Retro gaming has always had a soft spot in the heart of us gamers that remember the good old days of getting up on a Saturday early to watch some morning cartoons, while eating our breakfast and then jumping on to our gaming systems. What we had back in those days was Atari’s, Spectrum PCs, Commodore 64s and more. At the time, these gaming machines was the be all and end all of gaming for us. Today, after so many console releases, so many amazing and ever-expanding titles that get released each year. There are some of us that love to delve back into the Retro-gaming world and get a bit nostalgic every once and while.
So, when I got the call (or email to be more precise), I jumped at the chance to review the C64 Mini. When I first heard about the C64 Mini getting released, I was flooded back with memories of playing Bubble Bobble, California Games, Pitstop II, and Gauntlet to name just a few. While only 2 of the games I mentioned here are on the C64 Mini, more games can be added (more on that later). You can check out the full list in the link below.
Full Game List: https://thec64.com/games/
The C64 Mini comes in a cool blue box, once you have opened the outer sleeve, and once opened you first notice the retro joystick and mini keyboard staring up at you. My first thoughts where that it was smaller than I first thought! The size of the actual console/mini PC is about the same size as your standard tablet you have in your home. Inside the box you get a HDMI cable, a micro USB (which is how you power the C64 Mini) and a manual. The only thing that it didn’t come with was a manual on how to play the games, which for obvious reasons, they couldn’t include all 64 game manuals. What would have been a good idea if there was an option in menu of each game. Just a quick tutorial or guide to show you how each game is played. It’s a small issue, but probably would have been a little helpful.
The setting up of the C64 Mini is straight forward enough, with all the cables you’ll need in the box. All you need is to plug the micros USB into your C64 Mini and plug the USB cable into your PC/Laptop, games console or TV to power it. If have a plug that accepts USB connections like the new mobile phone chargers have, you can plug it into the charger and us a plug socket. I thought this was a clever way of having different options to power the system. There are 2 USB connectors on the side of the C64 Mini that you plug the joystick into. The second port can be used for an additional joystick which can be picked up at stores like Game, Gamestop, Argos, Smyths or even purchased online. Lastly, the HDMI will just plug straight into your TV or PC monitor.
Once you have booted (power button is on the right side of your system) up the C64 Mini, you get a blue backdrop screen with all the 64 games in front of you. As you scroll from left to right or vice versa, you get a mini description about the game, who it was developed by and what year it came out in, which is a nice touch. You will also notice that there are 3 options below your list of games. These are your setting options for display, language and system settings. The display options give you like European 4:3, North American 4:3 CRT and Pixel Perfect. The language option is basically just that, you can choose your chosen language for your menus and games. The settings are the overall settings of the C64 Mini, like your virtual keyboard setup, factory reset etc… Its nice to know that you can choose the settings you want, but if you are like me, you will just leave the settings as they are and jump into playing those games.
The games themselves play almost as you remember them, if you can remember that far back ? They are all represented in 720p HD and are pixel perfect to their counterparts. Each game also has its own save/load feature and can be accessed via the small red buttons below your joystick. The joystick is retro styled and has to large red buttons that act as interact/action buttons in your chosen game. It also as to triangular buttons on top and 4 red circle buttons at the bottom. The four buttons at the bottom act as function buttons. They can choose whether to turn music on or off in your hub/home screen. They can also be used to bring up a pop-up menu, so you can save your chosen game or bring up a virtual keyboard.
The virtual keyboard is controlled by your joystick and can be used to enter in your name for your player or for the high score leaderboard. If you are not fond of using the virtual keyboard, you can add a USB keyboard while on the home screen. All you need to do is specify your keyboard layout from the selection given.
Like I mentioned earlier, you can add more games (legally obtained C64 programs, including games, demos, utilities and so on) on to the C64 Mini by plugging in a USB memory stick. There is a bit of setup to getting everything ready, so I’ve listed everything you need to do down below:
First step: Preparation
1. You need a USB memory stick (maximum size of 64Gb) which must be formatted using FAT32
2. Copy the d64 disk file that contains the program you want to load onto the root of the USB memory stick
3. Rename your disk file on the memory stick to THEC64-drive8.d64
4. You are now ready to load your program on THEC64 Mini.
Second step: Loading your Program
1. Make sure you’re at the Home screen then insert your USB stick into THEC64 Mini
2. Launch BASIC from the Home screen
3. Type the following two commands exactly as shown here (Don’t forget to press RETURN after typing each command):
4. Identify the name of the program you want to run from the list displayed
5. Type the following command, replacing NAME with the name of the program from step 4:
6. Some programs will load and start automatically. For others, you may need to type the following command afterwards:
Now you can play those games you always wanted!
I know this may seem a handful, but the developers are currently working on a powerful program loader for a future firmware update. If you would rather not try the above method, you can wait until the next update is available for the C64 Mini to start adding in your games.
Overall during my game time on the C64 Mini, I had a blast playing some of these gems again. My only issue now is that I may need to get another TV in the house. This is due to my daughter who just loves playing these granddad games, as she calls them.
Retro gaming has always been a part of gaming and everyone at one time or another will delve into it. I feel the C64 Mini is the perfect start to your Retro experience that should not be missed. While it’s not perfect, like no in-game manual or instructions and there are a few games missing (due to licencing issues), you can’t deny what the C64 is offering. I understand it may not be to everyone’s liking though. For gamers who are 35+ will definitely get a kick out of it and what better way to reminisce about your younger gaming years!
GoG Rating: 8.5/10