The C64 Review
Reviewed on Retro
Retro gaming comes in a variety of flavours - emulation is the cheap and legally dubious first port of call for many whereas for console gamers retro gaming is achieved via either backwards compatibility or through the range of mini consoles that have started appearing over the last few years.
This brilliant update of the Commodore 64 on the other hand finds a great middle ground - it replicates the full experience of the old platform but brings with it support for modern televisions and provides access to games other than those that are built in via USB.
We received the full retail packaged version of TheC64 - and it certainly looks the part with a solid, well put together box that espouses the highlights of the system. Within we have the retro computer itself, a brief instruction booklet, the mini USB power adapter, an HDMI cable and a suitable retro Competition Pro style joystick. This is a USB stick so should be usable on other retro systems without too many issues.
The joystick features more buttons than you'd have had back in the 8-bit days - the two fire buttons are accompanied by four small round buttons on the back of the stick and two small triangular buttons on the raised stick mount that map to X and Y. These aren't used in games but are used for accessing and selecting various options on the console - although with the full keyboard available these aren't entirely necessary.
TheC64 itself is much lighter than the original - it's clear that the unit itself has only a tiny motherboard and the size is entirely down to the requirement to replicate the full original keyboard. That makes it easy to move around and the keyboard itself feels authentic with nicely responsive, chunky keys. Alongside the power and HDMI ports are four USB ports to allow for multiple controllers and USB storage for additional games. Three of the ports are to the side while one is at the back.
On booting you have the option of choosing Classic or Carousel mode - classic mode drops you back into the standard Commodore 64 BASIC screen whereas the other option gives you a nice interface through which to scroll through and select on of the 64 games included on the device as standard. There is an impressive support section on the Retro Games website that offers you manuals and instructions on how to make full use of TheC64 in classic mode.
The selection of games is decent - with plenty you'll recognise. Games like Impossible Mission and Boulder Dash play exactly as you remember an d there are a variety of display options to make games as authentic as possible - including introducing CRT style lines. Speedball II in particular feels as fresh now as it did back when it was released and it's impressive to be reminded of games such as the aforementioned Impossible Mission that included actual speech.
We've included the full list of games available below.
The only real fly in the ointment is the joystick is far, far too firm with very stiff action. It's not very comfortable to use and despite several hours of retro gaming it hasn't eased up at all - it doesn't have that resistive, yet responsive, feel that our original Zip Stick has. The stick also doesn't include suction pads to help fix it to a surface - this might have been something that made the stiffer stick easier to handle but playing on a surface frequently sees the stick lift away as you push hard in the direction you want to go. Also the positioning of the triangular buttons make them far too easy to knock accidentally.
Despite this, TheC64 is a brilliant retro remake - it features lots of games and supports more via USB. It also offers the full functionality of the original computer when in classic mode and that sets it apart from the console remakes from much bigger manufacturers.
The next year will see the release of the ZX Spectrum Next - an updated classic that actually improves upon the original with better graphics and sound options. It would be interested to see something like this done with the Commodore 64 but for now TheC64 is the perfect opportunity to revisit your childhood.
- An accurate reproduction of a full-sized C64
- You can code full C64 BASIC programs
- Supports downloaded C64 games via USB stick
- Sharp, clear picture
- The joystick is far too stiff
- The joystick could do with suction cups underneath
- Some of the methods of selecting options can be a little confusing
64 GAMES INCLUDED
Alleykat, Anarchy, Attack of the Mutant Camels, Avenger, Battle Valley, Bear Bovver, Boulder Dash, Bounder, California Games, Chips Challenge, Confuzion, Cosmic Causeway, Cyberdyne Warrior, Cybernoid II, Deflektor, Destroyer, Everyone’s a Wally, Firelord, Galencia, Gateway to Apshai, Gribbly’s Day Out, Gridrunner (VIC 20), Heartland, Herobotix, Highway Encounter, Hover Bovver, Impossible Mission, Impossible Mission II, IO, Iridis Alpha, Jumpman, Mega Apocalypse, Mission AD, Monty Mole, Monty on the Run, Nebulus, Netherworld, Nodes of Yesod, Paradroid, Pitstop II, Planet of Death, Psychedelia (VIC 20), Ranarama, Robin of the Wood, Silicon Warrior, Skate Crazy, Speedball 2, Spindizzy, Steel, Street Sports Baseball, Street Sports Basketball, Summer Games II (includes Summer Games events), Super Cycle, Sword of Fargoal, Temple of Apshai Trilogy, The Arc of Yesod, Thing Bounces Back, Thing on a Spring, Trailblazer, Uridium, Who Dares Wins II, Winter Games, World Games, Zynaps