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Commodore 64

During a visit to my parent’s house a few months ago, I stumbled across some old classic video games online. During this nostalgia trip, my Dad walked past and saw my laptop display, ‘Is that Dungeon Master?’, he asked. It certainly was, and so we began digging deeper into the abyss of gaming’s past. It all came to quite an emotional finale as we found a video to a game my Dad thought he’d never witness again: Way of the Exploding Fist II.

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Thanks to an official C64 emulator we can now enjoy titles from the C64 library on the move. The app – sold as a game – comes with a number of free titles, ready to be launched. Most of which you’ll play once and never load again. There is, however, one title that can be downloaded for free and is an incredible piece of ‘80s video game design, whose early levels were still fresh in my memory. That game is Bruce Lee.

Apart from Bruce Lee, there are a few sport titles as well as more unusual games included, such as Heatseeker, where you play as a leg with a claw who uses a basketball to absorb heat. Each game features a full description and additional information; although an internet connection is required to view this as it’s pulled from the store.

Browsing the in-game library is easy and smooth. It’d be more user-friendly to be able to sort them by title or most played, as the current default is by when they were purchased. Boot up a title and you’re brought to the title screen, with the occasional options to change, like the Training Mode that grants unlimited continues.

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The games themselves can be played using two different methods. With the iPhone vertical, an old arcade style stick and red button are shown, with a mock-TV display of the game at the top. Hold the iPhone horizontally and it becomes full screen, with the movement stick appearing wherever you put your finger. This stops the controls from obscuring the screen for the most part, but it still happens occasionally and isn’t accurate and responsive enough during frantic platforming sections.

Wizball, for example, controls like absolute crap. Wizball will either move too slowly or suddenly launch himself across the landscape and straight into the face of some intergalactic being, much to the displeasure of both parties involved. The game’s charm and appeal have lasted, keeping me interested even when the poor controls do make it similar to driving a car with only first and sixth gear. Still, others will quickly become frustrated and turn it off, abandoning pre-Sensible Software developer’s bizarre vehicle on a desolate embankment for good. Other games are well into their retirement and are for the retro connoisseur only, in some cases only as history lesson in early video game design.

And while some titles are bundled in with the app, it’s expensive and so the games aren’t really free. If you want to play additional titles then you’ll have to fork out extra cash. When there’s The Last Ninja one tap of a touchscreen away it can be very tempting to pick up extra games on the move. Especially when the size of the file means any 3G connection will download it in a few seconds. But, again, it’s not cheap when considering two new games are the same price of a title you could probably stream for free online.

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The C64 Emulator is a great idea but the varying level of control and high cost will alienate a lot of users. There’s no way purchasing one old game you may play for a few minutes over two new titles can be recommended. With a repricing of the app and additional games, along with a review of the controls on each title, this could become one to keep an eye on.

Review based on version 2.1

3 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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