C64 Mini – Hey man it’s retro gaming (review)

Prepare for another wave of nostalgic gaming. The Retro Games company has created a Commodore C64 mini right down to a faux original keyboard and joystick.

Despite the lack of the word “Commodore” anywhere, the C64 mini is a licensed product developed by Retro Games Ltd. It is distributed by Koch Media and Five Star Games. The only problem is that 98% of kids won’t understand what retro gaming is.

What is the C64 mini?

The C64 Mini console (website here) is half the size of the original C64. In all respects, it is a fully functioning home computer (80s technology of course).

c64 minic64 miniIt connects directly to your television via HDMI. Power is via a micro-USB port (charger not supplied). It has two USB ports for a joystick (supplied) and a keyboard (not supplied).

The keyboard on top of the C64 mini is just for show. You can use its virtual on-screen keyboard, but it is quite time-consuming. A full-sized version with a working keyboard is coming later this year.

And when we say fully functional we mean you can run C64 programs on it (anyone still have a cassette adapter?) and it comes with many of the original games.

Who is it for?

Not me as a twenty-something. I am a digital native and expect high tech, VR/AR, amazing Dolby Atmos sound and high-level games strategy.

A forty-something responded. “For me playing California Games, Boulder Dash and Pitfall 2 transported me instantly back to 11 years old. Thankfully without the 10-minute wait and the struggle to see the mono screen due to the 720p, 4:3 ratio graphics.”.

In reality, it is for old farts, sorry Baby Boomers with more dollars than sense perhaps. Retro gaming has a place for those long on memory.

So, if you like the Beach Boys and think Blue’s Brothers are cool then hey, who am I to argue? Buy it!

Specifications – C64 Mini

  • 1 x HDMI 720p, 4:3 ratio output (NTSC and PAL) – will connect to an LCD monitor as well
  • 2 x USB 2.0 ports for keyboard and joystick
  • Runs C64 BASIC
  • Software updates via USB
  • 64 preloaded licenced games and save Game function (more games will be available for purchase)
  • USB power lead (no USB charger)

c64 mini

64 included Games

AlleykatAnarchyThe Arc of Yesod
ArmalyteAvengerBattle Valley
BounderCalifornia GamesChip’s Challenge
ConfuzionCosmic CausewayCreatures
Cyberdyne WarriorCybernoidCybernoid II
DeflektorEveryone’s a WallyFirelord
Gribbly’s Day OutHawkeyeHeartland
HerobotixHighway EncounterHunter’s Moon
HysteriaImpossible MissionImpossible Mission II
Insects in SpaceMega-ApocalypseMission A.D.
Monty MoleMonty on the RunNebulus
NetherworldNobby the AardvarkNodes of Yesod
ParadroidPitstop IIRanarama
Robin of the WoodRubiconSkate Crazy
Skool DazeSlayerSnare
SpeedballSpeedball 2Spin Dizzy
Star PawsSteelStormlord
Street Sports BaseballSummer Games IISuper Cycle
Temple of Apshai TrilogyThing on a SpringThing Bounces Back
TrailblazerUchi MataUridium
Who Dares Wins IIWinter GamesWorld Games
Zynaps

It is a modern take on an 80s computer – what could go wrong?

Electronics wise it is likely a Raspberry Pi computer running a C64 emulator wrapped in a dun brown C64 lookalike box. It looks authentic if you are into that.

c64 miniBut if it is a modern take why does the joystick still feel like it was created back in the 80s? It is stiff and unresponsive in comparison to modern joysticks. If you do push past this make sure you play on a flat surface to get the most out of what you have.

C64 miniSure the joystick is rugged enough to withstand the games of the era. The 1.5m controller cable is long enough. But the joystick is not enough precision along the diagonal axis. Apparently, you can use other USB joysticks – not tested.

You can also use an externally powered USB hub to support more USB ports.  That could be handy as it currently reboots if you remove the joystick to insert a USB (a firmware update is coming).

It also hangs. Not frequently but enough to be a nuisance. Fortunately, it can save play four times per title. Then you hit the pop-up menu to reload it. It is a feature you will use often.

Fortunately, the support for ROMs and firmware upgrades gives the system an edge over other retro systems. That is as long as Retro Games does not abandon it. And it appears not.  Retro Games is committed with firmware updates addressing early criticisms.

Version 1.0.6 – Changes

  • Maps additional functions to joystick buttons for some games
  • Makes minor changes to descriptions for some games
  • Fixes an occasional scenario where an additional USB joystick is not detected until a restart
  • Fixes an intermittent audio click when opening the THEC64 Mini’s MENU in-game

Version 1.0.7 – Planned Changes:

  • Choose from a selection of disks on USB
  • Allow multi-disk files/games to be accessed
  • Other update features to be confirmed ASAP!

Many of my favourite games (no I was not born in the 80s) such as Spy vs Spy were missing!

There is no real games documentation. There is a steep learning curve for most games although YouTube has a lot of tutorials. And that brings me to 80s games. There really are no standards and no accepted way to do things as we have in modern games.

The included games are enjoyable, but you want more. Luckily you can load more games, but it is not that simple.

You can only load one game at a time, and you have to do it in BASIC. It requires a USB (FAT32), a .D64 rom file that you can load on, and then some coding with the pre-installed BASIC program to launch your game.

Realty – you can’t just load up a USB with a stack of game files and use it. Well not yet anyway.

Price

What price will you pay for a retro games console? How about $149.95 from retailers such as EB Games.

GadgetGamer’s Take – maybe leave the C64 to your memories

I am a Millennial. The C64 was old before I was born. So to me, Frogger et al. have long been replaced by Halo etc.

That is not to say there is a certain nostalgia, and old farts will cry tears of joy (and probably have a C64 cassette loader somewhere).

If the Commodore 64 was your favourite console, then you would be crazy not to purchase this mini.

But sometimes it is better to just leave memories of your gaming enjoyment in the past. This is still great for the right person.

Pro

  • Great idea
  • Well executed
  • Good build
  • A retro games console for the ‘uninitiated.’
  • Games selection is OK, not great
  • Quick, almost instant turn on to play

Con

  • Pity the joystick is so true to 80’s life
  • hard to add games and fanatics will want to do so

Ratings

It is not fair to rate it as anything other than an 80s retro games console. Comparisons with more modern technology would be odourious.

  • Overall: 4.6 out of 5
  • Features: 5 out of 5 – meet or exceed marketing statements
  • Value for money: 4 out of 5 – no AC adaptor supplied
  • Performance: 3.5 out of 5 – Joystick is not as good as it could be
  • Ease of Use: 5 out of 5 – Very easy to set up.
  • Design: 5 out of 5 – Very well made and follows C64 design cues

2 Comments

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  1. Brett Karow
    May 18, 05:21 Brett Karow

    Download Link http://www.indiedb.com/members/n-games-dev/downloads/nexus-ball-windows-version A 3d action puzzle game where you have to guide a ball through a series of challenging environments Nexus Ball is a challenging action puzzle title where you have to collect all the items spread around each level by carefully controlling the ball. The game comes packed with 32 levels, each with lots of obstacles and traps that will send you flying through space in an instant. Will you manage to collect all the items and complete all levels? Give it a try!

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  2. Lucy
    May 19, 14:39 Lucy

    I’m 48 and I never liked the C64, bit that doesn’t mean some smarmy Millennial should have the right to sling off at us over and over for what was pioneering tech in its day. We were the TRS80 generation. We didn’t need to be spoon fed or pandered to with colourful graphics and 3D whatnot. We were raised with imagination – which is more than I can say for the callow youth whose imagination only extends to calling older people “old-farts”.

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