A long time ago, I wrote about some of the fabulous cover artworks that adorned the football games of the Commodore 64. It was a simpler, more innocent time, when games were released without a huge advertising team analysing every aspect of a title's presentation to ensure maximum market penetration, and as a result the cover art was more.. amateurish. Hey, they were mostly budget releases and it costs money to hire artists. It's a time that I'm returning to today, albeit with an expanded focus, in order to bring you a bevy of beautiful artworks from Commodore 64 games of all sporting types. I'll apologise in advance for the size of some of these images. Funnily enough a lot of these masterpieces have never been scanned at size where you can really, you know, see them. I'm sure you'll understand why soon enough.
California Pro Golf
Let's start off with some artwork that's not terrible but which sums up a lot of these covers: relatively competent but just a little off. The only confusing part of it is that the title of the game is rendered as though it were a license plate, and while I'm sure there's a big crossover between people who play golf and people who drive cars - after all, how else are you going to transport that big bag of clubs? - it doesn't really scream "golf," does it? I bet that guy does, though. I bet when he wakes in the night, his sheets drenched with the sweat of a thousand soul-wracking nightmares, he screams "GOLF!" at the top of his lungs, over and over, until the nurses come in and sedate him. Well, you'd have psychological issues too if you'd ever been out in public with that haircut.
Sticking with the same sport, and already we have learned an interesting fact for this article - C-3PO is shit at golf. No, Threepio, painting yourself grey is not fooling anybody. Here, I changed you back to you original gold, not that it'll make you any better at golf.
Of course it won't, you can't even bend your arms properly. Just get back to your galaxy far, far away and return to your life of being the droid that no-one likes.
Tony La Russa's Ultimate Baseball
What makes a game of baseball "ultimate"? Is it the giant floating head that presumably belongs to Mr. La Russa himself? Is it having three runners charging forward in tight single file in an attempt to confuse the opposition? Is it the ghost of a spreadsheet, one of which haunts this very image? It could be any of these things, but I think that we can all agree the most likely answer is that baseball is just a game, and if we play the game while filled love love and brotherly togetherness then that will truly be the ultimate baseball.
See, these two guys have the right idea. They're not afraid to share their intimacy with everyone in the stadium, and we should applaud them for it.
Street Sports Soccer
I don't want to write about many football game covers today - like I said, I've done that before - but I couldn't pass this one up. Not after I spent ten minutes trying to replicate the cover star's running pose, which was more difficult that it looks but entirely as embarrassing as it sounds. It's such an awkward, ungainly way to hold your body that even the guy on the cover seems to be giving himself a thumbs-down.
Two things: firstly, the phrase "Mind Games" is not one that immediately springs to mind when I think of American Football, so it's a little odd seeing it featured on this cover. Secondly, why are these guys so shiny? That's probably why the blue team are doing such a bad job of stopping the guy in red, they spent too long buffing their equipment and now their arms are too tired to grab him for the tackle, or whatever tackling is called in American football. Body Interception? Slamcrunching? I'm sure it's something like that.
Too much negativity is bad for the soul, and I feel a little hypocritical for mocking this cover art when I write like an enthusiastic but ill-informed dope, so here's a cover that's not bad at all. I mean, it's clearly very much of its time, but the neon silhouette effect has held up much better than, say, the menacing visage of Tony La Russa. The only problem with it is that it leaves the sports involved far too open to interpretation. If you didn't know what happened at the Winter Games, the top-right silhouette might make you believe that Peter Pan is involved somehow, and the one below that makes promises about a competitive detonating-dynamite-with-a-plunger event that simply doesn't exist.
Epyx stuck with this style of cover for some of their other games, including the breakdancing simulator Breakdance. Breakdancing counts as a sport, right? If horse-dancing and throwing big plates around can get into the Olympics, then I feel justified in letting breakdancing into the sports club. Even if this particular breakdance is being performed by Rod (or possibly Todd) Flanders.
Another one I like is the cover for Activision's monster themed American football title Grave Yardage, which will come as no surprise to anyone who was around for the VGJunk Halloween season. I just love that big green lummox's face - he knew he was getting into the terrifying world of monster gridiron, but he never expected it to be quite this terrifying. Do you remember the mid-Eighties soft toy phenomenon My Pet Monster? Yeah, so does big green here, now that My Pet Monster is all grown up and has grabbed him from behind.
Graham Gooch's Match Cricket
"Hi, I'm English cricket legend Graham Gooch. A little know fact about me is that I didn't originally get into cricket because of my incredible playing skills but thanks to my bizarre ability to fire cricket balls out of my ears when I concentrate really hard."
Oh, and here's one just for the British readers: this picture makes Graham Gooch look like a lost sibling of the Chuckle Brothers. To me, to you, to Graham.
Hey look, Ice Hockey. I can tell it's ice hockey, what with all the ice and hockey sticks, although I was momentarily thrown by the appearance of what looks like a giant waffle leaping into the fray. This one's all about the human drama, specifically the drama that exists in the faces of those two players at the back.
The man on the left has come to deeply regret his choice of professional sport. He values his personal space, you see. Not like the bloke with the moustache.
Ocean had the Top Gun license for home computer games, so it's beyond me why this game isn't called Top Gun Totally Manly Volleyball Tournament when that's clearly where the inspiration came from. There's another layer to this testosterone-fuelled clash of machismo, though - the two main guys are having some kind of side competition to decide who can wear the most hideous shorts. There are no winners, only losers.
International 3D Tennis
"OH SWEET JESUS I'VE BROKEN MY ANKLE!"
Okay, I think this one might be my favourite of the lot. That proud, jutting head, the suit that looks as though it's made from vulcanised rubber, the frame of car headlights that surrounds the action - incredible, all of it incredible. The most incredible thing of all is that this skier seems to be wearing aviators outside his helmet. If the end of the world comes not through nuclear fire but the dawn of a new Ice Age, this is what the bands of roving post-apocalyptic thugs will look like.
Street Sports Baseball
I've saved the
Really, really ugly, although also strangely erotic. I think that's down to the batter's crop-top, mostly. The artist really captured the agony of defeat in the batter's face, his features contorted in a heartbroken grimace, his dreams of a life as a professional baseball player cruelly shattered as the ball flies past his desperate swing and into the catcher's mitt. Because this is street baseball and no-one can afford the proper equipment, the catcher has to use a large, mouldy sandwich he found in one of those bins as a glove. The winning team gets to eat the sandwich-glove. No wonder the batter looks so distraught at his poor form.
Horace Goes Skiing
No, I'm sorry, Horace. I've already finished the article. Get out of here, you headless weirdo.