Amstrad Action was a monthly magazine, published in the United Kingdom, which catered to owners of home computers from the Amstrad CPC range and later the GX4000 console. It was the first magazine published by Chris Anderson's Future Publishing, which, with a varied line-up of computing and non-computing related titles, has since become one of the foremost magazine publishers in the UK.
The publication, often abbreviated to AA by staff and readers, had the longest lifetime of any Amstrad magazine, running from October 1985 until June 1995 and produced 117 issues in total. The magazine was still being published long after the CPC had ceased production and games were no longer available in the shops.
Amstrad Action was the first magazine to be published by Future Publishing, a company set up by Chris Anderson (ex-Personal Computer Games and Zzap!64 editor). Launch Editor, Peter Connor, also an ex-Personal Computer Games staff member, shared the writing duties with the only other staff writer, Bob Wade. Bob, another ex-Personal Computer Games/Zzap!64, was given the title 'Software Editor' and would review the vast majority of the games featured, with Peter given a second opinion. Trevor Gilham, Art Editor, would complete the four man team.
Issue 1 dated October 1985 was released in September 1985 with the cover price of £1; 1 pence for every one of the 100 pages. It took the new publication a few issues to find its readers, but with the help of a bumper 116 page Christmas 1985 issue with a cover mounted tape, the circulation figures grew rapidly.
In 1991, AA finally gave in to reader's pleas to have a permanent cover tape. An announcement was made, in AA66, that the following issue would, not only contain a cover tape, but contain more colour and be printed on different paper. Review pages were also slightly re-designed.
Features and editorial styleEdit
AA covered both 'games' and 'serious' side of the CPC, maintaining a 50/50 coverage throughout its run. The editorial coverage was always seen as being one of the three main areas; there was the games (or leisure), serious (programming, business software etc.), and the regulars. Features would come and go, but there was long-running features including 'Amscene', 'Forum', 'Action Test', and 'Cheat Mode'.
The latest CPC news regarding all things in the Amstrad world. Later included the games charts and games preview pages.
The readers letters were answered in the Reaction section, where numerous arguments and, usually good natured, humour was found. Later during AAs run the standout letter of the month was highlighted and given the star prize award of £25.00. The technical problems page 'Problem Attic' started out in the Reaction pages in the early years before getting its own space. "If your CPC's in danger, if you need help, then you can contact the AA team."
- Action Test
The review approach included a main write up, a second opinion box, a good news / bad news comparison list and the percentages. Percentages were given to Graphics, Sonics, Grab Factor, Staying Power and an overall AA Rating. High rated games of 80% and above were given an 'AA Rave' accolade, while the highest rated game of the month received the 'Mastergame' award. This review style continued well into the early 1990s when the award accolades were scrapped. As budget games became more prominent during the CPC's life AA covered this growing market by including budget reviews in the 'Budget Bonanza' and later 'Action Replay' sections.
- The Pilgrim
Interactive fiction was covered by "The Pilgrim", then "Balrog" and "The Examiner". The Pilgrim format included the latest adventure game reviews. 'Clue Sniffing With The Pilgrim' included adventure clues and tips. 'Pilgrim Post' was the letters column for adventure game topics. 'Adventure News' detailed the latest happenings in the world of adventure games.
The Forum carried on from the Problem Attic column where the resident Technical Editor answered reader's hardware or software problems and queries. As space in the magazine became restrictive other features like 'Helpline' and 'Ask Alex' were merged into the new 'Techy Forum'.
One long running feature of AA was the Type-In section. This included utility, games and demo type-ins sent in by the readers. This involved typing the program code into the computer then running it. This itself split the readership over whether the programs should be put on the covertape instead. Over a six month period this is what happened, until this practice (and ultimately the Type-Ins section) was abandoned due to space restrictions.
The Helpline page was where eager Amstrad readers would offer contact details help fellow readers having problems. The page was later merged with Technical Forum.
- Cheat Mode
The tips pages included game pokes, tips, cheats and maps all contributed by the readers.
Initially called Rear View, the back page was where all the loose ends were closed off, like competition winner results and last minute happenings.
As activity in the Amstrad world declined, the editorial staff, and editorial content, was constantly being reduced and the magazine adopted an increasingly eccentric style, with one edition in particular featuring an eight-page script for a Christmas pantomime. Later on, a double spread review for the 2nd Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles game was split between the review itself and bizarre transcribed interview between Rod Lawton and Adam Peters (pretending to be one of the turtles). Peters would usually try and promote his band in some way (he featured on the cover of 'music orientated' issue and had one of his techno-MIDI band's songs on the covertape). The magazine is also notable for pioneering the kind of responses - sometimes dry, sometimes surreal, usually humorous and mildly rude - to readers' letters of a form now seen throughout UK gaming magazine culture. These characteristics, for many readers, added to AA's charm.
