I've been a fan of the Commodore 64 for nearly twenty-five years now. The original machine is best, of course, but I welcome any new opportunity to play its games on new platforms. Emulation has seen old computers raise their heads all over the place... not just on the humble PC, but for years and years now they've been running on systems from handhelds up to the Nintendo Wii. Now, it's running on the iPhone... sort of.
The program is set out in a cute way, with a Commodore 64 in the middle, tape deck at the top left, cup of coffee and computer mags at the top right, joystick at the bottom right and games at the bottom left. This is purely cosmetic... after a little while, a power button pops up for you to start the program. Once you do, it displays your list of games, plus options at the bottom.
Watch you don't spill that...
Games... it appears that someone has managed to officially license some Commodore 64 games for sale on the App Store. They get around the usual restrictions by offering them through an in-emulator store. It works perfectly well, although there's not a lot of games available just yet. Most of the games are from Hewson (not a bad thing), with a few First Star, Task Set and Mastertronic games also available. Oh, and Wizball.
You don't need to head in that direction immediately, because they do throw some free games at you for starters. At first, I thought that the eight Commodore games they give you were your lot... not bad, as the classic International Soccer and Basketball are among them, as well as Jupiter Lander and Jack Attack. But then I noticed there were others in the store for free, and all I had to do was download them. And there are some bona fide classics in there... Bruce Lee for one, Samurai Warrior (Usagi Yojimbo) for another. There are a couple of Jeff Minter games (Hover Bovver and Attack of the Mutant Camels), which is good to see. There's also Laser Squad, which would seem to be an awesome addition... although I can't figure out the controls for that one at all.
That's what you get for trying to be sneaky!
The controls... that's where the whole package lives or dies, really. And although I don't want to say that this dies, it's certainly a bit peaky.
The level of control you get depends on the type of game you're playing. The first game I played was Bruce Lee, or B. Lee as it's actually called here... I guess your character could be Bernard Lee, or maybe Brett Lee, but that's a bit less glamorous in a kung-fu game. I didn't play this much at the time, and never really knew what I was supposed to do. My mate Reedy played it loads though, and loved it. Actually, I remember now that we had some good laughs with the two player game. He might not have been so keen on this one... it's pretty tricky to do what you want. The problem mainly comes from the "joystick"... the length of travel is too long, making movements imprecise. In B. Lee, that means The Green Yamo keeps kicking me to Kingdom Come. Not great.
Games can be played in Landscape mode, which is probably a bit easier.
Next up was Usagi Yojimbo. I loved this game back in the day. Loved it. In fact, I might do an Unsung Classic on it. For a samurai game, and therefore a beat 'em up, it's quite laid back. As a result, it actually works pretty well on this app. Everything came flooding back straight away, and I didn't have any control issues at all. This could eat up some time.
Finally, in order to test the shop and the joystick's true limits, I downloaded Uridium. Uridium was possibly the best arcade shooter on the 64. Fast and frantic, it requires quick reflexes and a quicker trigger finger. Which means that on the iPhone or iPod, you're dead in no time flat. You just don't have the level of control that you need over your ship. Shame... this would have been an awesome game for the bus.
And this is full screen mode. Now, where's the "accurate controls" mode?
At the end of the day, recommending this Commodore 64 app is difficult. After all, the C64 has been emulated on countless handhelds, to better effect. But this does have some nice features... one of which is the way it automatically saves your game when you exit and gives you the option of resuming where you left off next time you load the game. It's a nice idea, but the controls still need some tweaking. That said, it's free (not sure if that's permanent or not), and as Usagi Yojimbo is also free and is awesome and playable here, it's worth getting just for that. Anything else you happen to like is just a bonus.