In the wake of E3, much has been made of the battle between Sony and Microsoft, as gamers around the world decide who will earn their allegiance for the next generation of consoles. Lurking in the shadows of these console giants is a new name with a much clearer directive.
Ouya: “once you’re in—it takes just $99—every game on OUYA is free to try, free to love and absolutely free to brag about.
Ouya, based on the Android platform, is the final product of a Kickstarter program that targeted two groups of people: developers and budget-conscious gamers. Retailing at $99, the small cube packs a Tegra3 quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal storage. Openly prompting hackers and developers to have at their console with whatever tools they have at their disposal, the makers of Ouya sought out to create the most user friendly console on the market.
One of the big parts of that transition lies in the Ouya controller. It’s just a small step from an Xbox 360 controller, with similar button placement and triggers. The one standout is the centered touch-pad where gamers are used to seeing logos. This allows the user to scroll through pages and take advantage of the open nature of the console, whether it’s exploring the internet or selecting options in the various game menus.
Setting up the Ouya was a breeze, consisting of a few plugs and a controller sync, but there were some obvious signs of the toned down specs when the console’s first major update was downloaded. It took a good 10-15 minutes on an Ethernet connection, something you’d imagine would be worse when using Wi-Fi. After getting past that hurdle, the Ouya experience was revealed.
“Discover” is the meat and potatoes for most people who will take a crack at the Ouya. Inside this section is the marketplace where you’ll find the games, programs, and technology that will turn the Ouya from a piece of metal to a device that feels like your own.
It’s hard to know where to start, as you’re hit with a wave of tiles filled with programs and games many will have little experience with. Your best bet is probably to do a little research and see what’s out there that would interest you. Alternatively, you can do some window shopping. EVERYTHING (yes, you’re reading that correctly) is available for free with a minimum of a one hour demo. Many titles are totally free, which promotes trying new selections from the large block of developers that the Ouya is attracting. Not long after entering the Discover section, I came out with a short list of things to try out that included the following (Ouya games unless otherwise noted):
- Dub Wars
- Beast Boxing Turbo
- Final Fantasy III
- You Don’t Know Jack
- Snes 9x (Super Nintendo emulator)
- Mupen64 Plus AE (Nintendo 64 emulator)
As you can see, there are a nice mix of titles here. Trivia, boxing, timed jumping, and classic RPGs were on the hit list. To say that they performed well would be an understatement; the made for Ouya titles looked good, played smoothly, and offered the same variety (on a smaller scale) you’d expect from the marketplace of one of the giants.
Beast Boxing Turbo was the standout for solo gameplay. Putting players in the shoes of a boxer in training, you’re given a quick tutorial and then thrown into the ring against a series of increasingly gruesome opponents. A modern, first-person take on a formula established by Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, Beast Boxing Turbo was a joyous romp that will remind older gamers of their NES.
BombSquad‘s fantastic multiplayer showed that the Ouya is more than a solo venture. Hooking up a few controllers and diving into the Bomberman clone on the same couch as your competitors was a blast. Scrambling for power-ups and tossing explosives while friends shriek with fear/delight that takes gamers back to the pre-DSL days.
And really, that’s what Ouya is all about. It’s an experience that lacks the high power of the current gen, but makes up for it with ties to gaming’s past. This is made even more evident by the number of emulators available in the Ouya marketplace.*
With my old collection of ROMs loaded up onto an SD card, a trip down memory lane was displayed on the flatscreen. Turtles In Time. Ocarina of Time. Super Mario World. NBA Jam. All the heavy hitters of generations past in one tiny box. Switching between titles and switching between different emulators was fast and flawless. There’s something about playing these games on a console that never felt right on a computer, even with USB controllers. The pairing is natural, and the gameplay is as good as it ever was.
Media options are plentiful because of the Android backdrop. Want to take advantage of your Netflix account? Download the .apk file and it’s ready to go. Want to watch your extensive media library? XBMC can serve as the player for 1080p quality video. The only limitation on what you can do with Ouya is set by your imagination.
So what’s keeping it from being perfect? Cracks in the armor. The low price point and specs show at inconvenient times. It was unclear whether this was a product of the controller or the system itself, but there were several response time delays playing both Ouya games and ROMs. The aforementioned slow downloads were a hindrance to getting started as quickly as desired, and put doubts in the mind about the ability to play online. Things that gamers have come to accept as givens aren’t always there with Ouya. A polished product it is not.
But that’s part of the charm. When you played a title like Mega Man X on SNES, there were times when you thought the controller didn’t do what you were telling it, leading to the death of your armored hero. Games don’t have to be perfect to be enjoyable. Wading through the hiccups used to be part of the fun, not something that could be squashed with an easily downloaded update.
With nothing but time in front of them, upstart developers will have more time to create unique, polished experiences for the console, building on a small, but solid library of titles. If you’ve got $99 in your pocket, treat yourself. Call me a sucker for nostalgia, and an advocate for an open development policy, but the Ouya is a great addition to your gaming cabinet.
[schema type=”review” url=”EntertainmentBuddha.com” name=”Ouya | Review Summary” description=”The Awesome: Couch Co-Op, Nostalgic feel, Great variety, Open platform | The Not So Awesome: Slow downloads, Sketchy feedback, Limited library” rev_name=”Ouya Game Console” rev_body=”The Ouya is a fun piece of hardware that can be customized to the user’s desire. A game console for nostalgia junkies and thrill seekers alike, there’s a little something for everyone in this tiny box. ” author=”Kyle Neubeck” pubdate=”2013-07-03″ user_review=”8″ min_review=”0″ max_review=”10″ ]
*Author’s Note: You must own a copy of the game to legally play ROMs on Ouya, or anywhere else.
**The Author of this review was provided with an Ouya console that this site paid for, and owns each of the titles listed above
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