Chris Anderson using his previous success of covermounted cassette tapes with Personal Computer Games included one with the Christmas special issue of 1985. This included two unreleased games from Ocean Software; Kung Fu and Number 1. But the covermount cassette tape was only an occurrence on the Christmas and AA birthday issues, not becoming a regular feature until AA67 in 1991, mainly due to requests from many readers. Cover-cassettes featured game demos, applications, software utilities and, in some instances, complete games. Due to the low quality of the cassettes used many Amstrad owners found them to be unreliable, something which was commonly reflected in the letters pages. One solution to fixing the unreliable tapes as posted to the letters section was to unwind the tape and put a warm iron on it! Later, a utility was released on the covertape to convert the contents to the proprietary 3" disk.
- Dizzy, AA Special Edition
- Action Pack #1
AA67, dated April 1990, came with the first of the permanent cover tapes called Action Pack #1, along with a new cover price of £2.20. A playable demo of Ocean Software's Total Recall and complete games Hydrofool and Codemasters' Dizzy were included on the tape.
- How To Cause A Complete Controversy
Action Pack #2 caused some controversy among the readers as one of the featured games How To Be A Complete Bastard featured mild swearing, plus the game's quest was to be violent and obnoxious throughout a house party.
- Stormlord Censored
December 1993 AA99's Serious Action cover tape included the complete Stormlord game, albeit a censored version. With the self-censoring of the Hewson game it seemed that AA was trying to avoid similar controversy that followed AA68's Action Pack #2.
- Best Game Ever On Covertape
AA Games AccoladesEdit
Initially only the best rated game of the month earned an AA Mastergame accolade, but from issue 57 this was changed to all games that received a 90% or higher rating. Games receiving 80-90% were awarded an AA Rave. Publishers of CPC games such as Activision, Ocean Software and Infogrames proudly mounted these awards on their packaging to promote their games to potential customers. The first game to receive a 'Mastergame' award was Melbourne House's The Way of the Exploding Fist, gaining an impressive 94% AA Rating. Issue 38 was the first issue not to award any game the Mastergame accolade. Apparently there were no games worthy of the award that month. The lowest rated Mastergame was Target Renegade, from Imagine Software, receiving a 86% overall rating. Quite why it was awarded a Mastergame was not explained and remains a mystery.
Laser Squad, by Blade Software, which has been mentioned many times as being an AA staff favourite, is awarded the Mastergame accolade, in AA49, with a 91% rating. March 1990 and the mysterious lost Mastergame that would be Chase HQ. The Ocean arcade game conversion received a score of 90%, coupled with being the highest rated game this issue. This would normally justify the Mastergame accolade, however the game only got an AA Rave accolade and no explanation or corrections were made since. June 1990 was the first issue to award the Mastergame accolade to more than one game; E-Motion by US Gold and Turrican by Rainbow Arts received ratings of 92% and 90% respectively. November 1990 and Rick Dangerous 2 received the highest rating so far. The MicroStyle game gained a MasterGame award and an AA Rating of 97%.
Psygnosis' Lemmings and Ocean Software's The Addams Family were the last games to receive a Mastergame accolade in July 1992's AA82; receiving 97% and 90% respectively. Following issues dispensed with AA Rave and Mastergame accolades. Lemmings joins Rick Dangerous 2 as gaining the highest AA rating given during its publication. March 1993's issue 90 featured the first highest rated game not to receive an AA accolade. Nigel Mansell's World Championship received an overall rating of 93%, but no accolade of either Rave or Mastergame. The long standing AA signature accolade had been discarded.
Street Fighter 2Edit
At the height of its popularity, Street Fighter II was released on the 16-bit computers by US Gold. However, in early press releases, the firm had stated that it would also be releasing 8-bit versions of the game on all platforms. Eventually, however, only the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum versions of the game were released. AAcovered the saga for many months. AA90 and Street Fighter II was mentioned in the Next Month column. Street Fighter IIeven featured on the front of AA95 and included inside was a 'story so far' write up.  Street Fighter II was promised to be completed and ready for review in AA100. News announced in AA100 that the long awaited Street Fighter II had been abandoned. According to U.S. Gold there were no plans to release a CPC version and that any previous release date given was a clerical error.
Memorable staff included Publisher Chris Anderson, Bob Wade, Richard Monteiro, Steve Carey, Rod Lawton, Trenton Webb, James Leach, Frank O'Connor and Adam Waring. Later editorial staff included Linda Barker, Dave Golder, Tim Norris and Simon Forrester.
