ZZAP 64 - The Commodore Gamers Bible
Read and remembered by many it is a rich part of the history of the Commodore 64.
Like thousands of us - I read ZZap 64 every month. But, just as it was with sister magazine Crash magazine (also published by Newsfield), my story is a little different from most.
So let us look at one of the most important magazines for any 8-bit machine. After all, it is a bit of a Sizzler...
An Overview of ZZAP 64 Magazine
Newsfield eventually catered for the C64, the ZX Spectrum and the Amstrad CPC464.
ZZAP was published from May 1985 until November of 1992.
The first issue (I was thirteen - I feel old!) reviewed notable games such as all time space trading classic Elite and slick and atmospheric mythical strategy The Lords of Midnight.
Elite ended up being rated with the ZZAP 'Gold Medal' award.
As far as I can remember - game were scored and marked out of 100%
Games that achieved a score of 90% - 94% were awarded a ZZAP Sizzler rating.
Anthing above 94% was given the presitious 'gold medal' award.
Just like 'Crash Smashes' software houses were desperate to receive either of these ratings from ZZAP as they knew it would greatly help the sales of their game.
The Famous ZZAP logo
Newsfield published ZZAP 64 (along with dedicated Spectrum magazine Crash and Amstrad-tastic Amtix!).
Founded by Roger Kean, Franco Frey and illustrator Oliver Frey in 1983. Newsfield was based in 'sleepy' Ludlow in Shropshire, England.
Frey's superb artwork also featured heavily in the pages of ZZAP - and he and his work picked up a cult following within the ranks of 8-bit gamers.
Gary Penn and Julian Rignall became well known as the reviewers of games. Both had won their jobs after placing as finalists in a video game competition!
ZZAP Sizzler Logo
ZZAP Gold Medal Award Logo
Why I was so lucky (and my pal Paul!) with Zzap 64
I was so lucky when it came to ZZAP 64 magazine and all of the other Newsfield publications.
All of them were printed in my hometown before being sent out for distribution.
My dad (bless him) worked for the Royal Mail and had to go to the printers every week on a mail run. The print manager and my dad got on well so he used to give my dad a freshly printed copy of at first Crash, then each of the Newsfield prints as they were published (ZZAP was the second mag and Amtix the third).
At the very least I would have my brand new and pristine copy of ZZAP a good ten days before it hit the newsagents shelves.
Sometimes, depending on which day my dad was at the printers I would get a copy 'hot off the press' from the first batch printed.
There were definitely a few instances where I was the first person in the whole of the UK to read the brand new copy of ZZap etc. How lucky I was.
Break times at school were never the same again as a group of us huddled round a copy of our favourite magazine, getting a heads up on which games were worth getting hold of.
Whilst mere mortals had to wait for more than a week to see if the latest game from Ocean or Elite was any good, we already knew the score. Good times indeed.
Once I was finished with ZZAP I used to give it to my friend Paul.
Zzap 64 Front Cover By Oliver Frey
The Last Ninja - C64
Mercenary - By Paul Wokes
Ballblazer on the Commodore 64
Zzap Sizzler or Gold Medal, both were worthy accolades
As ZZAP became more and more popular, software companies realised the influence it held over paying C64 gamers.
If you received a good score for a game in the magazine then generally more people would go and buy it.
Anything over an 80% rating was considered an essential purchase - and if your game hit the magical 90% mark then you were given the 'sizzler' moniker.
A few truly excellent games received the 'gold medal' award - and most of these are true classics in the C64 gaming archives.
Some notable games that received sizzler or gold medals include:
- Armalyte - Thalamus' excellent shoot em up was awared an overall score of 97%
- Elite - The all time classic was awared 97% - even at the high price of £14.95
- Ballblazer - The fast paced arcade game was given a score of 98%
- Merenary - Novagen's classic vector graphics game was scored at 97%
- Morpheus - Hewsons' Uridium style arcade game was rated at 90%
All of these games were massive hits on the C64 (Mercenary is a notable classic game for the machine) and sold well.
Armalyte on the Commodore 64
Julian Rignall gives us the thumbs up
The legacy of ZZAP 64 Magazine
Many retro gamers and specifically C64 gamers remember ZZAP 64 with fondness.
Even now games that were rated as 'ZZAP Sizzlers' or 'Gold Medals' remain rooted in our memories.
