Commodore 64 Mini

C64 Mini Review – The Fossil Lives

Do you consider yourself a gamer? A historian? Perhaps a gaming historian? A retro connoisseur? The Commodore 64 Mini also known as C64 might be the right item for your tastes if that’s the case, but is it a worthwhile purchase or a niche collector’s piece? Here’s a rundown to help you decide.

Technical Summary

  • Produced by Retro Games Ltd.
  • Priced at 80$ at most, though you can certainly find one for far, far less.
  • An accurate replica of the Commodore 64 visually barring its smaller size and non-functioning keyboard. Note that Retro Games have also released The C64, an up-to-scale version with a functioning one, among other features. The device (the Mini) offers an on-screen keyboard if plugging one in isn’t your jam.
  • Runs on Linux and uses an original, snazzy frontend.
  • Comes with a cool, albeit small selection of 64 games. Allows saving.
  • Also comes with a joystick…
  • Two USB ports allow you to run your own games and programs, use the device as an actual computer, or run your own programs.
  • HDMI output. 720p 4:3 visuals with some flair options such as a CRT filter and the ability to use both US and EU display modes.

The Good

  • The device looks really nice. Even if you don’t have any desire to use it, it remains a conversation-starter piece. The Mini doesn’t take up much space, meaning you can also bring it along just about anywhere.
  • The 64 games are a choice selection, offering classics such as Impossible Mission and Monty on the Run, new and optimized games such as Galencia, as well as a few text adventures. It’s a small selection, but a good one for sure.
  • The Mini can run any compatible game/program, which is a saving grace. Grab your roms and party on with the hundreds of Commodore games available on the net.
  • Great visuals and utmost ease of use in regards to the interface.

The Bad

  • The joystick is the Mini’s prime offender. It’s clunky and often feels hard to wield, also coming with a bunch of buttons that you won’t really have a use for. It’s usable, and it won’t let you down…but you can find better without trying too hard. A grim reminder of the redundancy of the Mini.
  • The game selection is very small. It’s true – you can run anything compatible on the device, but for the price you’re paying, you’re only getting a drop from the lake, so to speak. Suffice to say that if you want the full power of the C64 Mini, you’re going to have to hunt down games yourself.
  • Incredibly overpriced. The Mini effectively runs on nostalgia, and it would’ve never made it were it not for purely memory-fueled buyers. With easy emulation and easily accessible roms, the C64 Mini is almost utterly meaningless from a technical standpoint. If you prefer the visuals or authentic feel of the device, it still wouldn’t be worth $80. At the time of writing, I’ve checked the Mini’s resale value and found it sitting at a solid $40. Even at this price, I still can’t convince myself that it’s worth what you’re getting – a touched-up prehistoric computer, a non-functional keyboard and a flimsy joystick. Would it look good in my room though? Certainly…

The Ugly

  • The keyboard. As mentioned before, it’s purely aesthetic. A shame and a crime for the price. Retro Games went on to release a beefed-up version with a real keyboard, but that one’s pricier, of course…
  • Load times. On a Commodore 64. In 2019. Granted, they’re lesser than the original Commodore, but they will annoy you, and they shouldn’t be there, much like ants in your dwelling.
  • Despite all else, you’ll find yourself remembering that the Mini is a redundant device. Aside from that, while there’s many enjoyable titles, most people won’t be too entertained by the games simply due to modern standards (if we assume there’s no nostalgia involved, of course).

The Verdict

Buy the C64 if you have money to spare and want to own a small Commodore 64 that looks somewhat cool. Don’t fool yourself that the device will allow you to do anything that you previously weren’t capable of, and base your decisions on the aesthetic alone.

Waiting for prices to drop may be a wise strategy, though it could backfire If exclusivity ever becomes a factor. Be prepared to dislike the joystick and laugh at the keyboard.

Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with the Mini aside from its price. I would rate it a 4/10 as a whole, but considering the prices keep dropping, I’ll give it a 5 in advance. If you hold fond memories of the 64 and dislike emulation, I’d say go for it despite its flaws. The Mini doesn’t have to be perfect for you to get enjoyment out of it.