) and Line of Fire (85%).   CU Amiga 11

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STFormat18   ST Format issue 18 featured another fine coverdisk for playable demos, with Golden Axe and Puzznic getting the playable preview treatment. Supremacy was given the solitary ‘ST Format Gold’ accolade this month with 90%. Others that came just shy included Brain Blasters, (88%), Corporation (87%), Defender 2 (88%), Lost Patrol (88%), Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge (86%), Pang (88%), Puzznic (86%) and Speedball 2 (88%).




Notes:
• Sinclair User, CU Amiga, Computer & Video Games, The One, ACE and Mean Machines were published byEMAP.
   Scans were kindly provided by Mort atThe Def Guide to Zzap!64.
• 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 was 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 Action was published by Interactive Publishing Ltd . Scans were kindly provided by Galaxy atAmiga Magazine Rack.
• ST Format was published byFuture Publishing. Scans were kindly provided by the Atari ST Shrine.
• Zero was published byDennis Publishing. Scans were kindly provided by Mort atThe Def Guide to Zzap!64.

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