Hands-on With C64 For iPhone, and an Interview with Manomio

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Back to 1980s gaming, when it were all (blocky) fields round here.

Being somewhat old of years and gray of hair, I remember the good ol’ days of gaming, before all this new-fangled 3D nonsense. Entire games would be smaller in size than a thumbnail JPEG, controllers didn’t have 56,000 buttons, and games weren’t always sequels to sequels to sequels to [that’s enough of that—”Ed]

Clearly, I’m not the only one, because retro games are hot properties for all current gaming systems, and Apple handhelds are no exception. The App Store is peppered with clones and ‘tributes’ to ancient games, along with a slew of official remakes from the likes of Atari and Namco. Recently, though, Manomio—developers of Flashback for iPhone—went a stage further, aiming to bring an entire retro system to iPhone: the Commodore 64.

The build of C64 we played with was quite impressive. Although frameskipping was evident (which is no longer the case for C64 emulation on desktop Macs), the small selection of games sent over with the demo were perfectly playable. Surprisingly, the controls also worked nicely, which is quite a feat when you consider that the C64 was a distinctly ‘digital control’ platform, and that virtual joysticks don’t often work well on Apple handhelds.

Sadly, the public at large has yet to experience the app, because Apple unceremoneously rejected it, citing issues regarding its built-in BASIC (App Store apps aren’t allowed to launch executable code), and, presumably, ignoring the fact that Frotz—a Z-Machine interpreter—has been happily living on the App Store for ages, despite there being no practical distinction between it and C64.

Stu from Manomio was kind enough to offer his thoughts on this and other issues surrounding C64, along with talking about why Manomio developed the app in the first place, and why the organization considers it important to fully license content for the App Store (a position that, ironically, puts them at odds with at least several dozen rip-off apps already for sale for Apple handhelds).