The Detailed History of Zzap! - Part 5 by Demetrius Kiminas
The Fourth Period: June 1991 to November 1992 (1 year, 6 months)
The fourth period starts with issue 74 (June 1991) which saw the removal of Amiga reviews and the sole “reign” of the C64 in the magazine for one more time--a reign only shadowed by the steadily withdrawing of the C64 from the market, as the rise of the consoles was sweeping all remaining 8-bits. This period, which included Newsfield’s demise and the continuation under Europress, ends abruptly with issue 90 (November 1992), being the so-called ‘final issue of ZZAP!64’. The average number of reviews per issue in this period remained 18.
The removal of the Amiga was accompanied by a drastic redesign of the magazine. For starters, the cover price was increased to £2.20, which was attributed to the inclusion of a small tips leaflet on the cover and the placement of the tape inside a tape-case. However the changes this time were not just cosmetic: they included two changes in the very core of the Zzap! review system. One was the replacement of the various reviewers’ expressions images that accompanied their review comments with a single expressionless caricature of their face. Up until this change, one could understand if the reviewers liked a game or not by just looking at their faces – not any more. Also the reviewer opinions in a review were decreased from the usual three to just one. The main part of the review was now attributed to a certain reviewer (a practice also used in the first 3 issues back in 1985), whose opinion on the game was supposed to be stated there. Some reviews lacked even that one additional comment, with a single reviewer doing the whole review -- this was avoided in later issues.
Issue 74 contained a one-off comment of CRASH! reviewer Nick Roberts – being an avid Elvira fan, he was called to write the main review piece for the Elvira game. Issue 75 had another tips leaflet on the cover, and the last one of those came with issue 76. That issue also saw the handing over of tips to newcomer Mark Caswell, also known as Corky. Issues 77 and 78 had only 76 pages, a new low record. Within issue 78 a single review was written by Will Evans, a relative of Roger Kean -- But issue 78 was the last Zzap! published by Newsfield, as the company was declared bankrupt a short time after.
There was no Zzap! with cover date ‘November 1991’ as the transition from Newsfield to newly-formed Europress Impact lasted one month. The new company was formed thanks to capital raised by Roger Kean, Oliver Frey and Jonathan Rignall through publisher Europress. The only ‘casualties’ of this process were reviewer Robin Hogg and . . .eight pages – issue 79 as well as the next 24 would only have 68 of them. The absence of Robin also meant the end of Mr. Myashirov: Zzap! remained without an adventure games section for the first time in its troublesome history.
Issue 80 saw the launch of a new magazine by Europress Impact, which resulted in many new staff writers hired (initially working on both magazines). The new reviewers introduced in this issue were: Claire Morley, Alan Green, Adrian Pitt, Ian Osborne and Paul Mellerick: The issue contained review opinions by seven different reviewers! Issue 81 saw the departure of Stuart Wynne, leaving Phil King in the editorial position. In addition, as reviewers were re-assigned between the magazines, Adrian Pitt disappeared while Mark Caswell, tipster and writer of features until now, got a full transfer from Crash! and acquired a Zzap! reviewer position. Claire Morley, although mentioned as departing in the editorial, continued to offer reviewer comments for a few more issues.
Issue 82 saw the position of ‘editor’ (and Phil) suddenly getting to the 2nd place in the magazine’s hierarchy and a new ‘Managing Editor’ position appearing, held by former Crash! editor, Lucy Hickman. Both Allan Green and Paul Mellerick disappeared, and the magazine went through another redesign phase, including the replacement of letter-man Lloyd Mangram by whip-wielder Mrs. Whiplash (said to be the dark side of Mrs. Hickman). Mrs.Whiplash went as far as replacing the Scorelord as maintainer of the high-scores table. The two reviewers handling each review would now give their personal overall rating in the end of their comment, with the game’s overall rating being the mean of the two. Budget games would be given a full review treatment from now on, with only budget re-releases being briefly reviewed.
With issue 83 came a new reviewer, Carl Rowley, only to disappear in the next issue. Issue 83 contained a last appearance of Boris Myashirov, in the form of an adventure games section that appeared as a one-off feature rather than a regular column. Issue 84 saw the editorial reins handed to Steve Shields. Other developments include Claire’s disappearance and the addition of Bash the Barbarian to the letters section. Readers were encouraged to send their letters to either Whiplash or Bash in order to ‘elect’ the most popular letter-answerer. As the supply of new C64 games continued to diminish, a selected few re-released budget games would be given full reviews from now on.
Issue 85 came with its cover price increased to £2.50 and included a new adventure section, hosted by Bash the Barbarian. Issue 86 saw the triumphant return of the Scorelord in the hi-score page, complete with an impressive picture of him zapping the poor whiplash woman. Issue 87 saw the disappearance of Lucy together with the Managing Editor position (whatever the position’s significance after the arrival of Steve). Rockford, Thingy and the Pantomime Horse made a guest appearance in the letters pages with the statement ‘We’ll be back!’ – and they were: just one time in the last page of issue 88!
Issue 88 saw an increase in the width of the magazine by 2 centimetres, together with the addition of an extra cover-tape. Zzap! would now have 2 mega tapes stuck on its cover (starting with mega-tapes 32 & 33 on this issue) and a new cover price of £2.95. All re-released budget games would now enjoy full page reviews.
And suddenly, the decision was taken to re-launch the magazine in an attempt to gain new readers! Issue 90 was labelled ‘collector’s issue’ and informed the readers that next month, instead of Zzap! No. 91, they would be getting Commodore Force No.1 (with ‘Force’ being a common second word of all other Europress magazine titles at the time). Other than that, the ‘final’ issue introduced a new reviewer, James Price, contained the last appearance of Ken D. Fish in the competition winners section and saw the expulsion of Mrs. Whiplash from the letters page by victorious Bash.