The C64 Mini is to the Commodore 64 home computer what devices like the Atari Flashback is to the Atari 2600 – a collection of games in one unit which make it easy to plug and play. Developed by Retro Games Ltd, what you’ll get is a 50% scale replica of the original C64, is a fully functioning machine which connects straight to your TV via HDMI, and also has two USB ports, one apiece for the joystick and a keyboard.
I never did own a Commodore 64 back in the day as I had a ZX Spectrum. Yes, I could get into the debate about how the C64 had 64K but was left with 39K useable memory, while the ZX Spectrum 48K had 41K useable, by comparison, but those comparison debates are still being had today, such as – Is Brexit good or bad? Is Putin or Kim Jong-Un responsible for all the bad stuff in the world? Does Trump have bad hair? What’s the point of Boris Johnson? These are all debates I don’t have time to go into right now.
When it comes to the graphics and sound for these, I have no comparison to the original so I can only base things on how they look on this system. From seeing clips of a number of C64 titles over the years, these seem fairly representative of the originals, but experts in that field will know better than I. If I come across any game-breaking bugs, I’ll confirm below.
Yes, you can find emulators online and download lots of games in non-legitimate ways, but not too many people are comfortable with that as go to the wrong site and you could well get some malware that’s going to cost you a fortune in paracetamol, cool fans and red wine to take away the stress, so not only in appealing to the layman, this device also appeals to retro fans whether they owned a C64 or not.
Besides, even if you did spend all evening downloading all the emulators for every console and computers that’s gone by in the past, and all the games for them – as long as you had the storage space, then by the time you’ve finished… OOPS! It’s time for bed and you’ve got work in the morning, whereas with The C64 Mini, you can simply plug-and-play!
The joystick has a number of buttons, the top two allowing you to be ambidextrous, but they’re also the same as the two smaller ones just by the shaft of the stick. Of the four along the bottom, the one with three lines takes you back within menus (so, like a ‘B’ button on a joypad), or exiting back to the main game menu. Also, if allows you to save/load a game, and use a virtual keyboard, which is handy for Skool Daze. Easier, is to plug a USB keyboard in and type on that, and I wish I could also use that for a lot of the games, since the joystick is a bit of a dog to use at times and ends up with you crashing out on a game, or making a mis-step, that results in death. If I had another USB joystick of my own, I could use that, as sadly, a wireless USB joypad is no go, so my Logitech F710 isn’t picked up by it.
Any keyboard-playable games will use the original keys that came with the game at the time, but in this new machine, they should really be redefinable for each game.
I’ll be uploading footage of each and every game in this package, plus one for the menu music and one for C64 Basic.
I could’ve waited until I’d played every single one before posting this piece as it is, but there’s a LOT to get stuck into. I’ve never reviewed a package with so many games in one place and checked out every single one, and reality will get in the way as I go.
The 64 games are as follows:
- 1. Alleykat – a shoot-em-up which takes a little getting used to, as you move the joystick and it feels like it takes a split-second to register, but that could be because it’s new and I’m still getting a feel for it.
- 2. Anarchy – a fascinating game where you move round a screen, shooting particular blocks within a tight time limit. Given how well these levels are programmed, if you can complete any of them first time around, then good luck! Me
- 3. Armalyte: Competition Edition – a fantastic classic shooter, easy to control and shoot (so any fails are down to me!)
- 4. Avenger – run round the Pokemon-style* map, find the keys and treasure, kill lots of baddies with your shuriken – or with martial arts once you run out of those. (*okay, this came LONG before Pokemon, but you know what I mean. It’s a top-down map)
- 5. Battle Valley – This was one that didn’t quite bank my tank, as you’re a tank commander who has to get from A to B, but it wasn’t very easy to control, and I found myself accidentally turning round when I didn’t mean to, and then I couldn’t refuel at the ammo dump, and when it came to jumping a gap in a bridge… huh? I couldn’t even enter my name in the ‘honours table’ at the end. I’m meant
- 6. Boulder Dash – A game I remember on other platforms from back in the day, you have to tunnel through the earth to get the diamonds and avoid being crushed by rocks. Sounds easy, but then was fiendishly difficult at times, as just when you’re not looking, one gets you. However, the joystick does make this a bit harder by the fact that it’s not as responsive as it could be with this one, and I died, on occasion, because of it.
