I was pleasantly surprised today with a belated birthday gift from my son. Apparently, he placed this pre-order earlier this spring and, today, it was finally delivered by the retailer. I am now the proud owner of a new C64Mini specifically released for the North American market.
This was a product that I was “on the fence” over ever since I saw first mention of it on the Internet. It was an intriguing idea and would be an interesting addition to the Commodore collection, but did it present anything unique that I couldn't achieve with my ASUS netbook and VICE emulator?
Now that I have one, thanks to the thoughtfulness of my son, and I've had a chance to play with it for a little while; here are my thoughts on it.
Although I think it's a little bit on the high-side for price, I am really impressed with the quality of the C64Mini, both in the device itself and the attention to detail in its packaging. When I first began opening the box, it was very clear to me that this product was produced by people who really seemed to appreciate and value the legacy left by the Commodore 64. In my opinion, the C64Mini was produced by fellow C64 enthusiasts.
After taking my time at opening and unfolding the C64Mini's packaging, I got to the console, itself. Once again, I could tell that this was a labour of love. Although the keyboard on the C64Mini is purely cosmetic, the console is really well made and very authentic to the original C64 (apart from it's size). It's solid and doesn't feel like a cheap empty shell, as some other mini gaming consoles I've seen on the market.
When I compare the C64Mini, as a complete package, to the SNES Mini (which I also own) I can say with confidence that I feel like there's better value for the money with the C64Mini. And, it simply puts the mini consoles produced by AtGames to shame.
With the C64Mini, you only get one joystick controller, where as the SNES Mini I have came with two controllers. However, I have to say that the C64Mini's joystick is higher quality. That's not to say that I particularly care for the style of the joystick, as I much prefer either my Wico Boss or Epyx 500X joysticks, but I think it's just a matter of me getting used to it. I find the position of the fire button(s) somewhat uncomfortable, as I prefer to have the fire button on top of the stick. This detail aside, I think the joystick is well made and feels quite solid.
Where the experience fell short with me was in the selection of games. Perhaps the games included in the C64Mini are more popular in Europe or the UK (where the C64Mini originated), but for me, they do not reflect the games that I've been enjoying on my real C64 and C128 all of these years. Retro Games claim that these games represent “the best C64 retro games”, but I feel that there are much better games that should have been included over the ones they chose. The games that appealed to me the most included, Impossible Mission, Boulder Dash, Jumpman I and II, and Pitstop II.
The saving grace, to what would have been a disappointing experience for me, was with the latest upgrade to the C64Mini's OS. After just a few minutes of unpacking and hooking up the console, I upgraded the OS to the latest build, v1.1.4, which now makes it very easy to play your own game images off of a USB storage device.
In no time, I was playing my favorite C64 games on the C64Mini and it was a great experience. This particular C64Mini, from what I can tell, emulates the NTSC C64 very well, so the speed and sounds of my game images played as I expected; rather than running slower as they would on a PAL system.
So, is the C64Mini worth having in your Commodore collection? I think it is, as long as you understand that it isn't a replacement for a real Commodore 64. This console should be seen as a simple and convenient way of playing some C64 games on your modern-day T.V. or monitor, without having to worry about floppy disks, data cassettes or tinkering with SD2IEC peripherals.
I like it, but it will in no way take the place of my real C128 or C64. If you just want a simple way to play a quick game every now and then, and save a bit of wear and tear on your aging Commodore system, then the C64Mini is a good option to have at your disposal. If you're looking for a modern-day replacement for your aged or broken C64, then I suggest you look elsewhere.
Do you have a C64Mini? Feel free to share your thoughts of this unique console with me on my Discussions page.
Composed with ArcheType on my C128