Commodore 64

** Awards! **
Voted Game of the Year (People's Choice), :
Voted game of the week, Gizmodo /
Voted runner up, Best Retro Reborn for Best App Ever '09 awards:

Currently Unavailable

New Free and Paid Games Coming in C64 Version 1.2

According to Stuart Carnie, CTO of Manomio, version 1.2 of C64 will contain three free games: Bruce Lee, Laser Squad, and Samurai Warrior. In addition, Stuart tells us, Apple has approved Alleykat, Uridium, Paradroid, Stormlord and Nebulus as in-app purchases for 99 cents each. Version 1.2 should be available soon.

We’re not familiar with most of the C64 fare (we were NES kids ourselves) but that free Bruce Lee game sounds mighty tempting. If you’re still trying to decide whether the nostalgia factor is worth $4.99 (plus more for some individual games), check out our review from last month.

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2009 Game of the Year (People’s Choice): Commodore 64

We left it to our followers on Twitter to vote for their favorite iPhone game of the last twelve months, and the results are in: The winner is Commodore 64.

C64 from Manomio had an inelegant start to its life on the App Store. Rejected multiple times due to Apple’s squeamishness about including BASIC, C64 was released in September only to be pulled for allowing BASIC to be accessed indirectly.

When it returned we rated it a 3, for Good, remarking that it would mainly appeal to those who owned or remembered playing the original Commodore 64. Since then, the game has been updated to offer additional 8-bit games like Bruce Lee, which may appeal to a wider audience.

The perfectly-emulated Commodore 64 games that come as free and paid downloads in C64 trigger nostalgic feelings for its fans. This week, Manomio asked its fans directly to vote for C64 in our GOTY People’s Choice Twitter poll. This points us to another major story of 2009: developers becoming savvy about using social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, to maintain their fanbase and get them spreading the word about their games.

Other games that we’ve rated higher on this website did not win the poll, mainly because there were so many different games that no single one could rise to the top. Manomio’s C64 (along with another fan favorite, Sword of Fargoal) harnessed their Twitter followers to cast votes, so we’re recognizing this determined company for their efforts, and awarding Game of the Year (People’s Choice) to Commodore 64.

C64 Review

Gamers who were weaned on the the Commodore 64 sometimes get nostalgic for the enormous crop of unique games that sustained them while their friends pored over Atari and early Nintendo cartridges. The first half of the ’80s could appoint a garish, chunky pixel-person as its mascot, and retro gamers would cheer.

They’ll also cheer when they learn they can take their memories on the bus with manomio’s Commodore 64 emulator, C64. The emulator was available on the App Store for a while before it was pulled, but it’s back in business. The library of pre-loaded games is currently a bit thin, and the emulator’s touch-controls are a little slippery at times, but C64 is as retro as gaming gets without marking up a piece of parchment with a Tic-tac-toe grid.

Bleep bloop bleep.

C64 includes eight games: Arctic Shipwreck, Dragon’s Den, International Basketball, International Soccer, International Tennis, Jack Attack, Jupiter Lander, and Lemans. There is, of course, the promise of more games to come (with a ‘More Games’ link handily provided in the emulator’s menu), including Bruce Lee, Kikstart, and Druid. manomio frequently updates its blog with news about upcoming releases.

If manomio does indeed deliver a steady stream of games, the C64 will be an undisputed must-have for retro game fanatics. The eight games that come packed in with C64 1.1 are a great distraction when the shopper in front of you demands a price check, but they don’t offer the depth or advanced visuals of classics like Forbidden Forest, SimCity, or Sega’s port of Zaxxon.

Don’t despear!

The C64’s controls are also a little sketchy at times. A ‘button and joystick’ combination on the bottom half of the iPhone’s screen serve their intended purpose accurately for the most part. The trouble comes with games that require multiple taps: in Dragon’s Den, you have to continually hit the action button to keep your winged horse aloft. This can prove difficult on a flat screen, and before long you’ll get fed up with dragons constantly gnawing on your head.

Commodore 64 fans are destined to love the C64 emulator regardless. If the controls are fine-tuned and games are released regularly, it can’t lose. Anyway, there’s no faulting the emulator’s loving presentation, which calls back to the ’80s questionable taste in decor. How important were candy-red power switches and wood paneling at the height of the Commodore 64’s popularity? Very important.

