The C64 Maxi, the review

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Aina Martin
@ainamartin
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What is the The C64 Maxi? Why was the cheaper Mini version not enough for enthusiasts? Let us try to explain it in the course of review. mini console they are fetish objects that are usually looked at rather than used. They are plastic casings with a shape evoking hardware from the past, which we value more as tools of identity affirmation than as real gaming machines.

They are not only a more or less faithful mirror of what we have been, but above all a way to celebrate it and bring it back to the present for a moment, albeit in a mythologized, almost anti-historical version.



The mini consoles work when they manage to approach this utopian image, it would be better to say retrotopic, which we have from our videogame past, serving our distorted memories with hardware and software. Incidentally, a NES mini without Super Mario Bros. wouldn't work regardless of all the other games included, because the memory we have of that machine is inextricably linked to that game ... even if we never owned it.

The problem with The C64 Mini was not so much in the selected titles, as in the hardware. Computers, even in the now remote years' 80, being machines with free access and on which anyone could develop and publish what they wanted, they had endless game libraries compared to those of consoles, libraries in which you could find everything and more: from the text adventure, to the game of role, to the simulator and to any title of any other genre you can think of.


Do you think the Commodore 64 it has almost 30.000 games produced in its years of activity (actually they are still made today, but let's not go too far), a quantity much higher than that of the libraries of NES, Sega Master System, Sega Megadrive and Super Nintendo combined. Obviously, in that mare magnum there were many forgettable titles, to be good, but also a lot of experimentation that led to the emergence of real masterpieces and the consolidation of a scene that founded a large part of the world of European development and that still today it produces its fruits.


However such an offer and the lack of a reference hardware manufacturer that also funded the gaming software (actually Commodore produced games until 1984/85, but with not much conviction) makes it difficult to tie the identity of a machine like the Commodore. 64 to individual games. Everyone has their own, one might say, also because the ways of making and spreading the products were very different from the current ones.

Issues of identity

If we were to indicate the most characterizing element of the Commodore 64 we would have no doubts: the programming language Basic. It was the first thing you saw when you turned it on and it was mandatory to learn some simple instructions to be able to launch the games and do anything.


Only using the few existing cartridges, much more expensive than cassettes or floppy disks, could the Basic be bypassed, which however remained an essential step if you wanted to get the best out of the machine. And how did you access that wonderful programming language, which at times gave so many problems, but which for many was also the gateway to the awareness of how computers work and how video games are made? Via the keyboard.

What the C64 Mini lacked was just that: the primary tool to access the primary identity element of what the C64 was. The Basic was there, but to use it you had to mount an external keyboard, which somehow broke the flow of memory. The inclusion of a joystick similar to those that ran at the time was not enough, for the simple reason that there was no single joystick for Commodore 64, but many and many different brands. The Commodore also produced his own, but they were really fragile and unwieldy, so much so that we moved on to something else as soon as we could. After all, if no one has asked to replicate them for the celebratory consoles, there will be a reason.



La keyboard instead it was the same for everyone, with those heavy keys even to the eye that had a squat and clumsy appearance, in line with that of the computer, and a long and resistant stroke, so much so that sometimes you ended up beating on them with a fair amount of force, more than pressing them with the delicacy we are used to today.

Here, without a working keyboard, the C64 Mini completely failed its attempt at charm and immediately revealed itself for what it was: a piece of plastic capable of running the Commodore 64 software through emulation, but light years away from the original experience, made up not only of games, but also of long hours spent typing the listings found in the magazines that were bought at newsstands and skimpy attempts at programming. 10 print "Hello world" / 20 go to 10 / run.

The system

The C64 Maxi is basically a C64 Mini with the size of a real Commodore 64 and a working keyboard, as well as with a slightly different selection of titles. The price is also more generous, since we are talking about double compared to the reduced version (119 € against 79 €, but the mini is now at a reduced price), but we are still talking about a more complex product, which makes sense. precisely because it is proposed as a replica as faithful as possible to the original.

The trunk shape has been redone to perfection, as have the colors: mouse beige for the shell, dark brown for the keys, apart from the Fs which are a dull gray. "Now the C64 looks like a Commodore 64!" one would say. Not for nothing the glance, at least for one nostalgic, it's great and hardly feels like you're dealing with completely new hardware.


Speaking of equipment, in addition to the computer in the package are the power cables, that HDMI and a joystick. In reality there is also a skimpy manual that refers to the PDF version downloadable from the official website for more details.

The system software, on the other hand, is almost identical to that of the C64 Mini, updated to the latest firmware version (1.14), and it couldn't be otherwise. The C64 Maxi can then be booted into carousel mode, with immediate access to the gallery of games included, as well as to the configuration options, or in original mode, then immediately with the Basic screen. It should be noted that the software, based on the VICE, perfectly emulates not only the Commodore 64, but also the Vic 20, complete with the operating system of both machines, which can be exchanged at will. Even some of the included games are actually for Vic 20 and not Commodore 64.

