Updated: C64 Review

Manomio has updated the C64’s library with some old-school must-haves. Prepare to wallow in your childhood.

C64 owners may now download three classics for free: Laser Squad (turn-based strategy), Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo (side-scrolling action/roleplay), and Bruce Lee (platforming/fighting), which features the green-as-ever sumo wrestler enemy, Yamo.

Five more games are up for grabs at 99 cents each: AlleyKat (shoot-em-up/racing), Nebulus (puzzle/action, released as Tower Toppler in the US), Paradroid (puzzle/action), Stormlord (side-scrolling action), and Uridium (action/puzzle).

The freebies that come packed with the C64 download serve well as entertaining distractions, but new additions like Stormlord and Samurai Warrior really show off what the workhorse computer was capable of in its day. These are games you’ll want to sit down and take serious cracks at, and even if Bruce Lee hasn’t aged as well as you might have hoped, well, there’s a green sumo wrestler!

The controls remain slippery at vital points, like when trying to board the rising platforms in Nebulus. Playing with the iPhone held horizontally helps. Several of the games also offer infinite lives, time, and energy via a “Trainer” mode if you need some time to re-discover your legs for old-timey games.

The extra free games make Commodore 64 on the iPhone a Must Have, especially if you remember any of these classics.

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.

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