Peter Connor, Oct 1985 - May 1986
Matt Nicholson, Jun 1986 - Nov 1986
Jim Nagel, Dec 1986 - Jan 1987
Bob Wade, Feb 1987 - Jul 1988
Steve Carey, Aug 1988 - Nov 1989
Rod Lawton, Dec 1989 - Feb 1993
Linda Barker, Mar 1993
Tim Norris, Apr 1993 - Aug 1993
Dave Golder, Sep 1993 - Oct 1994
Tim Norris, Nov 1994
Karen Levell, Dec 1994 - Jun 1995
Other staff membersEdit
Bob Wade (Software Editor) Oct 1985 - Jan 1987
Richard Monteiro (Technical Editor) Dec 1986 - May 1988
Gary Barrett (Staff Writer) Oct 1987 - Feb 1989
Pat McDonald (Technical Editor) Jun 1988 - Oct 1989
Trenton Webb (Games Editor) Mar 1989 - Aug 1990
Adam Waring (Reviews Editor) Nov 1989 - Aug 1992
James Leach (Staff Writer) Sep 1990 - Jan 1991
Frank O'Connor (Staff Writer) Feb 1991 - Sep 1991
Adam Peters (Staff Writer) Oct 1991 - Jan 1993
Simon Forrester (Staff Writer) Feb 1993 - Jul 1994
Clur Hodgson (Staff Writer) Jan 1994 - Apr 1994
|Issue||Games Reviewed||Average Score||Highest Score||Highest scoring game||Lowest Score||Lowest scoring game|
|1||19||76%||94%||Way of the Exploding Fist||24%||Fu-Kung in Las Vegas|
|2||38||71%||95%||Highway Encounter||33%||Munch-It / Climb-It|
|3||26||74%||95%||Marsport||22%||Tomb of Kuslak|
|4||26||72%||92%||Yie Ar Kung-Fu||27%||Renegade (Kuma)|
|33||14||57%||93%||Nebulus||15%||Fruit Machine Simulator|
Time and Magik
|39%||Gee Bee Air Rally|
|35||10||64%||86%||Target; Renegade||42%||The Fury|
|36||14||61%||90%||The Bard's Tale||28%||Psycho Pigs U.X.B.|
|37||12||68%||92%||Heroes of the Lance||39%||Bionic Commando|
|62||7||71%||97%||Rick Dangerous 2||30%||County Cricket|
|63||9||67%||86%||Kick Off 2||32%||Soccer Director|
|65||10||69%||93%||Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge||40%||Trevor Brooking's World Cup Glory, Badlands|
|66||12||76%||94%||RoboCop 2||56%||STUN Runner|
|67||11||79%||89%||10 Pack (compilation)||59%||Helter Skelter|
|Issue||Cover Date||Release Date||Pages||Price||Editor|
|1||October 1985||12th September 1985||100||£1.00||Peter Connor|
|2||November 1985||10th October 1985||108||£1.00||Peter Connor|
|3||December 1985||7th November 1985||108||£1.00||Peter Connor|
|4||Christmas 1985||12th December 1985||116||£1.50||Peter Connor|
|5||February 1986||9th January 1986||100||£1.00||Peter Connor|
|6||March 1986||February 1986||116||£1.00||Peter Connor|
|7||April 1986||March 1986||124||£1.00||Peter Connor|
|8||May 1986||April 1986||116||£1.50||Peter Connor|
|9||June 1986||May 1986||116||£1.00||Matt Nicholson|
|10||July 1986||June 1986||108||£1.00||Matt Nicholson|
|11||August 1986||July 1986||100||£1.00||Matt Nicholson|
|12||September 1986||August 1986||92||£1.00||Matt Nicholson|
|13||October 1986||September 1986||84||£1.00||Matt Nicholson|
|14||November 1986||October 1986||100||£1.00||Matt Nicholson|
|15||December 1986||November 1986||116||£1.00||Jim Nagel|
|16||January 1987||December 1986||116||£1.50||Jim Nagel|
|17||February 1987||January 1987||100||£1.00||Bob Wade|
|18||March 1987||February 1987||84||£1.00||Bob Wade|
|19||April 1987||March 1987||92||£1.00||Bob Wade|
|20||May 1987||April 1987||90||£1.00||Bob Wade|
|21||June 1987||May 1987||92||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|22||July 1987||June 1987||92||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|23||August 1987||July 1987||76||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|24||September 1987||August 1987||68||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|25||October 1987||September 1987||76||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|26||November 1987||October 1987||84||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|27||December 1987||November 1987||92||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|28||January 1988||December 1987||100||£1.50||Bob Wade|
|29||February 1988||January 1988||84||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|30||March 1988||February 1988||84||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|31||April 1988||March 1988||84||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|32||May 1988||April 1988||84||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|33||June 1988||May 1988||76||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|34||July 1988||June 1988||76||£1.25||Bob Wade|
|35||August 1988||July 1988||76||£1.25||Steve Carey|
|36||September 1988||August 1988||76||£1.25||Steve Carey|
|37||October 1988||September 1988||76||£1.50||Steve Carey|
|38||November 1988||October 1988||84||£1.25||Steve Carey|
|39||December 1988||November 1988||92||£1.25||Steve Carey|
|40||January 1989||December 1988||92||£1.50||Steve Carey|
|41||February 1989||January 1989||76||£1.25||Steve Carey|
|42||March 1989||February 1989||76||£1.25||Steve Carey|
|43||April 1989||March 1989||76||£1.25||Steve Carey|
|44||May 1989||April 1989||76||£1.25||Steve Carey|
|45||June 1989||May 1989||76||£1.25||Steve Carey|
|46||July 1989||June 1989||84||£1.45||Steve Carey|
