Tag Archives: Steve Jarratt

PiG TALES Pt.2: COMMODORE FORMAT #3

Last month I got to show you how Future Publishing’s superb Commodore 64 magazine, Commodore Format gave away a game on its covertape called Pig Tales, and how this game was actually the OiNK computer game, released in 1987 across all 8-bit formats. Despite not having much to do with the comic, its playability and value for money was generally praised at the time, but it just didn’t sell. So a short three years later it was a freebie on the cover of CF.

In case you haven’t seen the previous post, it contained the full instructions for the OiNK game and one month later Commodore Format was back with a guide for those stuck in the misadventures of some of the comic’s most popular characters. So that’s what this post is all about. Plus, just like last time I’m throwing in some contemporary features and adverts from the magazine to place it in its time, just for fun.

Every month our computer and videogame magazines would contain hints, tips and cheats for a huge variety of games. Without search engines, if you were stuck you just had to sit tight and hope your monthly read contained some help for you. Today I stay away from such websites that offer things like this, after all if you cheat at a game then you’re not really playing it or completing it. But the younger target audience of these magazines lapped these things up, as did I. One of the most popular forms of help came in the form of game maps.

In the section of the mag called GameBusters, staff writer Andy Dyer and editor Steve Jarrett painstakingly compiled detailed maps for the Tom Thug and Rubbish Man sections of the OiNK game respectively, which in turn were drawn up by designer Lam Tang. There was no need for help with the Pete and his Pimple section, it was a bat and ball game which just required practice. So if you’ve got a copy of the game and would like to get that bit further (and have no patience) here are the full guides from this issue.

Ignore those black and white maps down the side, those are for a different title altogether. As you can see Tom’s zombie crushing section is all one big area to traverse while Rubbish Man’s is divided into six increasingly difficult zones. (Also, see the rather self-congratulatory game programmer include his name in the map!) Throw in Pete’s game and it’s a bit of a miracle it was a single load, not taking up any more than the computer’s measly 64k of memory (actually less when system memory is taken into account). For contrast the images on this blog are 1Mb on average, roughly sixteen times that size.

I’d actually like to give that Rubbish Man section a go again!

You can’t fault the team’s work here. Every little detail is included and not one screenshot is used, it’s all been drawn from scratch from playing the game themselves. No, the team didn’t receive a copy of the maps from the game publisher, at the time writers of these kinds of magazines had to basically play these games to death and assemble the guides themselves. Given how this issue contains eight pages of such help for the young players, it’s an insane amount of work every month.

I’d actually like to give that Rubbish Man section a go again! If you’ve missed any of the coverage of the game on the blog you can check out a retrospective from Retro Gamer, a preview from an issue of Zzap!64 containing a cameo by Snatcher Sam, a special interview with OiNK’s editors in Crash magazine which also came with a special free edition of OiNK, there’s a full review of the game from Zzap and of course the previous issue of Commodore Format. Now let’s have a quick look over a couple of things that caught my eye as I prepared the above scans.

Back in the early 90s when other computer companies such as Sinclair and Amstrad found their 8-bit systems struggling, the Commodore 64 was still selling well as an entry level computer. In the back of it was a cartridge port which had been underused throughout its already lengthy lifetime. New cart chip technology now enabled developers to use extra memory along with their ability to instantly load to produce advanced graphics, sound, more content and more complex gameplay. Commodore even released a console version of the 64.

With these the Commodore could easily contend with new kids on the block the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Master System. I often found (and still feel the same) that my favourite games on the 64 were miles better than the (admittedly great) console games. But Commodore, in their infinite wisdom, weren’t exactly marketing geniuses and the only places you’d see these advantages of cartridge technology detailed were in Commodore 64 magazines, read by people who already owned the machines! Without the manufacturer doing a good job the game publishers’ flash adverts above looked the part but had minimum impact.

Don’t get me wrong, gaming technology began changing very quickly in the 90s and incredibly the C64 still continued to sell very well for another couple of years. Commodore Format itself was eventually cancelled in 1995 only a few months before the first PlayStation magazine began! But with these advertising spreads above the company wasn’t exactly inspiring excitement, were they? In fact, they would go bust in 1994, taking the Amiga and its ever-developing range with it.