A die hard 'ZX Spectrum man' like me can remember the likes of Armalyte, Uridium, Mercenary and The Last Ninja which goes to show just how influential these magazines were.
Forums on sites such as Lemon 64 make references to highly rated games within the hallowed pages of Zzap Magazine.
Names such as Gary Penn, Katie Hamza and Julian Rignall (who were members of the ZZAP reviewing team over the years) stick in the memory.
One great feature in ZZAP was the little drawing of each reviewer giving their thoughts on a game - sometimes with a 'thumbs up' pose on a great game, thumbs down on a not so good game and so on.
ZZAP 64 now exists online with many of the features from each issue included. Many of the Sizzlers and Gold Medal titles are there along with other highly rated classic games.
Of course in the early 1990s as the C64 scene faded away so did ZZAP - but many of us will remember the funny games reviews from those hallowed pages...
Re-live those sizzlin' ZZAP 64 memories at ZZAP 64 Online
Useful retro gaming links
- 80s theme tunes
McCall, Stringfellow - don't mess with the best
- 8-bit to 16-bit
It could be bittersweet
- Acorn Archimedes
A fantastic piece of 16-bit kit
- Acorn Atom
The Atom was the ancestor to the BBC series of computers manufactured by Acorn
- Acorn Electron
The Electron was an 8-bit Micro manufactured by Acorn
- Amiga CD 32
The Amiga CD32 was released in September of 1993
- Amiga Games
The best Amiga games
- Amstrad CPC 464
During the 1980s entrepeneur Alan Sugar made a foray into the home computer market...
Asteroids (along with the seminal Space Invaders) must be one of the most famous arcade games of all time
- Astro Blaster
Astro Blaster was a table top arcade game
- Astro Wars
Astro Wars was an electronic arcade game of the 'table top' variety
- Atari ST
The Atari ST was a 16-bit home computer that rivalled the Amiga
- Awesome Graphics
Some awesome graphics were created on many retro computers
- AY Music
- BBC Micro
A fantastic 8-bit machine
- Best PC Games
Best PC Games for PC Gaming
- Commodore 16
The C16 was an 8-bit micro manufacured by Commodore
- Commodore 64
The machine that made ZZAP! possible
- Commodore 128
The last of Commodore's 8-bit machines
- Commodore Amiga
The greatest 16-bit machine of all time?
- Crash Magazine
Also published by Newsfield - Crash was a best selling ZX Spectrum magazine
- Dark Star Cheat Codes
- Funny Games
Fancy a laugh?
- Games Online
Games Online - one of the phenomenons of the modern internet
- Ground Zero
Anyone ever play this in the 80's?
- Interface 2
2 players and instant loading
- Jupiter Ace
A unique 8-bit machine
- Miniclip Games
Just what are Miniclip games? Well, if you are into games online then miniclip games might well be just for you
- Missile Command
It's still playable
- Ocean Software
Ocean Software was one of the biggest game developers within Europe during the 1980s and 1990s
- Oric 1
The Oric 1 was a British computer
- Oric Atmos
The Oric Atmos was a British computer too
- Pacman Game
Have a go again
- Realtime Software
The best in vectors
- Retro Computers
Classic computers such as the C64, ZX Spectrum, Atari St, Acorn Electron...
- Scramble games
Scramble must be one of the most famous arcade shoot em ups ever
- Sinclair Interface 2
The ZX Interface 2 was a hardware peripheral that was actually pretty cool
- Space Harrier
Welcome To The Fantasy Zone!
- Space Invaders
Space Invaders, an all time classic that really launched the genre of the shoot em up arcade game
- Sport Billy
Sport Billy was a 1979 TV cartoon made by Filmation Associates
- Star Wars Computer Games
The force is strong with this one
It needs no introduction...
- Tomy Sky Attack
3D Sky Attack was one of the first games released by Tomy...
A classic arcade console
- VIC 20
The Vic 20. Nice and friendly
The Sinclair ZX80 was a home computer
The ZX81 was a sleek looking beast
- ZX Spectrum Games
The C64's nemesis and plenty of it's best games
- ZX Spectrum Music
We are talking about the original ZX Spectrum here - with overlayed drum beats and 2 channel music
- ZX Spectrum Trashman
A brief and lighthearted look at an earlier release for the ZX Spectrum by New Generation Software