|47||August 1989||July 1989||84||£1.45||Steve Carey|
|48||September 1989||August 1989||84||£1.45||Steve Carey|
|49||October 1989||September 1989||100||£1.95||Steve Carey|
|50||November 1989||October 1989||92||£1.45||Steve Carey|
|51||December 1989||November 1989||100||£1.45||Rod Lawton|
|52||January 1990||December 1989||116||£1.95||Rod Lawton|
|53||February 1990||January 1990||92||£1.45||Rod Lawton|
|54||March 1990||February 1990||84||£1.45||Rod Lawton|
|55||April 1990||March 1990||84||£1.45||Rod Lawton|
|56||May 1990||April 1990||92||£1.45||Rod Lawton|
|57||June 1990||May 1990||92||£1.45||Rod Lawton|
|58||July 1990||June 1990||92||£1.45||Rod Lawton|
|59||August 1990||July 1990||84||£1.45||Rod Lawton|
|60||September 1990||August 1990||91||£1.45||Rod Lawton|
|61||October 1990||September 1990||100||£1.95||Rod Lawton|
|62||November 1990||October 1990||92||£1.60||Rod Lawton|
|63||December 1990||November 1990||100||£1.60||Rod Lawton|
|64||January 1991||December 1990||100||£1.95||Rod Lawton|
|65||February 1991||January 1991||92||£1.60||Rod Lawton|
|66||March 1991||February 1991||92||£1.60||Rod Lawton|
|67||April 1991||March 1991||92||£2.20||Rod Lawton|
|68||May 1991||April 1991||92||£2.20||Rod Lawton|
|69||June 1991||May 1991||76||£2.20||Rod Lawton|
|70||July 1991||June 1991||68||£2.20||Rod Lawton|
|71||August 1991||July 1991||68||£2.20||Rod Lawton|
|72||September 1991||August 1991||68||£2.20||Rod Lawton|
|73||October 1991||September 1991||74||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|74||November 1991||October 1991||68||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|75||December 1991||November 1991||76||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|76||January 1992||December 1991||76||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|77||February 1992||January 1992||68||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|78||March 1992||February 1992||60||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|79||April 1992||March 1992||60||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|80||May 1992||April 1992||60||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|81||June 1992||May 1992||60||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|82||July 1992||June 1992||60||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|83||August 1992||July 1992||60||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|84||September 1992||August 1992||60||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|85||October 1992||September 1992||60||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|86||November 1992||October 1992||60||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|87||December 1992||November 1992||60||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|88||January 1993||December 1992||60||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|89||February 1993||January 1993||60||£2.50||Rod Lawton|
|90||March 1993||February 1993||60||£2.50||Linda Barker|
|91||April 1993||March 1993||68||£2.95||Tim Norris|
|92||May 1993||April 1993||60||£2.95||Tim Norris|
|93||June 1993||May 1993||60||£2.95||Tim Norris|
|94||July 1993||June 1993||60||£2.95||Tim Norris|
|95||August 1993||July 1993||60||£2.95||Tim Norris|
|96||September 1993||August 1993||60||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|97||October 1993||September 1993||60||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|98||November 1993||October 1993||60||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|99||December 1993||November 1993||60||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|100||January 1994||December 1993||60||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|101||February 1994||January 1994||60||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|102||March 1994||February 1994||60||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|103||April 1994||March 1994||52||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|104||May 1994||April 1994||52||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|105||June 1994||May 1994||52||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|106||July 1994||June 1994||36||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|107||August 1994||July 1994||36||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|108||September 1994||August 1994||36||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|109||October 1994||September 1994||36||£2.95||Dave Golder|
|110||November 1994||October 1994||24||£2.95||Tim Norris|
|111||December 1994||November 1994||24||£2.95||Karen Levell|
|112||January 1995||December 1994||24||£2.95||Karen Levell|
|113||February 1995||January 1995||24||£2.95||Karen Levell|
|114||March 1995||February 1995||24||£2.95||Karen Levell|
|115||April 1995||March 1995||24||£2.99||Karen Levell|
|116||May 1995||April 1995||24||£2.99||Karen Levell|
|117||June 1995||May 1995||24||£3.25||Karen Levell|