Review: THEC64® Mini Computer

The wait is finally over! If Nintendo can roll out their NES and SNES Mini consoles, then surely the greatest 8-bit computer deserves to have a Mini of its own. Roll out the red carpet, cause here comes THEC64® Mini!

So why would we want this C64 Mini when we already have ten original Commodore 64 computers and hundreds of games on tape and 5.25″ floppy disks? Well, the main reason is the convenience. The convenience here is that we can plug and play THEC64® Mini on our new Sony Bravia TV without concerning ourselves with tuning issues and also finding extra power outlets for the computer and disk drive. Yeah yeah, we know people will argue the “build your own Raspberry Pi with a 3D printed case”, but that sounds like a lot of effort to us.

Packaging:
Our first impressions of this unit is exactly the same impressions and feelings we had when we first got our Commodore 64 America’s Cup Family Pack edition in 1986 – “Holy Guacamole, this is ace! Look at the box and check out the cool games and stuff on the back!”. The added bonus here is that there is no John Laws caricature on the box, which is a damn good thing (Ed: Only Australians of a certain vintage will understand). You can tell you have a premium product by the quality of the packaging – and THEC64 Mini is packaged so good you won’t want to take it out.

So what’s inside the box you ask? Since you asked nicely, here you go:

  • THEC64® Mini
  • 1.5m wired USB joystick (with added function keys for game specific modes
  • USB charging cable (1.2m)
  • HDMI cable (1.2m) allowing full compatibility will all modern TVs
  • Quick Reference Guide

Build Quality:
Make no mistake, THEC64 Mini is on par, actually, it is even of a better build quality than Nintendo’s Minis! Yep, it is that good. THEC64 Mini main unit feels strong and durable, and it just looks like a shrunken C64 breadbin – it is super cute and detailed. There are no lose bits or wonky interfaces or shoddy buttons that feel like they will break at the slightest touch – everything feels polished and rock solid. This Mini should last just as long as the original C64 computers from 1982. Oh yeah, the bundled Competition Pro (CompPro) joystick is just as good, with a plethora of buttons to interact with the carousel menu and play games with. Thankfully the joystick is not microswitched, meaning you can play quietly while everyone is asleep (the fire buttons are a tad loud though). We just wish it was a TAC-2 instead of the CompPro – but that ain’t a biggie.

Entertainment:
THEC64 Mini comes with, surprise surprise, 64 built in games! Granted, there are a number of missing classics, like The Last Ninja, but hey, there is still enough awesome licensed games to satisfy even the most die-hard retro gamers.

Instead of getting all huffy about the games that are missing, let’s concentrate on the games that are in this cute little breadbin – we have, Armalyte, Creatures, Cybernoid I & II, Hawkeye, IO, Impossible Mission I & II, Nebulus, Paradroid, Uridium, Pitstop II and the awesome ‘Games’ series from Epyx, to name just a few. Oh yeah, there is an online keyboard which you can use for games that require keyboard input or you can attach an external USB keyboard to make things easier. And there are four save / load game slots per game, so use them wisely!

What we can say is that each of the 64 games are classics in their own right, with each of them getting favourable review scores back in the day. So instead of getting upset of what’s missing, enjoy what’s on offer! And if you really really want to add your own programs or games, then you can do so here, but be warned it is quite a cumbersome process.

Features & Flexibility:
Sick of playing the built games? No worries, if you prefer to type in your own programs, then THEC64 Mini has you covered. Just connect an external keyboard via USB and start typing in your BASIC listings – try doing that with your NES or SNES Classic Minis.

With the addition of the two USB ports, THEC64 Mini allows flexibility of connecting an external PC keyboard and also the bundled CompPro joystick. As mentioned previously, you can also load your own programs (or games) via this process.

The display is pretty much pixel perfect on any new TV. The Mini also has CRT filters and aspect ratio modes if you are longing for that true nostalgic look and feeling. The carousel menu is also intuitive and easy to navigate with the joystick with its functional buttons.

Unlike the original C64, the makers of THEC64 Mini have given their assurance that there will be future software / firmware updates via a USB flash drive. Future proofing such a device gives us confidence that THEC64 Mini will only get better.

Overall:
Without a shadow of a doubt THEC64 Mini has hit the mark. For those craving a mechanical C64 keyboard, then buy yourself an original Commodore 64, but if you look past this and connect an external PC keyboard to type in your BASIC programs, then you will enjoy this Mini. There are enough pre-installed games on this thing to keep even the most discerning retro enthusiasts happy.

If you prefer your original Commodore 64 computer, then keep playing it. For everyone else, check out this little convenient C64 beast, you won’t be disappointed.

The 8-bit micro-computing king is back, baby!

Released: March 29 2018
Available: JB Hi-Fi and EB Games
RRP: From $149

THEC64® Mini was kindly supplied by Five Star Games for this review.

 

The C64 Mini Is Coming In 2018

Just in case you have been busy drooling over the SNES Classic Mini, you may have missed the news that the greatest 8-bit computer, the Commodore 64, will also be joining the Mini stable!

Slated for release in 2018, The C64 has told us that this reborn C64 Mini will feature high-def output via HDMI, a pixel filter for pixel perfect graphics, 2 x USB ports, a classic style joystick (like the Comp Pro!) and most importantly, 64 built in games!

The list of included games cover every kind of gaming genre, including sports titles like California Games, awesome shmup action via Armalyte, and platforming shenanigans on Impossible Mission II, just to name a few!

2018 can’t come fast enough!

image source: The C64