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:
Attack of the Mutant Camels
Everyone’s a Wally
Gateway to Apshai
Gribbly’s Day Out
Impossible Mission II
Monty on the Run
Nodes of Yesod
Planet of Death
Robin of the Wood
Street Sports Baseball
Street Sports Basketball
Summer Games II
Sword of Fargoal
Temple of Apshai Trilogy
The Arc of Yesod
Thing Bounces Back
Thing on a Spring
Who Dares Wins II
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:
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.
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.