Hello Retro Gamers!
In this C64 Mini review, I will discuss why this console has issues, but C64 fans will love it anyway.
As a child, I first experienced a gaming system when spending the night with my friend Luke who had an Amiga 500. I was in love, and in the intervening months, I drove my parents up a wall begging for that small white hunk of plastic.
When Christmas morning rolled around that year, I rushed to the tree with visions of Bubby and Bobby from Rainbow Islands dancing in my head. The large box had to be my Amiga. My heart sank upon opening, however: the box contained a Commodore 64 instead.
While disappointed at the time, I became eternally grateful that my Dad chose the Commodore 64 over the Amiga (that I purchased years later) that Christmas. While Bubby and Bobby were missing, there was so much more to explore, with literally thousands of games released for the platform in its lifetime. These games ran the gamut from terrible to amazing to just plain bizarre.
Over the years, I have met many gamers with a childhood experience similar to mine. After overcoming their initial disappointment, all developed a deep and abiding love for the Commodore 64 that is unrivaled when it comes to home computers/gaming consoles. As a devoted fan of the Commodore 64, I was ecstatic when Retro Gaming Ltd announced the release of this mini marvel. It is well worth its price tag.
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1. Beautiful remake of the original home computer.
2. ROMs to load faster and play reliably. Kid you not, no more naps while waiting for a game to load. 😀
3. There are supports for adding and loading your own ROMs.
4. The Mini C64 is just so small and lovely. 😀
1. The joystick is atrocious
2. The Mini C64 ships without an AC adaptor (I do not really get why).
What Makes It Different – Guess what? Yeah, that atrocious joystick
Actually, the C64 Mini is not all that different from so many of the other retro consoles that have been released recently. It runs Linux with an ARM processor and has a custom front end. It is true to the original Commodore 64, which was a beige box with a brown keyboard. In comparison, this is tiny. Oh, and the games look exactly the same (please see above image).
What is different is the joystick. Instead of two buttons, there are eight buttons that allow you to access the various functions exclusive to the Mini. When all is plugged in, you can satisfy your desire for nostalgia with its selection of games. You get 64 retro games for the price of admission.
A Blast From the Past – Nostalgia is here to stay
The unit looks exactly like the one I had as a kid, only much smaller. Just seeing it sitting in my living room makes me smile. An impressive amount of attention to detail went into this pint-sized replica. It is so perfect that it’s a little eerie to look at, as if my brain is unable to correlate the size with my memories.
While anyone familiar with the original C64 will be pleased with the replica, the same cannot be said for the joystick. I did not love the joystick redesign, but I did not hate it either. It just does not have the same wow factor that the console does.
Hitting You Right in the Feels – Kind of a bad taste in my mouth
Even though having a functional keyboard would have been silly, I was still disappointed that none of the keys worked. The keys are so tiny that you would either need to hire a baby to do the typing for you or use some kind of stick device to press the keys. You can always plug a keyboard through the USB ports on the side if you really need one. The Mini is well-built and sturdy, and won’t be falling apart any time soon, however.
The feel you get from the joystick is anything but pleasurable, however. While it offers buttons with a decent response, there is a limited amount of play in it, and it feels awfully squishy and generally unsatisfying. There is just no comfortable way to use it. Even with the inclusion of no-slip pads on the bottom, playing with the joystick on a table is my biggest gripe. The ratio of height to width is not enough to keep it from tipping over when in use on a table and it does not feel good in your hand either.
Even if you have large hands (like me), it feels unwieldy and made my hands cramp during longer play sessions. While I understand that they were trying to recreate the classic controller to stay with the theme, they could have done a much better job. The saving grace is that you can use other USB controllers with the C64 Mini.
I am not a fan of the above controllers when it comes to retro gaming, but I have to admit that the * iNNEXT is cheap and works great.
A Word About the Interface – pretty but not functional
All of the games are presented in a row at the bottom of your screen and are easily selectable with the push of a button. The light blue pallet is attractive and the interface looks great when displayed on my big TV, even though Retro Gaming Ltd created their own front end for the C64 Mini. It captures the feel of the original system and looks beautifully nostalgic.
I wish that there had been a few more options with the menu. Sometimes it can feel like you are never going to find any given game out of the collection of 64. A different layout of the games would come in handy. For example, displaying all the titles in a grid would make it much easier to find a game rather than scrolling through a list. A search option or filter would be handy too.
Games Galore – an 8-bit symphony
Retro gamers familiar with other Commodore emulators have long ago come to grips with slow loading times and unreliable ROMs. All of that is a thing of the past, however, as this console loads all the games smoothly and they run excellently. The development team at Commodore did a stellar job of optimizing the software that retains the retro experience while eliminating the vintage waiting game.
All the included titles have been lovingly and painstakingly recreated. Unfortunately, many of the original titles that were left out as well. The game catalog for the original C64 was so extensive that no two gamers would probably give you the same list of titles that they would have liked to see included with this console. Despite all the games that I have tried in my life, it is not even uncommon for me to meet a C64 gamer whose favorite game is one I have never even heard of. There was a whole host of publishers for the original game, and I suspect that licensing was a nightmare when it came time to re-release some of these games. It is clear that Retro Gaming Ltd developed a good relationship with Epyx as all of the most popular titles are represented.
That said, I had a blast reliving games like Winter Games, Summer Games 2, World Games and Creatures. The introductory music alone gave me goosebumps. I admit that there were many titles that I would have loved to see on this system (MicroProse Soccer and Turrican anyone?), but the selection offered is more than enough to keep any gamer busy. In addition to that, C64 Mini supports loading your own ROMs, so that means you can play almost any Commodore game your heart is longing for.
Final Impressions – You never forget your first gaming love
Regardless of a few shortcomings, this tiny love letter to the world of Commodore 64 was a joy to play. Even just viewing the console itself is a reminder of the thrill of sitting in front of the TV playing these games of my youth. I loved those classic games then, and I love them even more now.
Till next retro review!