“You can hold conversation with people who may choose to help you or decide to chop your head off”

‘Going On-line’, Andrew Hutchinson

I always felt there was real potential to stave off the fate of the C64 if the company had really got behind the cartridge format, while concentrating on the proper computer instead of that silly console idea. Nintendo and Sega didn’t have to worry. The big push never came and when the console failed (as anyone could’ve predicted) publishers left the entire format in droves. Oh well, this short period of time still produced some of my very favourite computer games of all time and that’s not just the rose-tinted glasses talking.

Finally for this post there’s a feature in this issue I just had to show you all, written by future CF editor Andrew Hutchinson. Given this issue was published in 1990 and was for the Commodore 64 it might surprise you to see an article about going online! It would be the late 90s before our household had access to the Internet via AOL and a PC, but we were still in time for extortionate monthly fees and even more extortionate per-minute charges. Ah, the old days, eh? Yep, they very much were not better.

The excitement around the ‘Information Superhighway’ was intense in those years and looking back on it now it’s all very quaint of course, but every big revolution has to start somewhere. It’s strange to think how dependent our everyday lives have become on the technology that back then was seen as an expensive luxury only. Aside from the brilliant writing and the fact it was a damn fun magazine, the enthusiasm is another reason why reading actual retro magazines will always be superior to those from today that look back. It’s a lot cheaper too!

Anyway, that just about wraps up the OiNK Blog’s coverage of the OiNK computer game. I’ll take another look at Commodore Format next year when I reread the first magazine I ever bought for myself, #14, which coincidentally enough is the same issue number of OiNK that had been my first ever comic. Look out for more OiNK merchandise posts very soon though, there are some fun (and touching) moments to come.

PiG TALES Pt.1: COMMODORE FORMAT #2

Commodore Format was a very special publication for me, although it wasn’t until #14 that I discovered it. I’m writing a few posts for the OiNK Blog about it because in one of its earliest issues there was a certain porcine program on the covertape, the cassette packed every month with full games and demos of upcoming releases for readers’ Commodore 64 computers. I’ll go into the regular magazine in a special celebratory post at a future date but this month and next month I’ve something special for pig pals.

Attached to the cover of the second issue of CF (as we fans called it) from October 1990 was a cassette tape inside a little cardboard sleeve that included a highly playable Pac-Man clone called The Blob, a demo of forthcoming RPG Lords of Chaos, an intricate and complex space trading game called Empire and a game that according to the instructions pages went by the name ‘Pig Tales’. Described as “an everyday tale of small pink pigs attempting to put a magazine together”, the premise might sound familiar. As well it should.

I missed this back in 1990 when the magazine was originally launched but around 2010 I decided to purchase a C64 and began collecting Commodore Format all over again. As I started to read each issue I’d load up the cassette to see which games worked and which ones needed replacements. I did so before reading any of the instructions (that would come later once I knew which games I could actually play and which had succumbed to the ravages of time). Imagine my shock when Pig Tales stopped loading and a shoddily drawn OiNK logo appeared!

This was over a year before I even began the old blog site. I hadn’t read any OiNKs in many years, the final few remaining issues from my youth were securely packed away in a box somewhere, so this was a very pleasant surprise that immediately took me down memory lane for the first time. I knew a little about the game via the Lemon 64 site, basically that it had very little to do with the comic and because of this had a bad reputation, but I gave it a go and was pleasantly surprised. It’s a great little game with a lot of playability packed in, with just a sprinkling of not-very-good OiNK-related images.

Previously on the blog I’ve included the Zzap!64 review of the game from 1987 which was generally positive and I backed this up with my own thoughts on the game, which you can read here. Unfortunately, with so many other amazing games and childhood favourites to play through I only loaded the OiNK game a few times so I’m in no position to write a detailed review. (The C64 was sold off again several years later.) But it was great fun and rather addictive, and you can’t really ask for any more from a free game.

