The Detailed History of Zzap! - Part 3 by Demetrius Kiminas
The Second Period: November 1988 to September 1990 (1 year, 11 months)
During the second era, spanning issues 43 to 65 (November 1988 to September 1990), the magazine was called ZZAP!C64/AMIGA and was reviewing both C64 and Commodore Amiga games. During this era the C64 ceased to be the king of home computers, as the new shiny 16-bits dazzled the world with their new and exciting capabilities, but the C64 was still a very widespread and very ‘alive’ machine. Issues of this period had on average 21 C64 game reviews each month.
Issue 43, besides the name change, had the ‘Mega-Tape 2’ on its cover, again for the price of £1.50. It introduced the first female reviewer, Katharina Hamza. In a cost-cutting venture, the Nik Wild/Harlequin column was terminated: The Adventure column from this issue on would be written by Kati under the pen-name ‘Chuck Vomit’ (a troll).
Issue 44, the Christmas Special of 1988, was the biggest ZZAP! issue ever: 228 pages and the ‘Zzap! Mega-Tape 3’ at a cover price of £1.95! Alas, it turned out to be the last Christmas Special. Still, a somewhat fishy character was introduced: Ken D. Fish, an imaginary . . . fish, which would handle the announcement of the competition results.
Issue 45 had the Zzap! Mega-Tape 4 stuck on the cover, so it cost £1.50. It saw the departure of Philippa (in another cost-cutting attempt), author of extremely comprehensive strategy reviews, whose column was sadly the interest of a small minority. Issue 46 saw the departure of Paul Glancey and the drastic decrease of the pages to just 100, as advertising income rapidly decreased. No covertapes would appear for a while, so the price came back to £1.25. Issue 47 witnessed the 2nd drastic re-design in ZZAP! history. The whole magazine was redesigned with an emphasis in colourfulness. The most important novelty was the mixing of C64 and Amiga reviews in the magazine, including giving both C64 and Amiga versions of a game a common review (if received on the same month). The tips section was handed to Maff Evans and a new margin character was introduced: ‘The Pantomime Horse!’
Issue 49 saw a further decrease of pages to 92, making it the smallest issue of Zzap! until that date. It introduced the new reviewer who’d replace Paul Glancey: Paul Rand. Issue 50, an anniversary issue, had Zzap! Mega Tape 5 on its cover so its cover price was raised to £1.60. Its pages were further reduced to 84, a number that would remain stable for the next 15 months. The downhill ride of the C64 resulted in reducing circulation numbers and advertising income for the first time in Zzap!’s history, a cause of great concern to the management. In an abrupt move, they decided to replace the whole reviewing team, making them the scapegoats of this puzzling transitory era. (Instead, this would have been the best time to separate the magazine into Zzap!64 and Zzap!Amiga, a move that never occurred.) The changes were mentioned in the foreword of that month’s challenge (instead of the editorial or the news section), a token of the confusion during the transition. The last pages of issue 50 contained a depiction of all margin characters being abducted by a UFO -- the last time they were seen in the margins of Zzap!
As a result of these developments, Issue 51 saw the departure of Gorgon Houghton, Maff Evans, and Kati Hamza/Chuck Vomit (with only newcomer Paul Rand ‘surviving’) and their replacements were Stuart Wynne (the new Editor), Phil King (from CRASH!), and Robin Hogg (from The Games Machine). Phil King would handle the Adventure reviews under the pen-name ‘Prof Norman Nutz’ and Paul Rand took over the tips section. Robin would handle the reintroduced strategy games section. Stuart, who seemed to dislike writing editorials, remained with the magazine as editor for a record 30 issues.
Issue 52 was the first without an editorial column (the first of many). The next editorial appeared in issue 55, announcing the departure of Paul Rand and the handing over of the tips section to Robin Hogg. Issue 56, the last issue of 1989, saw an increase of the cover price to £1.50. Issue 60 announced the ‘murder’ of the editor by the Scorelord. Stuart would offer review comments under the Scorelord pen-name for the next few issues. Issue 61 came with Mega Tape 6, without any price increase -- instead overseas users were not getting the tape with the magazine but had to pay an extra £1.99 to get it by mail. A news item in that issue informed us of Stuart getting a surgery -- it was real inasmuch Stu indeed had some kidney stones extracted. During the period he was hospitalised, Phil King wrote his Scorelord review comments. After the next two issues containing Mega Tapes 7 & 8, issue 64 contained no tape with the cover price still at £1.50. Issue 65 included Mega Tape 9 for oversees readers as well, accompanied by a price increase to £1.95. All subsequent issues would have Megatapes on their covers. The same issue saw the replacement of Norman Nutz’s adventure section by ‘The Think Tank’, a new section for both adventure and strategy games, reviewed by Nik Wild and Robin Hogg respectively.