The C64 Mini

 

So anyone old enough to remember the days of playing games stored on a cassette will probably be quite interested in this plug and play version of an old classic games console. Gaming, where actual skill is what won you the game and if you died you really did just die, without being spawned back in with all your gear. THOSE were the real days of gaming .

Well now you can relive those days, and teach the younger generations the 64kb power of 8-bit gaming.

The original Commodore 64 was a Home computer introduced in 1982, and got its name from the 64 kilobytes of RAM it contained. It also had superior graphics and sound compared with other products available at the time. For the years 1983-1986  the C64 outsold IBM , Apple and Atari home computers, selling around 2 million units each year in the US alone. The C64 was sold in regular shops, and this has been heralded as the reason it was so popular. Other home computers were sold exclusively in computing and specialty hobby stores, which felt inaccessible to people who were unsure of the new technology.

 

 

 

So what exactly is the C64 Mini? It is a Re-make of this iconic 1980s computer, with the added benefit of being plug and play. This means that you can plug it directly into a modern television via the supplied HDMI cable, and it will play at 720p.

So what do you get in the box?

  • THE C64 Mini
  • Joystick
  • HDMI cable
  • Manual
  • USB power lead *
    * Packaging does not include AC Adapter

The keyboard is a half scale, non functioning keyboard, used simply to house the components and to replicate the original design of the Commodore 64. However, a USB keyboard can be plugged into the system and used to type in the BASIC commands or to program new games. (BASIC stands for “Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code” and was a programming language used by the C64). A USB keyboard should work exactly as it is intended to, however there are a few C64 specific keys which are used for the system, such as “RUN STOP” and “RESTORE”, but the C64 Mini website will give you more information here regarding keyboards. This said, there is an on-board “virtual keyboard” but this was quite tedious to use. USB keyboards reportedly work well with this console, so adding one, rather than using the on-board keyboard should not be an issue.

The console includes an on/off button on the side, next to 2 joystick USB inputs. Using a USB keyboard would make using 2 controllers impossible with this console. Although some people have reported using a 4 hub USB connector with success to increase the number of available USB ports. I did not try this so cannot comment with confidence.

The C64 mini also supports firmware updates by USB flash drive. Current firmware updates can be found here on their website, with the first update for version 1.0.6 due on 5th April 2018, soon after the release of the C64 Mini.

According to the C64 Mini website, future updates are as follows:

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

Coming Soon!

Firmware upgrade version 1.0.7 will be available  ASAP after version 1.0.6

Version 1.0.7 – Planned Changes:

– Choose from a selection of disks on USB
– Allow multi-disk files/games to be accessed

 

A red indicator light to the top right will show the power as on or off.

The back of the console has the HDMI and power lead connections, and there are air vents located around the unit, including on the base.

 

The Console is approximately 20cm in length, which is half of the size of the original Commodore 64 which was 40cms.

 

The next most important item in the box is the joystick. Obviously this is the item you will use to actually play the game, so it is important that it works well so that the game will respond well.

This is just not the case with this joystick, and for me it is the biggest disappointment of this whole system.

Even though a lot of care has been taken to produce a great replica of the original Commodore 64 joystick, that it seems is where the care ended. The result is a unresponsive and frustratingly clumsy controller which feels spongy and without real direction, especially when engaging the diagonal movements.

The movement of the stick is clunky at best and it is difficult to tell exactly where the character you are playing will end up. There is a distinct lack of satisfying clicks, which reassures you (or at least it used to….back when) that the controller movements are actually being recognised. There is a fairly generous 1.5 m cable, which is sadly the best feature of this controller.

 

One positive is that with USB inputs, you could replace the inadequate joystick with a USB controller of your choice. This is discussed on the C64 mini website and some instructions are given as to how to use a different controller. However, they do mention that not all controllers will work, and that the C64 expects a controller to have at least 8 buttons. The answers to this, and other questions can be found in the FAQs section on the website. But really, for the price point I personally think that a really well designed, and working joystick is not particularly much to ask.

 

But all that aside, and knowing that you CAN change the controller for a better one, this still remains a fantastic way for people who do not have an original Commodore 64 to enjoy the games from that era. And this console comes loaded with 64 games, which were included as they were ranked at 90% favourites for their time. There was also care taken to include games from different genres, with shooters, sports, puzzlers and platform. 64 games is a really generous amount, and reality is you are never going to please everyone. Some people will have all their favourites, others will not. I personally thought the doubling up of some games such as Impossible Mission and Impossible Mission II was not really necessary. I would have preferred they lose one of those and include a different game such as Spy vs Spy. But all of that is quite obsolete, as you can add any games you wish to this console via USB flash drive, without voiding any warranty. This is not as easy as just loading the files, plugging in and playing, but it is possible. check the website here for more info on this.

This is the list of games available on the C64 Mini as it is on release.

 

 

24 of the included games can be played as 2 player, while the other 40 are single player only games.

On loading up the C64 Mini and getting into a game I was increasingly frustrated by the lack of direction on how to play the game, as there is no in-console instructions. I have since learnt that there IS a full list of every games full instructions on the C64 mini website here. This would have been invaluable information BEFORE trying to play! so keep this link handy when you boot up for the first time, you are going to need it! (you simply click on the link, then click on the game you want to play to get the full instructions).

The games truly did wash over you with nostalgia,  if you were a kid of this generation that is. I am not sure kids today would find it all that great. They have grown up with HD graphics the likes of which we could never imagine, but if the following images invoke any sort of twang of joy, then this may be a console for you!

 

 

PROS:

The ability to add new games

USB connections to add keyboards or new controlers

CUTE design!

Great range of both single/two player games

Plug and Play

 

CONS:

That joystick!

 

At a recommended retail price of $149 AUD (correct at time of publishing) this is not a cheap console.

Would I recommend this product? In a word NO.

I love the nostalgia. I love the design. But those two things for me are not enough to warrant me spending nearly $150 for something which in my opinion has a huge flaw in the design, which is the controller.