Video Games Used To Be Fun
Video games may seem to be the domain of video game consoles like the PlayStation, XBox, et all, but the fact is that gaming started on computers big time even as the Atari 2600 gave rose to the Nintendo Entertainment System and then adding in Sega and others. But there was a really amazing game machines that came out prior to these consoles, and the interesting part is that it wasn’t really a gaming machine at all. It came from Commodore and was called the Amiga.
The Amiga was amazing in that it did everything that the extremely expensive Apple computer did at the time, but had better color, true multitasking and a choke hold on creativity through specialized chips handling video, audio, etc. So when some developers (mostly European) started putting games on the Amiga, it went ballistic. In a good way. So much so that these 36+ years old computers are still being used today. But for those looking to get their hands on some of these games, well buying original equipment is too damn expensive, not to mention temperamental, and sticking an emulator onto a PC or Mac just doesn’t “feel right.” What’s needed is a dedicated console that emulates the Amiga 500 — the most successful of the Amigas — and gives you the fun and enjoyment of the games that you’d want to play. Oh, it would help if it could handle WHDloading (more on that later) so as to be able to load in (legal) ROMs of other games. Because there are over 4000 games that came out for the Amiga. Some great, some okay, some just so-so and some crud. But who wouldn’t want to be Scrooge McDuck diving into thousands of games? That’s where Retro Games Ltd.’s A500 Mini comes into play.
The A500 Is a Miniaturized Amiga 500 Sorta
The A500 Mini looks like a miniaturized Amiga 500, except the keyboard and disk slot/drive are cosmetic only — neither works but you do get flashing LEDs like the drive was in play. The technology inside emulates the A500 and adds in a carousel of 25 games that can be chosen from (more on that in a bit). Lots of ports on the back and they’re needed: you get USB power, USB slots to plug in the mini-me sized Amiga tank-like mouse and the GamePad. The GamePad is similar to Amiga’s CD 32 and provides a series of buttons, direction pad, triggers and the like. A joystick from the folks who make the Mini is also available. Meanwhile the HDMI output will send a 720p resolution image to a TV set — which allows for playing on an American TV as if it was a U.K. As some games expect it to be played on a PAL system, not the old NTSC. There’s even a virtual keyboard — but if you want a better experience, get a wireless keyboard to plug in.
Games, Games, Games
So back to those games that are built in — there’s racing and fighting and mystery and adventure. Mention a few: Simon the Sorcerer, Worms, Alien Breed. If you’ve never played Amiga games, it’s a good introduction. Rather than going into the games, just understand that they display well the abilities of what made the Amiga look and sound like a really cool game machine. Game control is simple in most cases, more involved in others and no lags or gaffs, just solid game play with fun looking graphics and the pixelization we all crave. Plus the digitized imaging and some really cool sounds so plug into a TV that has a good sound system.
WHDLoad Brings Games Together
But we were going to take about WHDLoad. First what it is is a system of taking a game, for example let’s say one of the great Lucasfilm adventure titles like Monkey Island, and converting all those discs that had to be swapped back and forth during game play and instead turning it into a simple file that can be put on a USB drive inserted into the back of the Mini and then accessed. Helped by Retro Games having embedded WHDLoad into their machine and doing an update to improve upon the system noting games in a database. So you can access a lot of games this way —-legally meaning you own the originals or they’re now abandonware or public domain or in other words there’s no copyright problems — and play them.
The A500 Mini may not be an original Amiga, but for many it’s doing a great job at making Amiga games available. The Mini isn’t expensive and it’s well situated to being open to others doing fun hacking things with it — one guy already made it possible to bring up the Amiga desktop and then go for using the Mini like the computer that the A500 really was too. Hotcha! But watch out for a glitch that sometimes causes the Mini to stay on, even though you’ve pressed the “Shutdown” button (at least on ours). That necessitates either pulling the plug out of its back or (less problematic) from the wall outlet. For more details go to https://retrogames.biz/products/thea500-mini/