- 7. Bounder – Bounce a tennis ball through some incredibly tough mazes where almost any slight mis-step could be instant death, whether it’s falling to your doom, or something passing by, or a question mark that could give you extra jumps in the bonus round – or be a pair of teeth that bite you to death! This is one of Gremlin Graphics’ most fondly remembered games, from 1985, and deserves every praise it has ever had.
- 8. Calfornia Games – 6 sports in one game, the concept of which was a bargain back then, and there were many sports compilation-type titles in those days, the most famous being Daley Thompson’s Decathalon. However in this one, getting control of each event is usually something to be mastered, but the joystick makes it difficult to complete, hence why I was so bad at it!
(Well, some on there now. More coming soon)
- 9. Chip’s Challenge – Collect the chips on the floor while trying to negotiate the obstacles of fire, ice, and evil spiders, because spiders are ALWAYS evil.
- 10. Confuzion – A bizarre sliding block puzzle game where you have to try and guide the ‘spark’ towards the bomb. I was glad I could use the keyboard for this one as it tells you which keys to use, but it was still too much of a mindbender to get my head around.
- 11. Cosmic Causeway – As with Bounder, you have to bounce your balls aplenty with the tiles on the floor changing to all manner of elements, this time often sending you backwards or even reversing left from right. This one whizzes by so fast that it can be pot luck as to whether or not you survive.
- 12. Creatures – One of those classic platform gamers I would’ve spent all afternoon indulging upon on a Saturday afternoon on my ZX Spectrum, had this one been out (or Jet Set Willy and similar instead), where in time, you might beat it, but a couple of quick plays to test it out sees me only scratching the surface. Often, it’s best not to think too much about the path you’ll take, and just to go headlong into it…
- 13. Cyberdyne Warrior – Another tough platformer, this one only giving you one life with a health bar. Lose it all and it’s game over, literally. It’s fun and colourful, and the zero-gravity atmosphere means it’s forgiving with the poor joystick we have here, but you’re going to need a lot of patience to complete this one.
- 14. Cybernoid: The Fighting Machine – A great shoot-em-up from 1987 which I remember from the ZX Spectrum, but while it’s fun, it’s insanely difficult, and not helped greatly by this joystick. I’m also concerned that you seem to need to press ‘1’ to start the game, so the joystick alone won’t cut it. Hence, if you haven’t got a USB keyboard…
- 15. Cybernoid II: The Revenge – The 1988 sequel: More of the same, and just as forgiving as my ex-wife(!)
- 16. Deflektor – This is a game which will teach you more about angles than any maths class while in school. A bolt of energy shoots out and has to be directed towards the red target, destroying the grey bombs, whilst avoiding coming back on itself in some way (causing overload). It took me a while to get my head around this, and I found the keyboard controls better than the joystick, even though they’re not perfect. Since you can’t redefine them, you’re stuck with Z and X (which is okay for left/right) and ; and / (for up/down) which is counter-intuitive as the up button should be North East of the down on (like in EVERY game I ever played back in the day), but here, the up button is at North West, which isn’t easy for your fingers.
- 17. Everyone’s a Wally – A follow-up to 1984’s Pyjamara, which isn’t this collection, EAW starred you, as Wally Week, plus the rest of the family, attempting to complete a day’s worth a work, which revolved around jumping about, swapping the items in your inventory by walking over them, and to figure out what to do and where to go. I never quite got into this game on the ZX Spectrum as it required far more work than I had time for. Fans will love it, however.
Using a similar pallette to ths Speccy, this C64 version does, occasionally, have colour clash, which is a little odd, as everything is fine while Wally walks along. Maybe it was a fault in the game engine at the time.
- 18. Firelord – one of those games, similar to Sabre Wulf, where you’d walk about a map, collecting items and avoiding people who’ll only drain your energy (that last one, a metaphor for life, then). I wasn’t too much into these sorts of games, but big adventure fans will love it.
- 19. Gribbly’s Day Out – play as a frog who can hop about, shoot bubbles out of his mouth and also fly… just like real life.
- 20. Hawkeye – run-and-gun and collect puzzle pieces, but the biggest challenge in this is to do so whilst using the supplied joystick because, as you’ll see from the footage, it can’t help you manouvre correctly, so you only have 3 lives and you die quickly!
- 21. Heartland – Odin Computer Graphics’ 1986 follow-up to 1985’s Nodes of Yesod and The Arc of Yesod, and as you try to overthrow the ruthless tyrant Midan and his minions, by collecting and assembling the final six pages of a magical book, as well as destroying the six evil pages… you must hop about a la Everyone’s A Wally. This is my first time playing this particular game and it shows. It’s very unforgiving, in terms of how you only get one life, while various beings walking about will sap your energy each time you come into contact with him – a bit like certain individuals in life in general.
