The world’s best selling home computer of all time is back tomorrow (Thursday March 29) when The Commodore 64 is reborn as THEC64 Mini ... and it is literally dripping with nostalgia.
It follows the hugely successful re-release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, SNES and Megadrive in mini form with developers seemingly running out of original ideas for modern video games, Virtual Reality a really slow burner and bored gamers harking back to a simpler time.
But I’ll kick off by telling you straight, I’m in love, there I’ve said it... and when you love something you tend to forgive imperfections.
I mean what is not to love about THEC64 Mini? It seems like only yesterday I was playing on my C64 with my friends revelling in the amazing graphics, colour and sounds.
Fast forward 35 years and here I am again taking possibly the best trip down memory lane of a lifetime. There are one or two disappointments along the way but I will address them by breaking the review up into sections.
One of my main disappointments is that the plastic keyboard is only for show. I believe people would happily pay more had the keyboard also doubled as a genuine keyboard for use on computers and TVs.Damien Lucas, gaming columnist
Let’s start with the actual unit itself which is a 50% scale replica of the original. It looks super cool and sat neatly on top of my PlayStation 4. For those who like all their gadgets matching in colour then this will stick out like a sore thumb - well given the colour it is more like an old school plaster on a sore thumb - but that’s your problem, get over it because it is worth it.
Despite being tiny it is the first thing people ask about when they enter the room. One of my main disappointments is that the plastic keyboard is only for show. I believe people would happily pay more had the keyboard also doubled as a genuine keyboard for use on computers and TVs.
The classic joystick is TheC64 Mini’s crowning achievement, though. A worthy and sturdy remake which will bring the memories flooding back.
THEC64 supports HDMI at 720p and looks great on modern TVs with the charming graphics holding up really well as a result in full width with CRT filter and US/Europe display mode options.
There are two USB ports so you can plug in a USB keyboard and use as a fully functional home computer with C64 BASIC, or add a second joystick for two-player fun.
Crucially this means you can also download software updates through a USB flash drive.
Power comes from a USB power lead but no plug is provided so you must use one of your own - I made do with a spare phone charger plug but again if you like all your entertainment setup matching you will need to find a black plug.
After 30 odd years playing with control pads - apart from a few years inbetween playing with Street Fighter with an arcade stick - going back to using a joystick was very alien and not without its challenges. I struggled for a good hour to get the knack of it again. In turn that affected my enjoyment of some of the games. But my message would be to persevere with it and it will eventually come.
Another problem I had was remembering the controls and given the nature of many of the games there is a steep learning and difficulty curve so you may find yourself dying or failing a lot and having to reload and retry.
It’s annoying and does test your patience through all the fuzzy nostalgic vibes but as I say it is all about getting used to things again and it does pay off. Thankfully the inclusion of a save game function is a game-saving, game changer for THEC64 Mini... what we’d have given for that back in the 1980s!
There are 64 games - see what they did there - pre-loaded onto THEC64 Mini but as I have mentioned you can add your own games and files by following detailed step-by-step instructions on the www.c64.com website.
Retro games and Koch Media came together to bring the C64 kicking and screaming into the 21st century and claimed the pre-loaded selection are ‘the best 64 retro games’.
I would argue there are some glaring omissions but that has more to do with rights issues than anything else. The first question everyone asks me when I talk about THEC64 Mini is ‘Has it got Daley Thompson’s Decathlon?’... and the disappointment in my voice is matched only by the look on their face when I tell them it has not.
It does boast classics such as Boulder Dash, California Games, Deflektor, Hunter’s Moon, Mission Impossible (1 and 2), Nobby the Aardvark, Speedball (1 and 2) and Things on a Spring to name but a few. And it’s a whole lot more than you get with any of the Nintendo and Sega offerings.
What people must remember, though, is that Retro Games would have wanted to include a variety of genres to please all tastes and that would have been a difficult balancing act.
Many of the games were rated at over 90% in reviews back in the day so you really are playing games which formed the pillars of console gaming as we know it.
Like me, you will probably rediscover your undying love for a handful of games and give them a quick blast here and there while also showing the machine off to everyone and anyone who will listen.
It’s comfortably the coolest thing in my house - and my fridge freezer is amazing - and I think loading on games and files will give it even more longevity.
THEC64 Mini will set you back £69.99 - £64.99 at Game - but as I said before I honestly believe people would have shelled out even more had the keyboard been functional. I feel the price is fair and if you can persevere over the bumps in the road it is a must-have for any serious gamer, particularly those who grew up in the 80s and 90s where the nostalgic element weighs heavy too.
THEC64 Mini is billed as ‘a timeless classic being given a new lease of life’ and that sales pitch is actually pretty much spot on.
It’s not perfect but this is a loveable triumph for video games in 2018. Gaming is meant to be fun and THEC64 Mini is the embodiment of that.