ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

ZZap64 Magazine

Updated on August 19, 2014
RetroBrothers profile image

Martin has been a software developer for many years. This is mixed with a passion for retro machines and game,

ZZAP 64 - The Commodore Gamers Bible

ZZap 64 magazine was one of the most popular monthly magazines available covering the Commodore 64 and it's games.

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

After the success of Crash - Newsfield realised that a similar magazine to cater for the popular Commodore 64 would do well.

Newsfield eventually catered for the C64, the ZX Spectrum and the Amstrad CPC464.

ZZAP was published from May 1985 until November of 1992.

Subsequent issues were named Commodore Force, but by this point, just like the ZX Spectrum, the C64 was in the twilight of it's life due to the 8-bit to 16-bit transition that was taking place.

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

ZZAP stood out from the crowd
ZZAP stood out from the crowd

Newsfield Publications

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

If you saw the Zzap Sizzle stamp you knew you were looking at a good game
If you saw the Zzap Sizzle stamp you knew you were looking at a good game

ZZAP Gold Medal Award Logo

If you saw the Zzap Gold Medal award you knew that this game was great!
If you saw the Zzap Gold Medal award you knew that this game was great!

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.

He was a C64 gamer whilst I was a Spectrum games player. I always enjoyed reading ZZAP (almost as much as Crash!) and it was good to see how some games compared on different machines.

Zzap 64 Front Cover By Oliver Frey

The Front Cover To Zzap 64 From March 1986. Superb artwork from Oliver Frey
The Front Cover To Zzap 64 From March 1986. Superb artwork from 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

A caricature of Julian Rignall as it appeared in Zzap 64 Magazine
A caricature of Julian Rignall as it appeared in Zzap 64 Magazine

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

Zzap 64 Served The Commodore 64

The Bullnose Commodore 64 was the machine for readers of Zzap 64
The Bullnose Commodore 64 was the machine for readers of Zzap 64

ZZAPers - give us your thoughts please

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Zakmoonbeam profile image

      Michael Murchie 

      7 years ago from Parts Unknown

      What a great hub, and a great magazine. I really do miss it, and I don't think for me that any other mag could ever replace Zzap64 for me, which is a shame!

    • profile image

      uridium5 

      8 years ago

      Hey Guys

      Yeah, I started on the Vic 20, but moved onto the 64, however, my best mate had the SPectrum, so I got the best of both worlds. It was fun to argue which was best, but at the end of the day, some games were better on the speccy, and some better on the 64.

      To clarify, games had to have at least 97% to get a gold medal, although, to confuse the issue, I saw a game once get 97% but was only made a Sizzler!

      Did you know that apparently Julian and Gary didn't really get on that well, that's what I heard Gary say, but we have to rememeber that back then, they were still pretty young, practically kids!!

    • RetroBrothers profile imageAUTHOR

      Martin Allan 

      8 years ago from Sunny Scotland

      Hey Phil - thanks for the comments.

      I was lucky getting the Newsfield mags 'hot off the press' as it were! Kids at school always used to ask me when I was getting the next 'Crash' or 'ZZAP' etc.

      I take it you were a C64 gamer?

    • profile image

      uridium5 

      8 years ago

      Wow guys, that was quick!!! Thanks very much for creating this upon request, I really appreciate it. It was cool to read your story about how you got you hot off the press copies. I was originally from a town which is near Yeovil, Somerset which is where the first few (3 I think) issues of Zzap64 were written before they moved up to Ludlow to be near the Crash team. Anyway, thanks again. By the way, I read that you felt old, what made me feel reaaaally old was when I saw a picture of Gary Liddon on the bet (google him),he has white hair now!!! AGH!!

      Anyway, look forward to the Amstrad one or whatever you create next.

      Cheers, Phil.

    • profile image

      uridium5 

      8 years ago

      Wow guys, that was quick!!! Thanks very much for creating this upon request, I really appreciate it. It was cool to read your story about how you got you hot off the press copies. I was originally from a town which is near Yeovil, Somerset which is where the first few (3 I think) issues of Zzap64 were written before they moved up to Ludlow to be near the Crash team. Anyway, thanks again. By the way, I read that you felt old, what made me feel reaaaally old was when I saw a picture of Gary Liddon on the bet (google him),he has white hair now!!! AGH!!

      Anyway, look forward to the Amstrad one or whatever you create next.

      Cheers, Phil.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)