- 22. Herobotix – You are Herobot the droid, having to collect six parts of a large particle destroyer, while avoiding/killing the baddies, pressing switches and eventually getting to the main computer and escaping. However, I got stuck on one bit as I tried to solve some sort of riddle on one machine and it wouldn’t let me disconnect from it, so I quit the game and started again.
Oddly, when I first tried this with a PS4 controller (subsequent attempts saw the droid spin off all over place, so the PS4 is not recommended with this), there was a sound delay of 1-2 seconds. I thought I’d somehow switched to the audio on my PC as it plays back what my Elgato HD60 is ‘seeing’, since that shows up as 1-2 seconds delayed, but no, this was the game, itself! Stick with the C64 Mini joystick, even though you’d rather not.
- 23. Highway Encounter – God, I loved this game on the ZX Spectrum, with its Zaxxon-style appearance, but it’s ridiculously hard as you have to guide 4 Vorton droids along a 3D highway whilst trying to do away with the baddies in your path. It’d be easier if you could simply go in the direction in which you push your joystick, but you can’t. You rotate left/right and then accelerate/brake by pushing up/down. Requires the patience of a saint.
The graphics here at identical to the Speccy, given the lack of colour on the highway.
- 24. Hunter’s Moon – Spin round a lot, shooting the spinny-flowery things in order to progress to the next level, but more often than not… get your ass handed to you.
- 25. Hysteria – the only videogame ever where you have to collect both lemons and worms to select different weapons as you travel through time to destroy an evil entity. Or, more accurately, run and jump and try and kill stuff by seemingly shouting loudly, such is what emits from your character…. I really don’t know quite what that was about.
However, like a lot of games, you have a finite supply of energy and only one life. I lost mine faster than I lost my virginity. Great, colourful graphics, though.
- 26. Impossible Mission – Your mission, should you choose to accept… well, of course you do, since this is one of the best platformers of the ’80s and a great treat for one as early as 1983. Leap about over robots, go up and down lifts, search everything in sight for passwords to power down said robots, and make your way around the map. And die a lot. There seems to be infinite lives with this, hence why I stopped after a few minutes as I’m trying to get through 64 games!
- 27. Impossible Mission II – The 1988 sequel, and more of the same, but given that the original was excellent, then so is this. Enjoy.
- 28. IO – Shoot baddies. Avoid their bullets. Touch the smart bombs, when you see them, to get rid of everyone onscreen. Die a lot… and you only have three ships.
- 29. Jumpman – The pre-cursor to Donkey Kong, where Jumpman became Mario. Jump about, climb ladders and collect the dots, whilst a ladder moves about and both hinders and helps you. Plus, avoid the occasional stray bullet which can change direction and kill you… so, it’s a bit like Boyz N The Hood.
Note that when it comes to selecting an option and then the number of players, LEAVE WELL ALONE. I pressed Enter after the latter, and it kept taking me back to the options.
- 30. Mega Apocalypse – The story of my dating life… No, it’s like Space Invaders but where you’ve never felt more wanted, as you shoot all the baddies as quickly as possible because they’re drawn to you like gravity. You will die a LOT. Groovy music, though…
- 31. Mission A.D. – A very simple run-and-gun game, and an early one from Odin Computer Graphics. Going up and down lifts to get to floors, and then kill a specific number of a specific type of robot… except that I never seemed to be able to get to where they were, based on the map.
- 32. Wanted! Monty Mole – Monty Mole goes down the mines in a game released during the 1984 Miner’s Strike, this is the classic platformer I know and love from the ZX Spectrum, even with its limited colour palette given the colour-clash potential, but this is the first time I’m playing it on the C64 and apart from the fact that everything tries to remain on one screen (rather than flipping from one screen to the next) as you move about the map, what in the name of bloody hell are these crappy graphics?! KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!
- 33. Monty on the Run – The 1985 sequel, and… thankfully, this was created in the style to which I became accustomed in the ’80s. The description states you should choose the following five items for your freedom kit before you start: Push LEFT or RIGHT from the list and push DOWN to select: 02, 04, 12, 13 and 16.
However, with so many enemies onscreen and a million ways to die, this game is less forgiving than the mother-in-law when I backed into her car!
- 34. Nebulus – Another game that’s a classic. It’s the platformer where you play a jumping frog and have to climb a tower, but as you move about, you stay in exactly the same place onscreen while the tower moves around YOU! As you go, so many enemies can thump you when you least expect it – as well as when you think you’ve got out of their way but haven’t. One you could spend a LOT of time on.