It was surreal to see Uncle Pigg in digitised form suddenly pop up on the small portable CRT TV I’d acquired for the Commodore, alongside the comic’s logo itself. Yes, the game itself was still called ‘OiNK’ when played, it was only inside the magazine (and the tape cover) that it was referred to as ‘Pig Tales’. A fan site has stated this was because Future Publishing had the rights to the game but not the name, which seems like a very strange set of circumstances (and at the time of writing I’ve yet to confirm this) given how they can’t be separated; it’s still called ‘OiNK’ on the screen and the character names are used in the magazine. 

Within the instructions the game is likened to the creation of Commodore Format and the press puppets from Spitting Image, which were a series of pigs dressed in trench coats and trilbies but at no time is the comic itself mentioned. How quickly they forget, eh? This issue was published only six months after the final ever issue of OiNK, the Summer Collection.

In the next issue Commodore Format would include a guide to the OiNK game including maps and tips

Three years might seem like a quick turnaround for the game to go from full price, to budget rerelease, to being included on a covertape. While we know it didn’t sell that well, this speedy transition wasn’t uncommon and I remember amassing quite the collection of excellent games through the magazine, including ones which were top rated and had sold very well. OiNK could sit right alongside them as a fun, quirky little retro game.

Commodore Format wasn’t finished with OiNK though. In the next issue they’d include a guide to the game including maps and tips to help readers finish Uncle Pigg’s “magazine”. I’ll show you them next month but I want to finish off this post with a few select images from this issue to place it in the context of the year it was released, beginning with an advertisement for a new game which readers of my Havoc reviews will know quite well.

While the movie didn’t deserve the hype, the game certainly did (although clearly no one proof read their advert). RoboCop 2 was released on cartridge on the C64, meaning it loaded instantly and had more memory available for better gameplay, graphics and sound. It was a brilliant game and much more enjoyable than the lacklustre sequel it was based on. Elsewhere in the issue, modern day videogame players might be interested to see this next double-page spread when CF’s editor Steve Jarratt headed off to the Consumer Electronics Show to see what the world of interactive entertainment had in store for us over the coming year.

Finally, there’s an interesting three-page feature about the history of the Commodore 64 computer. Commodore Format was released at a time when more powerful computers were gaining traction but Future, which was already publishing Amiga Format and ST Format, saw an opening in the market. The C64 was still seen as the perfect starter computer (it certainly was for me in 1991 the following year) and there were also those younger siblings who were getting C64s handed down to them.

The only competition was Zzap!64 which focussed mainly on games. Commodore Format took less than a year to surpass that giant in sales, quickly becoming the world’s best-selling C64 mag. CF spread its net wider and included retrospective gaming features to get new owners up to speed, interviews, technology articles and programming and graphics tutorials. It was a meaty read and an instant hit.

The C64 Story detailed the life of the C64 up to this point, including its predecessor, its development, spin-offs and its success story. Elsewhere in these early issues were several series of articles rounding up the very best games in different genres, but in this particular feature they decided to warn readers away from wasting their money on certain titles with ‘The All-Time Top Ten Naff C64 Games’. Oh I do miss the fun of Commodore Format!

I may have sold off my C64 collection but my Commodore Formats remain. I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them (not least because I’m in later editions, more on that in a future post). They have such great memories attached to them and they’re still a brilliant read. If you’re into your retro gaming I’d highly recommend hunting any of them down on eBay. For now, that’s your look at OiNK in this issue, I’ll be back with the game guide in #3 of CF on Thursday 10th November 2022.

ZZAP!64: PiG PLAY REViEW

Recently on the blog we’ve seen the preview of the OiNK computer game in Zzap!64 #26, then the special feature in Crash magazine #42 and its free OiNK comic. There’s also been a look at the Retro Gamer article which contained an interview with the programmer of the game. It was an exciting time for pig pals who owned one of the 8-bit computers back in 1987, that’s for sure. But what of the finished article? Was the game worth the hype?

Zzap!64 #28, on sale this day 35 years ago, contained the answer. Just a quick note about this issue first of all and a brilliant little detail on the cover. Staff writer Julian Rignall recently shared on Twitter that a previous competition winner’s prize was to appear on a cover of the magazine, immortalised by artist Oliver Frey. That’s reader Karen Wild just in front of the “4” in the logo! Another detail is the mention of Bond movie The Living Daylights further down the page, although inside it’s an exact article already published in Crash last month. Rather cheeky of the publisher Newsfield!


