Ahhh the 80’s…. the glitz the glamour (the miners strike, the powercuts..) We all put our tinted specs on remembering our childhood in that decade, not helped nowadays by every corner of the internet ignoring that the UK had a computing scene and not just blooming Atari’s Nintendo’s and Sega’s.
You see, when it comes to celebrating retro video games the UK often has to put up with other people’s nostalgia especially when every second Youtube video tells you the US version of events. If a game or format wasn’t popular in America or Japan then it doesn’t tend to get another chance (or didn’t exist). How lucky we are that the Sinclair Spectrum range was so influential in the 80s that it has had multiple versions released over the years (and one that hasn’t.. but I’ve been told commenting on that one is a bit of a no no.. think I’ll save that for a separate commentary).
Commodore 64 users have never been so lucky. Although Commodore were an American company they found their greatest success by far in Europe, with the 8-bit Commodore 64 and the 16-bit Commodore Amiga range. These were home computers, that could do everything from run apps like Deluxe Paint to teach you how to program and create reducing the barriers previous machines had, however in practice their primary use was for games.
Unlike the Spectrum the C64 was relatively popular in the US, so while it’s generally agreed that the Spectrum had by far the better catalogue of exclusives the C64 just had an international array developers (and excellent sound).
Taking influence from Nintendo’s Classic Mini NES and Classic Mini SNES, and correcting the mistakes of the Sinclair Vega by reducing the clutter of games, the team have created a symbolic mini device which accurately depicts the computer but with HDMI output for modern TVs . The keys are for show, obviously, it would be sensible typing on a keyboard suited to a borrower, and there’s no official logos, which may suggest Retro Games Ltd avoided paying additional licencing charges to replicate something purely aesthetic which looking at the new logo was a right choice in my opinion.
Now the interface.. oh you can tell someone loved their Nes and Snes mini classics over the last two Christmas’s, and have emulated the simple menu system with a logical approach creating a simple carousel of games to pick from and the ability to save your position in any game up to four times. There’s also some welcome filtering options to allow your state-of-the-art 4K TV to work like a creaky old 4:3 CRT display, and a glorious chiptune menu soundtrack. As a pro the C64 easily had the best sound chip of the generation, however the downside is this does start to irritate after a extended length of time sitting on the menu screens.
Games do load instantly and emulate the disc system well, but a lot of the classics I was expecting would be surefire inclusions are missing (Wizball, Elite, Barbarian, Spy Vs Spy, but that shouldn’t detract that in their place are some true gems.
One key difference over the previous classics is the C64 Mini is capable of running additional can also run homebrew to allow you to add more games, although the process isn’t as straightforward for a novice but following the guides through the official forums can be done without too much stress. Emulation cannot be faulted in every game tested so far which is a credit to the programmers involved. However one minor thing that I would’ve preferred is a copy of the games manuals to be included in the box. Although these are all on the website (in stunning detail), it would have been lovely to have had paper copies of these close to hand for a quick read, and could have made for a nice booklet too!
My only gripe with the system comes from the Competition Pro like controller, yes, additional buttons have been added which are a great touch for those games which require them, but the lack of microswitches just made it feel… off somehow. May be just me and I’m sure new users won’t see the issue, but the old guard like me having been round all 3 systems tend to spot something that could hamper my track and field scores, or give me a headache on precise platforming like Monty on the run.
2x USBs are included on the side, however if you do go to full keyboard mode with this you may find yourself in need of a USB hub (recommended) to keep everything plugged in from Keyboard, Joystick, USB storage device, etc. and the whole system is powered via miniUSB.
Retro Games Ltd (not to be confused with Retro Computers Ltd) have committed to regular updates of the firmware which at time of writing is well documented and promoted via social media and via site in terms of release dates and content (I cannot fault them for this level of communication) and hopefully given the levels of sales currently happening I’m hoping they are going to revisit the 16bit era with the same level of care.
Verdict: A blast from the past – Recommended!
Full list of games included:
The Arc Of Yesod
Armalyte: Competition Edition
Summer Games II
Cosmic Causeway: Trailblazer II
Cybernoid II: The Revenge
Cybernoid: The Fighting Machine
Everyone’s a Wally
Gribbly’s Day Out
Street Sports Baseball
Temple of Apshai Trilogy
Thing Bounces Back
Thing on a Spring
Impossible Mission II
Insects In Space
Speedball II: Brutal Deluxe
Monty on the Run
Nobby the Aardvark
Nodes Of Yesod
Robin of the Wood
Who Dares Wins II