The A500 Mini review: this Amiga 500 mini brings the retro magic
This retro console is a brilliant ode to the classic computer.
It was way back in 1987 when the Amiga A500 was first revealed by Commodore. The computer wasn't just made for games, but it was pretty evident when it was first released that it was going to be used primarily as a gaming machine by those lucky ones who got their hands on the thing.
- UPDATE: The A500 Mini is now available to buy. You can get it from Amazon and other online stores.
It was also a computer that sparked a sort of tribalism in the gaming market: you were either an A500 fan or an Atari ST user. It was the PlayStation / Xbox rivalry of its day.
Skip some 35 years and the Amiga A500 is back, albeit in mini form as a retro gaming console called The A500 Mini.
ShortList is one of the lucky few who have played with the machine before its wide release. Here are 5 things to know about the The A500 Mini...
1. The A500 Mini's design will give you retro chills
Retro Games, the makers of the The A500 Mini, have really nailed the look and feel of its retro console. The design of the The A500 Mini is exactly as we remember the Amiga A500 - the only real change is the logo which isn't used on this console.
The main console is the keyboard of the A500. Unfortunately while the look of the keyboard has been captured perfectly, those keys are just cosmetic so they don't actually work. This won't stop you tapping on the thing, though, just as we did in our tests. And given that the console is pretty much the size of a paperback book, it just wouldn't have been feasible to have working keys.
The disk drive on the side is also recreated - again, this is just for show. While it would be amazing if you could put tiny disks in the drive, it's just there to look like the original computer.
2. Setup is simple
Flip the console over and there are some changes here as the ports are obviously bang up to date. It's on the back that you will find 3x USB ports, an HDMI slot and a power cable slot.
Connect a power cable (a cable is in the box but you will need to find your own plug) and you will see a power button light up on the right side of the The A500 Mini. This is a nice touch that, again, is something the original computer had.
Once on, you choose your language, what output you want to use and then you are straight into the game menu.
We will talk about the accessories in more detail in a bit but it is worth noting that there is a mouse and gamepad in the box.
The mouse didn't seem to work for setting the console up, though, so we had to use the gamepad to get to the game screen.
3. The games selection is decent
In total there are 25 games that are built into the The A500 Mini. They are as follows *deep breath*:
Alien Breed 3D, Alien Breed: Special Edition'92, Another World, Arcade Pool, ATR: All Terrain Racing, Battle Chess, Cadaver, California Games, The Chaos Engine, Dragons Breath, F-16 Combat Pilot, Kick Off 2, The Lost Patrol, Paradroid 90, Pinball Dreams, Project-X: Special Edition 93, Qwak, The Sentinel, Simon the Sorcerer, Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, Stunt Car Racer, Super Cars II, Titus The Fox: To Marrakech And Back, Worms: The Director's Cut, Zool: Ninja Of The "Nth" Dimension.
As always, the choice of games on retro consoles are a mixed bag - we don't mean this in terms of quality, but genre and how well known they are.
From our own experience, we were familiar with quite a lot of these games, having played them back in the late 80s, The games we went straight to were: Alien Breed 3D, Another World, Arcade Pool, California Games, The Chaos Engine, F-16 Combat Pilot, Kick Off 2 and Zool.
All of these games played exactly as we remembered. Zool is garish and packed with with product placement, California Games is as tough as it always has been and F-16 Combat Pilot may not be the flight sim we thought it was back in the day (it's obviously aged big time) but it is still a lot of fun to play.
There are games in the list that can be played solely with the mouse, such as Battle Chess, but you have to dig in to find out what works with both the gamepad and mouse.
That is an issue with all these games: instructions. There are no instructions on how to play the games on the console, though they should be available for download once the console is released. Going in with no instructions means games such as Dragons Breath and Another World are incredibly tough from the get go.
4. The mouse and gamepad are great additions
Adding to the retro goodness of the The A500 Mini is the addition of a gamepad and mouse.
These are definitely not afterthoughts but are as well made as the main console. The gamepad is heavy so feels decent in the hand and worked well on the games we played. While we would have liked the menu and home buttons in the middle to be swapped around (we kept hitting home by mistake which takes you out of the game and back to the home screen) but the rest of the controls work really well.
There is also an option to map the controls of the game on to the gamepad which is a nice geeky touch.
The mouse works well - except its optical, not rollerball - but we found ourselves using the gamepad a lot more when playing the games. As these are USB accessories, you can use them with other devices if you want to.
We will say that it feels a little odd playing these Amiga games with a gamepad, given that we would have used a joystick or mouse back in the day. The gamepad is really well made, though, and feels like it is from the same time period of the original Amiga.
5. You can upload your own games, too
If you are annoyed that your favourite game isn't on the pre-installed list, then don't panic: the extra USB port is there for you to add in a USB stick packed with your own Amiga A500 games.
The console allows you to mess around with the cropping of the game on the screen, too, which is a great extra feature to have.
Once a USB is in the back of the console, it will appear as its own section in the bottom game bar.
THEA500 Mini review: final verdict
Given the Amiga A500 was one of the most successful Commodore computers, there were a lot of A500 fans out there. The good news for them is that The A500 Mini manages to capture the retro charm of the original computer with its stunning eye for detail.
While we would have like a working keyboard, we are really impressed with the build of the The A500 Mini, as well as how easy it is to setup and play.
The addition of a gamepad and mouse is a really nice touch and the game selection is varied but there are certainly key titles missing. Those craving the likes of Cannon Fodder, Rainbow Islands, The Secret of Monkey Island and Sensible Soccer will have to use the USB stick functionality.
The The A500 Mini is out in the UK 8 April for £119.99. You can pre-order now.