Here at Glowing Eye Games there’s a lot of love for retro games, I mean really what’s more retro than developing card and domino games anyway! To break up the news of our releases, updates and the insights into how Glowing Eye Games operates we wanted to write about the new A500 mini console (because we really like it, and it’s our blog so we can!).
I won’t dally too long talking about the original Amiga, but when it came out it was graphically and sonically the most advanced machine of its time. It could certainly handle serious software like 3D rendering (the first series of Babylon 5 used Amigas for their 3D graphics), but it really took off when the reasonably priced Amiga 500 was released 35 years ago. Games caught the majority of people’s imaginations, especially in Europe, and it’s games that are the bread and butter of this magical mini machine. You won’t be doing old school 3D renders with this thing!
The A500 mini is an amazing addition to the world of mini consoles. Just like the best of them it’s obviously been made with great attention to detail and contains a solid starting pack of 25 games. The mouse is a beautiful nostalgic reminder to Amiga owners. The plastic Amiga 500 replica shell is just as delightful as the dinky mini SNES, although it’s as big as a VHS tape. The controller is okay (the SNES one was much better!), but despite what some reviews say, getting the diagonals was easy after just getting used to controller. Those diagonals are so important because most games were made with a one button joystick in mind. We’re talking about a system where jumping is usually accomplished by pressing up rather than another button. Having said that I am absolutely devastated that my old Zip Stick joystick (with USB interface) didn’t work properly but overjoyed that my PS4 controller does. Naturally I blame this for my abysmal performance playing the classic Kick Off 2. Damn I forgot how much skill that game demanded, no wonder people started playing Sensible Soccer, it was so much easier to score.
Retro Games Ltd, who made the A500 mini, certainly learned a lot from their release of the incredibly popular C64 mini especially; the criticism of the joystick that came with it. The hardware and controllers absolutely do justice to this system. Also, just like the C64 mini the firmware can be updated and with the support the company gave the C64 mini I expect there will be a few updates for the A500 mini. The creators have also stated if they think there is a demand for it, they’ll create a full-sized version with working keyboard just like they did for the C64.
The games are a good collection of predominantly UK and European made classics from the likes of Team 17, The Bitmap Brothers, Gremlin Graphics and more. Twenty-Five included games was never going to be enough for a machine where people have argued and battled about the top 100 games in their list, so unlike the majority of other mini systems you can sideload games relatively painlessly. As most of those games are abandonware, they are fairly easily obtained online. Technically the original rights holders could stop this, but with little commercial value to them they turn a blind eye so you won’t have to search too hard to find them. Of course, if you own the games in question, then those technical legal issues melt away.
Unlike the original Amiga, one of the most helpful features with the A500 mini is that games can be saved easily while playing them at any point. Given how intentionally challenging games used to be in those days, that’s incredibly useful for an old timer like me with a job, responsibilities, and slower reflexes. It makes these games so much easier to pick up and play than they were in the mists of time. Smashing the leagues of Speedball 2 and burning rubber with Super Cars 2 have been great fun in the few days that I’ve owned it. I forgot how good Stunt Car Racer was, even if the 3D graphics look simple. I’m looking forward to completing old favourites again and trying a few games that have been on my ‘to play’ list.
I’m still amazed by classic games that are fun to play more than two decades later, considering every one of us are spoiled for gaming options in this day and age. For some games it’s true that they trigger happy, nostalgic memories, but for the masterpieces made back then something about the game mechanics, the timing, and the honing mean that they are still pretty awesome to play today. Some games were just born perfect, although it’s not included with the A500 mini, Lemmings is a prime example. It’s just as fantastic to play now as it was back then; it was the first sideloaded game I searched for and I’m so glad I did!
I wasn’t surprised looking into the Amiga forums, that for hardcore fans of the platform, they want a full-sized version with a working keyboard (today!) that can boot into the Amiga operating system Workbench. This machine isn’t that and without firmware updates to allow simulating an Amiga hard disk it won’t even come close. However, it is a fantastic way for Amiga fans to quickly hook up an Amiga games console to their giant TV and enjoy a trip down memory lane. After you download one of our games, you should get it!