In this first of our new series of articles, we look back at the more interesting, the historically significant and the just fantastic freebie covermounts. What better way to start than by looking at Amstrad Action issue four’s covertape from its Christmas 1985 Special Issue, which is surely one of the most important covermounts in magazine history.

Everyone likes something for nothing and gamers are no different. During the 1980s and early 1990s virtually every computer gaming magazine had some sort of covermount, whether it was on cassette tape, floppy disk or compact disc. There was even an all out covertape war between the three Spectrum magazines during the later years of their publication.

After successfully launching Zzap!64 with Newsfield Publications, and subsequently leaving following a dispute over the magazine’s editorial location, Chris Anderson set forth on building Future Publishing from humble beginnings. With a small team, a small building and a relatively small budget, work began on the company’s first magazine: Amstrad Action. However, it soon became apparent that the magazine was performing poorly, so Anderson decided to employ a similar tactic that he had used at Personal Computer Games: attach a cassette tape with games to the front cover of the issue. The covertape was included on Amstrad Action’s Christmas edition and featured two previously unreleased games from Ocean Software.

Included on side 1 of the covertape was Kung Fu, billed as “demanding, terrifying, body-crunching oriental combat!” While the game would never have lived up to that slightly hyped claim, Kung Fu does have some positives to focus on – just don’t expect International Karate. What was interesting about the otherwise average game was the action replay which you could use to relive the entire fight again. While this may not sound that great, at the time, this was something new and astounding to the 1985 gamer.

On side 2 was Number 1, which was billed as a “roller-skate your way through a space-age nightmare” game.  Number 1 is rather average, with not much gameplay and, once again, the visuals are very monochrome, giving the impression that these games were rushed Speccy ports.  The player is tasked with controlling “number 1” as he skates through bland levels, avoiding the odd oncoming obstacles – bricks and buckets one would presume – in an effort to collect three crystals to progress. In fact, the five minutes looking at the loading screen is more exciting than playing the actual game. Number 1’s only redeeming feature is the rather neat third person perspective viewpoint which is pulled off quite successfully.

Regardless of the covertape’s quality, it seemed as if Amstrad gamers couldn’t resist the freebies on offer and bought the magazine in their droves. Amstrad Action was saved, Future Publishing was saved and one of the UK’s best known magazine publishers found its feet and it had never looked back. The covertape became a regular for the magazine every Christmas edition, as well as the magazine’s – and company’s – birthday of October. Thankfully, the quality of the games did improve.

Soon, many other magazines began including their own regular/irregular covermounts, with complete games and playable demos of commercial games, all in the hope in catching some of the success that Amstrad Action had enjoyed with its innovative use of a covermount.

Weblinks:

Amstrad Action issue 4 scans at CPC Oxygen

Amstrad Action covertape archive – listed as “Future Publishing Amstrad Action Cassettes.rar”

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