C64 Mini

First Impressions: C64 Mini

My brother and I didn’t get along when we were kids. However, even we had some things we could do without yelling at each other. It was only a handful of things, but they were there and they are the most precious childhood memories now, of course. One was how he taught me playing table-tennis. The other was us building lego cars and smashing them against our old guest room’s door (nobody cared that it got more dents than it already had). The third was him introducing me to PC games. He had bought a Commodore 64 at some point and the whole family sat there playing games together. He later got an Amiga (Amiga 500, probably, but I’m not sure) and I got to buy the C64 off of him.

I don’t recall which games we played on the Commodore and which on the Amiga. What I do remember is that I consciously learned my first English words with my brother. He had an adventure game that was only in English and as I couldn’t read much at that time (I was probably in the first grade and English wasn’t taught until grade 5), he wrote down the words and the symbols, so I knew what it was. I still couldn’t play the game on my own, but I knew what “key” and “chest” meant. I was a proud little kid because of that!

C64 Airline

C64 Airline

May favourite game was “Airline“. I know I’ve mentioned it in this blog before, because the picture above was uploaded in 2015. ;) It was my favourite game on the C64, but when my brother first showed me that game, I greatly disliked it. I’d thought it was a game where I could fly a plane, but it turned out that it was an airline management game. I clearly remember saying how boring that sounded, managing stuff and all that, and how much more exciting it would be if it was about flying! But he disagreed and explained to me why such a game was fun to play and then we played it together. I was hooked within less than an hour.

When I first saw that there’s going to be the C64 Mini, a remake of the C64 in a miniature version, I squealed – how awesome of them to get us this piece of nostalgia back! But I didn’t need it, so I didn’t pay much more attention to it. What I did see later was that the preorders I had seen before were already sold out. Unfortunately, this was at the time when I had decided that I actually do need a C64 Mini. My gaming life isn’t complete without one! So I checked the various online websites of our electronic stores, but they either didn’t even list the product anymore or it kept saying “sold out” – until one glorious day, one web shop had preorders available again! I didn’t hesitate (for long) and preordered mine!

C64 Mini

As the name suggests, the C64 Mini isn’t exactly big. Also, in case you’ve not read about it yet: The keyboard is pure decoration and doesn’t work! They have a bigger C64 planned which will apparently release at the end of the year. This one will have a functioning keyboard. The C64 Mini comes with a slot to put in the HDMI cable they delivered with it, a micro-USB slot for powering the C64 Mini and two USB slots. You can connect the joystick (and you probably should), a second joystick if you like, an external keyboard or a USB stick to play a C64 game that wasn’t pre-installed as well as for updating the firmware. The C64 comes with 64 games already. It currently only allows “external” games (d64-files) that consist of one single game file, but they promised a firmware update very soon that’ll allow you to also load C64 games that came with more than one file.

The C64 Mini comes with an HDMI cable. We tried to connect it to one of our PC’s monitors, but the monitor stayed black. Then we got the TV out of our guest room which is currently still filled with moving boxes and put it on our dining table. This one connects flawlessly, so I could finally start testing and playing!

I also, of course, tried to play “Airline”. But the version of the game I have didn’t work. I found another one, but since it’s two files, I need to wait for the firmware update now, before I can give it another go. If you do want to play external games, I definitely recommend connecting an external keyboard, because while the virtual keyboard is well-thought out with shortcuts to move around faster, it’s still annoying to type in order to load the game. And if the game itself requires typing, once again, a real keyboard is just so much nicer and more comfortable! You may remember that the C64 Mini only has two USB slots. So, one for the joystick, one for the USB stick and… none for the external keyboard. That’s when we went out to buy a USB hub! It’s just so much easier now! If you want to get one as well, it’s just important to know that it should have its own power source. Do not just power it through the USB connection as that may not be enough power for it. We got one that you can either connect through USB only or you can also use an external power source. We haven’t tried it yet without the power source, though.

The joystick is okay. I have read complaints about it, but so far, I have had no issues playing with it. It does take some time getting used to it, though. I had read that you can connect controllers to the C64 and the official statement was this:

“Most general USB controllers should work fine on THEC64 Mini as a second (or alternative) controller.

We have tested using both THEC64 Joystick and alternative USB gamepads and controllers and whilst we can’t guarantee 100% compatibility with every controller out there, a lot of effort has gone into trying to ensure that many of them will work with it.”

I naively thought this would mean that my XBox controller would work, but sadly it doesn’t. Neither does my Steam controller, but I didn’t think it would when the XBox one didn’t. I do hope that they will add support for the XBox one in the future, though, as I don’t want to buy another controller for the C64 Mini now. In the meantime, bookahnerk and I can only play the games that can be played in alternating turns. No Pitstop II for us to play against on another.

Speaking of which, I played a game of Pitstop II – at the lowest difficulty setting, against the computer – I was in the lead until I needed to make a pit stop and replace my tires. It was fighting against the controls rather than against the PC car.  But it’s definitely still fun to play! It’s much more simple and in a way less exciting than racing games nowadays are, of course. But I think if I played this with my nephews who are in elementary school, they would love it! It’s entertaining and the addition trying not to damage your tires during the race or you’ll lose too much time with a pit stop is also really nice.

And even though I fought against the controls, I’m pretty sure I would be much better if I played it again now, because now I know how it works! I just can’t, because the constant pressure and movement was too much for my left hand to handle (still having the RSI issues) – but that’s not the C64’s fault.

We have yet to try Summer, Winter, World and California Games. In my memory, all of these melted to just Summer and Winter games. But once I saw the different events you can play in each of them, I knew we actually used to have all four of them when I was a kid. California Games is the only out of these four that can be played in alternating turns, so you can play it with more than one person and only one controller/joystick. We will definitely play that one once we find the time to play a game together.

So, what is my first impression then? Now keep in mind, that I don’t write “proper reviews” – I always write first impressions that are highly subjective instead. :p

It’s certainly nostalgia-filled, but I’m holding my breath here until the firmware update releases and I can try so many more games! I am also trying to figure out which gamepads/controllers work and which ones aren’t too expensive to buy, because I would really only buy one to play on the C64 Mini. But if I want to play a game on my own, I have 64 to choose from! Loading external games from the USB stick also seems to work, but when I tried to play Ghostbusters, I got graphic errors for the vehicle and could not actually play the game. And with Airline, I need to wait until the firmware update comes that allows to load games with more than one file. But the pre-installed games work flawlessly and connecting the C64 Mini to the TV worked perfectly, too. Also, the external keyboard (we connected my Microsoft Wave one) worked immediately, too. The C64 Mini itself is, as you can see, tiny, but very well-made, even without a functioning keyboard. So, altogether, the “out of the box” experience is great. And everything else is “wait and see” now. If you think about getting a C64 Mini because you want to fill that nostalgia-urge, like the pre-installed games and don’t want to play against others (or own/buy an additional gamepad that works), I can certainly recommend it! Otherwise, I’d suggest waiting or researching more first (e. g., if the games you’d want to play on it are available).

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