As we said, the firmware is already updated, so it is possible to launch external software using any stick USB from a maximum of 64GB with great ease, by inserting it into one of the four USB sockets on the body. The system will automatically recognize it by displaying the selection icon at the bottom of the screen. From there you can access a real file browser with the graphic style of the C64, which allows you to select the desired disk / cassette / cartridge image. This is an important possibility, especially for those who continue to follow the modern scene of the historical computer, which has many new releases.

For example, we were able to safely play titles such as Planet Golf, Mancave, Age of Heroes, Precint 20: Dead Strange, Sizzler and others using the images provided by the developers themselves, already optimized for The C64 line. Finally, even at the level of configuration options we are on the side of the C64 Mini, with the possibility to select the system language and, above all, to simulate the old 4: 3 televisions on modern screens, both with the PAL and NTSC signal, a very popular option for retrogaming enthusiasts.

The Joystick

The joystick included in the package of The C64 Maxi is identical in appearance to that of the C64 Mini, but not in construction, here a micro switch that imitates the shape of some famous Commodore 64 joysticks. In addition to the central lever and the two main keys , however, we have other keys that are used for system management, which then immediately give access to the general firmware interface with relative options, such as saving status or immediate return to the carousel. It is very solid in the grip, the stick is a little hard in the movements and the pressure of the game keys quite heavy.

If we want it is an excellent replica of certain joysticks that we used at the time, with accompanying suffering.

Obviously the joystick is already configured for all pre-installed games, but it also works very well with externally loaded ones, especially the more modern ones whose developers have taken into consideration the possibility of use with this new hardware. The only difficulty remains that of using the games that by default require the joystick in port 1. As for the C64 Mini there is no automatic port swapping system, but you have to either buy a second compatible joystick / gamepad and connect it (it will be automatically assigned to the free port), or create a small configuration file for each game with which to tell the machine to start the joystick in port 1.

The games

I sessantaquattro pre-installed games in The C64 Maxi they are slightly different from those in The C64 Mini. Many have been confirmed, such as Alleykat, Bounder or Avenger, but there are also some new features, like a good part of the Llamasoft catalog. Too bad for the removal of some Thalamus games such as Hunter's Moon, Hawkeye and Creatures, which obviously can be easily recovered in another way (Hunter's Moon also has a remastered edition, unfortunately not usable with The C64 Maxi or Mini).

Let's read the complete list included in The C64 Maxi:

  • Alleykat
  • Anarchy
  • Attack of the Mutant Camels
  • Avenger
  • Battle valley
  • Bear Bovver
  • Boulder Dash
  • Bounder
  • California Games
  • Chips Challenge
  • Confusion
  • Cosmic Causeway
  • Cyberdyne warrior
  • Cybernoid II
  • deflector
  • 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


At this point it would be worth asking for some how these games have aged. Honestly, it seems an idle question to us, because they are simply aged and everyone, some more, some less, requires a minimum of effort to be enjoyed, as well as an understanding of the limits of the machine on which they were running to be appreciated. When it comes to retrogaming and one wonders if a game from the past can amuse a contemporary player, one takes a point of view that we do not hesitate to define as obtuse. The choice for a new player cannot be between Gears 5 and Nebulus, for example, while an old player should know more or less what to expect from both. When retrogaming becomes a myth of the past, the classic "do you remember it" takes on a pathological tinge. Instead, it should be experienced as a way to know what has been and understand how our medium has changed over the years.

It should therefore be aimed at answering the question "where do we come from", without pretending to superimpose it on the present. A kind of research driven by curiosity, certainly not by boredom.

Could we have done better in terms of selection? Considering that, as already said, we are talking about a machine with a library of about 30.000 games, it is easy to say that many different selections could have been made, all equally valid and all with some shortcomings. What we can tell you is that buying The C64 for the included games is naive, because they are only the tip of the iceberg of the experience. After all, as already pointed out, we are not talking about a closed system like the other mini consoles, but it is expected that external software can be added. Without being foolish, this means that if you want to play your favorite title on The C64 Maxi you can do it without problems by looking for it in your 'collection'. So off to Wizball, Turrican and Microprose Soccer at full throttle.

Comment

Resources4Gaming.com

8.5

The C64 Maxi is a product designed for those who want to relive the Commodore 64 experience in a complete way. Its distinctive element compared to the Mini version is certainly the keyboard, but if we want the larger dimensions also play their part. Obviously the price can hold back the casual buyer or the unconvinced retro-gamer, but if you still follow the scene of the historic Commodore computer, or want to get into it, we can only recommend the purchase.

PRO

  • Now there is the keyboard
  • The latest firmware is more complete than the original Mini
  • Easy to add external software
AGAINST
  • The joystick remains the weakest part
  • The price is not really affordable
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