Jul 3, 2013

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OUYA Review: The Little System That Could

OUYA Review: The Little System That Could

OUYA-logo

A new console was created and funded through Kickstarter, one that is powered by a Tegra 3 and hooks up to your TV with HDMI and runs on Android 4.1 Jellybean. An Android-based console you say? I had my doubts, too, but I backed it on Kickstarter anyway, and I got my unit recently. Here are my impressions.

The system is quite small, a cube that fits in the palm of your hand. The inputs in the back of the system are limited to a single USB port, a A/C adapter jack, ethernet port, and one HDMI port. It is by far one of the smallest, if not the smallest console video game system that I have seen.

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First Impressions and OS

When the system first starts up, it will ask you to connect to an access point over WiFi, or if you have a ethernet cord plugged into the system, then it will connect to the OUYA network infrastructure. At this point it will ask you to login into your OUYA account, or create one.

The system’s firmware has been updated numerous times since I first received my console, and as of this writing, the latest one has significantly improved the performance of the system and the response time of the controller. The system’s interface is a rather simple four-choice selection of “Play,” “Discover,” “Make,” and “Manage.”

As the name implies, “Play” allows you to play or use apps that you may have installed off the OUYA store.

“Discover” is the label they use for the OUYA store front, which has a handful of titles at this moment, each divided into categories, or you can search for a new game or app. Each and all of the games have some sort of free-to-play option in them, whether it is a demo, an in-app purchase (IAP) to unlock the full title, or maybe completely free supported by IAP.

“Make” is exactly what it means. Want to make a game that can run on OUYA? The system is already setup rootable and is a debug unit, so if you have Android programming experience you can get right to programming your game.

“Manage” allows you to manage device settings, as well as apps.

Overall, the system has a rather simple interface, and while this isn’t a bad thing, one would expect something a bit more impressive given how Android was built around the idea of customization. You see some better interfaces on Android phones and tablets. However, given that this system is designed for use with a controller, perhaps the simple interface is necessary. It is designed to get to the games sooner rather than later.

Controller

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I found the controller to be comfortable to hold, but odd to actually use, depending on the game. The controller has your standard assortment of buttons, and is very similar to the Xbox 360 controller. It features four face buttons, the O, U, Y, and A buttons, along with an OUYA button that takes you back to the main home screen. It has four trigger buttons, the lower most are where your index fingers rest, behaving the most like triggers, while the two buttons above it have a similar feel to the right and left bumpers on the 360 controller. In the center of the controller is a track pad, and in practice this part of the controller felt the most useless. The analog sticks also function as buttons if clicked in. Lastly, the d-pad on the controller was a bit mushy, not giving any really sense of tactile feedback when pressed. However, it was responsive in use.

Overall, the controller has a nice feel, particularly the silver plates, which also house the two AA batteries. It gives you a sense of nice build quality; however, when the face buttons are pushed in, sometimes they get stuck, which could a be a design flaw of the controller itself. The analog sticks respond nicely while in-game, and function in a similar way to the 360 sticks.

Final Verdict

Buy? (Maybe)

For $100, this seems like a system that would find its way into many homes. But you need an internet connection to get any of the games off the OUYA store, and only a handful of them are worth playing. A few awesome titles are available, like Canabalt HD, Final Fantasy III, and Towerfall. However, both Canabalt HD and Final Fantasy III are both games that have existed on numerous platforms before the release of the OUYA. The library is growing everyday, though, so I would recommend that you keep an eye out on the system, and if there is a game that catches your eye, go ahead and buy.