C64 Emulator Starts On/Off Relationship with App Store

Someone contact a relationship counselor. Before gamers could even begin celebrating the long-awaited addition of Manomio’s C64 emulator to the App Store, Apple had already removed it, the suspicion being that the app had fallen afoul of Apple’s guidelines for the service.

According to The Register, some clever folks at Apple found a relatively simple way of accessing the emulator’s BASIC system after the app had gone live yesterday. The potential for gamers to use said access maliciously must have sent alarm bells ringing at Apple HQ. The website claims Apple had originally rejected the app due to such concerns (the original version offered full access to BASIC from the word go) but developer Manomio had appeased those worries by promising to write it out of the final software.

Instead of being removed entirely, BASIC remained part of the final code, albeit hidden from view. Manomio itself only discovered it could be accessed after it had sent the final version to Apple for final review. An edited version reached the App Store’s review process too late to replace the original and stop the emulator from being removed.

The developer is now trying to arrange a meeting with Apple to sort out the whole affair. Manomio CEO Brian Lyscarz told us the studio was unlikely to offer any official comment until it had been in contact with Apple. All the signs are that a BASIC-less version should hopefully find its way onto the App Store at some point in the future.

The concept previously met with Apple’s approval and initial sales proved positive, but all eyes will be on the two parties over the following weeks to see if this is one relationship that will either mend or turn bad.

C64 Hands-On

If you’ve never owned or played games on a real Commodore 64 before, Manomio’s C64 may not hold that much interest to you. However, if you do have warm memories of the system and its games, this App is about as pure of a nostalgia kick as you could hope for. For example, the menus in C64 intentionally evoke the feeling of a trusted old computer in your den. The games are even placed on virtual wood-paneled shelves for your perusal.

Although it was recently rejected by the App Store, Manomio is fighting hard to get C64 accepted, and may end up removing the version of BASIC currently found in C64. If you have the programming chops to make an actual working game in BASIC, you probably don’t need to do it inside this App anyways.

Besides BASIC, our preview build of C64 contains five games: Arctic Shipwreck, Dragon’s Den, Jack Attack, Jupiter Lander, and Lemans. These emulated games, which Manomio has acquired the rights to republish, don’t come with instructions included, so you’ll have to learn what to do in them by trial and error. More games will hopefully be coming in add-on packs, should C64 actually be released.

In Arctic Shipwreck, you control a wooly mammoth stomping around on an early 3d rendering of an ice floe, trying to keep stranded sailors from falling off while they wait to be rescued. The graphics and sound are extremely primitive, but at least they’re authentic.

Dragon’s Den is a game similar to Joust, in which you control a winged beast while carrying a spear. By hitting the virtual joystick button, you flap the Pegasus’s wings to impale other flying creatures, and after a few levels of this you can hatch a baby dragon out of a giant egg and fight it.

Jack Attack is probably our favorite of the five games, because it plays like an ancestor of platformers like Super Mario Bros. You control a jumping red creature that has to avoid being squished by bouncing green smiley faces, while squishing them in return.

Jupiter Lander, we would guess, is the game most familiar to players, having been ported to various systems. In Jupiter Landing you have to slowly control the descent of a spacecraft. You can fire jets below or to the sides of your craft, and you get bonus points for navigating the trickier crevasses.

Finally, the last game in C64 is Lemans, an above-view racing game. You simply have to punch the gas while avoiding the other cars. If you hit them, you must go into the pit stop, and if you can avoid them long enough, the race will end. One aspect that must have been mind-blowing 25 years ago is that when you enter a tunnel in the game, your view goes pitch black except for a small cone of light from your headlights.

C64 at this point doesn’t seem to be a threat to Apple or the App Store, so we see no reason why this App has been banned. If BASIC is the only thing keeping C64 from App Store approval, we hope that Manomio will go ahead and leave that unnecessary feature behind. Old-timey emulated games should belong to the people who remember them fondly (assuming the rights have been legally acquired), and C64 seems to be doing its best to satisfy these nostalgic urges.

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