“This is another poor licensing effort, however when viewed in its own right, OiNK has a lot to boast about.”

Steve Jarratt

Anyway, moving on and the OiNK review itself takes up just over a full page and in keeping with their normal format there’s a descriptive guide to the game breaking down the individual elements, with the opinions of whether those elements were any good or not kept separate, divided up between the three members of the team that played it. There’s also one screenshot of each of the mini-games (but unfortunately none of the Uncle Pigg screens) and a summary box which breaks everything down into individual percentages.

The review does a good job of explaining each of the mini-games and as you can see they really don’t have anything to do with the comic at all, save for maybe Rubbish Man’s sprite. I can’t help question why the Pete’s Pimple game didn’t have a pimple-coloured ball and why was it battling against aliens? Why not pimple cream or bullies like in the accompanying strip in the free comic? Why does Rubbish Man fire lasers and not cold custard or rotten mash potato? Why in later levels is he being attacked by rubbish? The Tom Thug game makes no sense whatsoever! Two of the reviewers at least share these thoughts, but as a game in its own right their opinion is somewhat more positive. Here’s the review.

Identified by initials on their illustrations, reviewers Ciarán Brennan and Steve Jarratt (who would go on to launch rival mag Commodore Format, which was my C64 read at the time and which you’ll see some OiNK content from later in the year) both reported that the game plays very well and is excellent value for money for the price. It’s just not really an OiNK game. I think it’s clear third reviewer Paul Sumner hadn’t read OiNK though, and is coming from the perspective of a general game about creating a magazine or comic.

Although an attempt is made to include some of its humour in the panels of the electronic comic the player completes by playing the games, it’s clear from the comments here that hasn’t really worked. The initial idea was to include panels from the actual comic and some were written by OiNK’s three editors Tony Husband, Mark Rodgers and to a lesser extent Patrick Gallagher. However, these were cut back to text only and then trimmed down even further by programmer Jon Wells so the jokes were somewhat lost in translation.

We could’ve had a barmy platform game, fighting off Mary Lighthouse and her protesters on our way to the newsagent

For me, the big takeaway here is that the game’s bad reputation isn’t justified. Among pig pal circles it’s usually ridiculed as being an appalling game, unplayable and basically a complete disaster. Yes, for pig pals it was a disappointment; we could’ve had a barmy platform game, taking control of various characters each with a unique ability linked to the comic as they ran around OiNKtown fighting off Mary Lighthouse and her protesters on our way to the newsagent, just off the top of my head. Instead, as confirmed in the interview in Retro Gamer, the programmer wanted to make specific mini-games and saw this as an opportunity to do so, rather than developing a game from the licence. Unfortunately, with only a handful of exceptions, this was par for the course with licences back then.

But the game itself, taken on its own merits, is very good. Check out another set of review scores, this time from C&VG (Computer & Video Games) magazine and printed in OiNK #34.

I completely concur with the reviews here. I played it a couple of decades after its release (I didn’t have my own Commodore 64 until Christmas 1991) when I began collecting the C64 as a retro system around 2010. I found the game on an old Commodore Format covertape. It was great to see the OiNK logo and Uncle Pigg digitised on the screen when it loaded. Yes, I had that initial disappointment as someone looking for an actual OiNK game, but when I got into it I had so much fun. It was very addictive, each mini-game was very playable and Rubbish Man’s in particular had that just-one-more-go appeal.

It may not be an actual OiNK game per se, but that’s the only reason I played it in the first place and I discovered a wee gem.

I never finished it to see if there was a proper ending involving the characters (I doubt it) but I’d definitely like to set the record straight. It was a brilliant little game. Unfortunately OiNK fans didn’t buy it because of its lack of OiNK content, and those who didn’t read OiNK didn’t buy it for obvious reasons. But if you have a C64 (or a ZX Spectrum or Amstrad CPC) and enjoy a spot of retro gaming, you could do a lot worse than tracking down this oddity of OiNK merchandise, it’s quite common to see it for a few quid on eBay. Trust me, you won’t regret it.