C64 Hands-On

We’re told by Manomio’s CEO Brian Lyscarz that C64 has been approved by Apple, and will be available on the App Store within an hour. The final version contains all five Commodore 64 games that we previewed, but no BASIC.

The C64 emulator will cost $4.99, and additional game packs will either be free, or cost $.99 or $1.99.

Remarking on C64 finally being made available, Lyscarz told us, “We have been in a good communication with Apple and changed what they needed us to change, so I feel good about it. If BASIC will be back or not, I can not say- depends on Apple.”

“So it has been extremely hard process, but finally Apple worked with us.”

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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