Retro Games LTD Brings Out A Pair Of Not So Mini Retro Minis

The era of the mini classic plug ‘n play consoles is firmly upon us but, with a single exception, companies have been slow to bring gaming computers to this red-hot market here in North America.  However, that exception did very well globally and now it appears it is well on its way of spawning a pair of new siblings; a process that’s been frustratingly delayed on account of the global pandemic.

The UK’s Retro Games LTD struck while the iron was hot back in 2018 when they shrunk down the Commodore 64 into THEC64 Mini (a ridiculous official name we assume to avoid legal snags); a little high def emulation box that included 64-preinstalled games, the ability to boot BASIC and a Competition Pro joystick.

They captured the world’s attention but users of the product had some valid complaints.  Rather than simply turn a deaf ear to the user base, Retro Games took note and assured that they would get it right in their next project.  Now it appears that next project has taken shape and, while it’s yet to arrive here to North America, a full size Commodore 64 retro plug ‘n play has been making its rounds through Europe since December of 2019 with favorable impressions in the process.

Its full title being none other than THEC64, nicknames like the C64 or C64 Maxi (to differentiate it from Mini) have been appearing on the internet to remind us that the real world cares not for the nuanced restrictions born of lawyers.  Like the name suggests, THEC64 is no longer a half-scale replica of the original hardware upon which it’s based but rather a full 1:1 scale reproduction with nearly every single complaint about the Mini eradicated in the process.

The first of the big complaints addressed is that of the keyboard – while the Mini’s was non-functioning and existed strictly for show, the Maxi’s keyboard isn’t only an exact replica of the original, it’s fully functional as well.  Given the penchant for most games to rely upon the keyboard in some capacity, not to mention keyboard dependency for any and all use of the included BASIC language functionality, this is a very welcome change indeed.

I should note that the Mini did have a cumbersome onscreen keyboard to help avoid some of these snags as well as the ability to run a USB keyboard but with only two USB inputs, one needed for the joystick and another for ROM-files, a working keyboard on the full size solves a lot of dilemmas.  But if that weren’t enough, Retro Games doubled the number of USB ports for good measure.

The other major upgrade comes in the form of the included joystick, which now includes micro switches like the original.  The benefits of this transition are two-fold:  The first being more precise control/ haptic input and the second being durability.  As they are releasing the new joystick as a stand alone accessory as well, this means good news for C64 Mini users who found fault with the original pack-in unit.

This time, rather than create two separate versions of the hardware, every unit made will output in either 50 or 60 Hz (PAL or NTSC displays respectively).  Once again the final image will be 720P high definition, customizable with a bunch of filter options and, bucking a trend we despise, the set will include the necessary power supply.

Once again the system comes with 64 preinstalled games but there are some changes here as well.  The roster has been shuffled so as to include new additions like Attack of the Mutant Camels, Hover Bovver, Iridis Alpha, Gridrunner and A Planet of Death.  That’s right folks, what good is a working keyboard if not to celebrate with an honest-to-goodness text adventure snatched right from the original hardware’s prime.  Also of interest are the inclusion of recently released titles this time around like 2017’s Galencia (think Galaga).

The full list of included titles is as follows:

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

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

BASIC functionality is back with a twist – this time the user has the option of running either Commodore 64 or VIC-20 BASIC.  In short it means inputting and running programs from either of Commodore’s successful machines is an option now and installing ROM files from either library is now fully doable.  If this doesn’t sound significant to you, consider this (and you may wish to be seated):  Estimates put the original Commodore 64’s library of commercially released games at close to 10,000 and the VIC-20 at at least half that.  In short if you can’t find anything to play on THEC64, you simply aren’t looking.

Keeping in mind that all of the timetables are pushed way behind thanks to Covid, by now the plan was to have THEC64 released globally on the heels of THEC64 Mini with another machine making rounds of Europe this month – this one a modern reproduction VIC-20.

THEVIC20 as it will be officially known looks to include all of the features of THEC64 like the full-size hardware, functioning keyboard, micro switch joystick, both bootable versions of BASIC but a game list made up of examples from each library:

 VIC-20

Abductor, Andes Attack, Arcadia, Bewitched, Blitzkrieg, Brainstorm, Catcha Snatcha, Connect 4, Encounter, Frantic, Frog Chase, Gridrunner, Harvester, Headbanger’s Heaven, Hell Gate, Laser Zone, Martians, Matrix, Mega Vault, Metagalactic Llamas Battle at the Edge of Time, Psychedelia, Snake, Starquest, Subspace Striker, Tank Battle, Traxx, Wacky Waiters, Zor.

C64

Alleykat, Bear Bovver, Boulder Dash, California Games, Chips Challenge, Cyberdyne Warrior, Cybernoid II, Destroyer, Firelord, Galencia Mini, Gribbly’s Day Out, Heartland, Impossible Mission, IO, Iridis Alpha, Jumpman, Mega Apocalypse, Nebulus, Netherworld, Paradroid, Pitstop II, Planet of Death, Robin of the Wood, Speedball 2, Spindizzy, Street Sports Baseball, Street Sports Basketball, Summer Games II, Super Cycle, Sword of Fargoal, Temple of Apshai Trilogy, The Arc of Yesod, Uridium, Winter Games, World Games, Zynaps.

We have been hearing success stories of North American customers having little trouble ordering the yet European-exclusive VIC-20 from sites like Amazon so while it’s true that neither of these latest two retro classic edition systems have enjoyed a global release yet, entrepreneuring gamers are upping their collections for roughly $129.99 per system.

 

 

Jason Russell Jason Russell (22 Posts)

Jason Russell has been working in video game journalism since the early 1990s before the internet existed, the term "fanzine" had meaning and sailors still debated as to whether or not the earth was flat. The first time. More recently he has been the guy responsible for Thunderbolt Games' Under the Radar column as well as scribes for Game Skinny on a plethora of video game topics. He's somehow managed to author nine novels, writes and runs the blog CG Movie Review in his spare time. And sometimes, when the planets align and the caffeine has fully left his system, it's rumored he sleeps.