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The C64 review: A retro delight in all its flawed glory

★★★★

€130, www.retrogames.biz

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The C64 comes bundled with a joystick and 64 games including the classic Uridium (bottom left)

The C64 comes bundled with a joystick and 64 games including the classic Uridium (bottom left)

The C64 joystick

The C64 joystick

The C64 replica

The C64 replica

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The C64 comes bundled with a joystick and 64 games including the classic Uridium (bottom left)

Nostalgia is an immensely powerful force. Why else would anyone (twice) revive a fairly ugly, grossly underpowered relic of 80s technology? Seen through the prism of 2020, the feeble specs and chunky design have no place in a world of AirPods, Teslas and FitBits. Perhaps there's a sucker born every minute, as that old showman PT Barnum reputedly said.

But that would be to look at this remarkably faithful resurrection of the Commodore 64 from the wrong angle. One of the best-selling home computers of its time, the C64 introduced millions to simple coding and games when it debuted in 1982.

This officially licensed remake - prosaically dubbed The C64 - may appeal largely to nostalgic techies of a certain generation who remember it first time around. But as an enjoyable piece of computing history at a fraction of the cost of the original, it's priceless. The unmistakeable clackety-clack of the keyboard and the satisfyingly clicky joystick can instantly transport you almost 40 years to its heyday.

For ultra-masochists, the C64 also emulates its less powerful predecessor, the Vic 20, but that's probably a step too far except for historians.

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The C64 replica

The C64 replica

The C64 replica

This being 2020, the hardware naturally uses HDMI and USB for its connections, enabling you to hook up The C64 to modern TVs and load software from a memory stick. Switch it on and the machine boots into Basic, the elementary coding language, or a carousel of 64 (of course!) games from the halcyon era of the 80s. The likes of Uridium, Boulder Dash and Impossible Mission still hold up - just - but most won't detain anyone for long.

However, the vast array of C64 software - including thousands of programs in categories such as business, drawing, music and games - can also be sideloaded via USB, even though they exist in a legal grey area unless you own the originals.

Retro revivals often skimp on materials and design to hit a price point. The C64 is the second incarnation of the Commodore rebirth, following on from 2018's C64 Mini, which shrunk the case and bizarrely omitted a working keyboard. This latest redesign restores everything to its rightful place.

So slap on an episode of Miami Vice, pull up a pair of fluorescent legwarmers and switch on The C64 - because the 80s are back.


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