- 35. Netherworld – Fly around in space, collecting a set number of crystals while avoiding baddies that float about, and static dragons which shoot bubbles at you. It’s okay, but there are better games in this package.
- 36. Nobby the Aardvark – A platformer in the style of Monty On The Run in that it’s insanely difficult. Even with 9 lives a cat would have more chance, as I died over and over and over.
(No ants were injured in the making of this game)
- 37. Nodes of Yesod – The original of these games from Odin, and thanks to the way the alphabet works, they don’t show up in order, here. Roam across the surface of the planet and collect Alchiems which are below ground. Jumping about is the only way to climb, and it has echoes to Ultimate’s fantastic Underwurlde game and, similarly to that, it’s all too easy to die. However, Odin just copied the same one-colour sprites for all characters from the ZX Spectrum version, so it doesn’t feel too different from that one… apart from the fact that your astronaut moves about WAY too fast!
- 38. Paradroid – Shoot the other droids which zoom around each level, or take them on and try and transfer their energy to you. As you can see from the footage, I was terrible at this.
- 39. Pitstop II – A F1 racing game with graphics and sound which, at the time in the ’80s, were rather cutting edge. However, quite why my car just died at 4:56, I don’t know. I still had enough fuel to make it round the rest of third lap. Using the joystick really hurts your hands on this one, and given that it’s not a great joystick, I don’t want to put loads of stress on it for a second game.
- 40. Ranarama – Like Gauntlet, but you play as a frog, and attempt to cast spells. It’s weird as hell. I didn’t really get a handle on it back in the day, either.
- 41. Robin of the Wood – A dungeon crawler-style game where you play as Robin of Sherwood going round a large map, and eventually defeating the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Another game from Odin, this certainly had better graphics than the ZX Spectrum, although that was decent and colourful despite its limitations.
- 42. Rubicon – a fun little run-and-gun shooter which has a John Carter of Mars feel to it, as you kill all kinds of strenge creatures.
- 43. Skate Crazy – Another of those games which looks simple, but when trying to move and press fire to jump, all too often, it just jumps straight up in the air, and then you have to go back and get your momentum going again. So, it feels hit or miss when playing it as to the outcome.
- 44. Skool Daze – another classic from the ’80s. Walk around the school, going to lessons, knocking the teachers over with your catapults so you can then bounce further shots off their heads and light up all the shields. Also, get them to each reveal a part of the code which goes to open the safe and help you win the game. This was followed by a sequel, Back 2 Skool, which was also great, and allowed you to visit the girl’s school and kiss your girlfriend.
The gameplay I’ve shown is just a few minutes of what you can do, which includes hitting the other boys, as well as getting hit by the bully.
Naturally, you need a keyboard to type your lines on the blackboards.
- 45. Snare – Fly around a maze, the maze turning as you do, but then end up stuck on a path that makes you go a certain way when you want to veer off it and collect the items which keep popping up. And then you crash into a wall. It’s very frustrating.
- 46. Speedball – 1989 videogames Rollerball on a metal football pitch. Injuring your opponents is encouraged. Great fun, but I was terrible at it… today.
- 47. Speedball 2 – Brutal Deluxe – The 1991 sequel. You can buy and sell players, etc, but just give me the action, and there’s bigger sprites, a bigger pitch and faster-paced action, with a shorter match time.
- 48. Spindizzy – Another of my all-time favourites, move your diamond-shaped character, G.E.R.A.L.D. around the map, don’t fall off the edge, be pushed along by the blocks with arrows upon them. And then fall off the edge. A LOT!
- 49. Star Paws – Like Wile E. Coyote going after the Road Runner – and there’s 20 of them, this is like that, but on the moon. I ended up running out of energy on my first go and was completely rubbish at this, as the footage shows. Use items from the boxes to help catch them.
- 50. Steel – Similar to games like Robin of the Hood in so much as it’s like a 2.5D dungeon-crawler, you have to find 8 red cartridges, use them in the systems and deactivate them… and try not to die, as there’s lots of enemies that want to kill you.
- 51. Street Sports Baseball – Baseball on a kids’ outfield, and even though I was sure I hit it several times, I didn’t hit it once, according to this game. And why do some of the kids look like Jeff Goldblum as a fly? Better to play baseball outside. Once, at school, we played a game of rounders (UK equivalent) and I was ‘Man of the Match’. That clearly wasn’t replicated on this.
