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.
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.