- 52. Summer Games II – Compete in Triple Jump, Rowing, Javelin, Equestrianism, High Jump, Fencing, Cycling and Kayaking.
No doubt, my character will be FOR the High Jump! Plus, this is not a game meant for joysticks. Certainly not this one.
- 53. Super Cycle – Like Pitstop II but with motorbikes, although you don’t get to see the tracks of an opponent, nor a map of the track.
- 54. Temple of Apshai Trilogy – Three temples, so plenty of value for money. I just tried one of them. It’s not inspiring that it tells you to check online for full instructions and doesn’t tell you where… I didn’t do very well. Not sure why I need a sword to defeat a moth. In the summertime, a bit of bog roll will do…
- 55. The Arc of Yesod – The sequel to Nodes of Yesod, and more of the same, but while it didn’t offer the chance to redefine the keys, not only did I have to suss them out at first, as you can see from the footage, but while the bottom row alternated left/right (e.g. Z and X for these), it then kept swapping these over!!! WTF?!
- 56. Thing on a Spring – In this 1985 game, jump about. Bounce off everything. Get hit by all the enemies. Lose your energy. Die. A lot. Surprisingly, this was slightly easier with the joystick (my second attempt in the video) then the dire key layout: Z and X are okay for left/right, but ; is UP, / is down and SPACE is fire. Perhaps that’s fine if you’re double-jointed(!)
- 57. Things Bounces back – More bouncing about in the 1987 sequel, and more dying.
- 58. Trailblazer – See what I wrote about Cosmic Causeway. It’s precisely the same game, except only filling half the screen in one-player mode, but also added a two-player option.
- 59. Uchi Mata – Judo, or as it looks like when I’m playing it: ballroom dancing, given the second of two matches I played.
- 60. Uridium – the classic space shooter from Hewson (recently updated and revived as Hyper Sentinel) and while I was never brilliant at it, the ZX Spectrum version was written by a man called Dominic Robinson. I was once asked at school if that was me. I said yes. It wasn’t, though.
- 61. Who Dares Wins II – a run-and-gun shooter in the style of Commando and Ikari Warriors. However, with only a joystick to play (since I can’t find any way to use the keyboard), and since you only have one fire button, you have to hold it down to throw the grenades, rather than having second button for that. This is annoying, since more often than not, you’ll fire off two grenades at a time.
- 62. Winter Games – Eight winter sports events. You can practice before taking part, but you may as well take part and fail big-time like I usually do. The sports featured are: Hot Dog, Biathlon (skiing and rifle shooting), Speed Skating, Figure Skating, Ski Jump, Free Skating and Bobsled
Oddly, there’s no closing ceremony in this game.
- 63. World Games – 8 more games: Weightlifting, Barrel Jumping, Cliff Diving, Slalom Skiing, Log Rolling, Bull Riding, Caber Toss and Sumo Wrestling… and I did badly in all of them. There’s neither opening nor closing ceremonies in this game.
- 64. Zynaps – Last but not least, this is a fantastic shot-em-up from Hewson, in similar left-to-right style like R-Type.
If you’re looking for alternative C64 games and – as those behind this unit state – you have the legal original ROM (ahem), then you can load them onto this with a USB flash drive. However, in its current state, it is a laborious process, only allowing you to load in one game at a time. I’ve taken these instructions direct from their website and I’ll hide them behind a spoiler section, not because they’re a spoiler – like in the movies, but because it tidies them away for anyone who’s not too fussed about them.
While the team look into this, Paolo Besser has a solution called the MiniMount. It’s a little bit beyond me, so I’ll let him talk you through all that, and you can find all the info and what you need to download here.
Note: all gaming footage was captured with an Elgato HD60, and for these games, there’s a fair bit of background hiss sometimes because the volume might’ve been too high on the Elgato, but even at 50% that’s nothing when for modern games, I’d capture at 100%. Rest assured, that with the HDMI through to the TV, it sounds perfectly fine.
So far, I’m giving this unit a 7.5/10. There are a lot of fun games I’ve come across so far, with the occasional duffer, but while I was originally thinking an 8, it’s the joystick which drags it down. I don’t know if that’s something that can be fixed with a firmware update, or it’s down to the construction of the joystick itself.
Check out more videogame footage on the DVDfeverGames Youtube Channel!
The C64 Mini is out now and can be bought on Amazon.
- Publisher: Koch Media
- Developer: Koch Media
- Players: single player
- HDTV options: 720p
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.