A New Game in Town

ouya game consoleLast week the Ouya console hit retail stores at $99 and quickly sold out but not before reviewers treated the launch to a very lukewarm response. Ouya Launches to Lukewarm Early Reviews. I received my console on Thursday and spent the last week putting it through its paces. My verdict; I do see where some of the reviews are spot on, but at the same time I am suspicious of many of the reviews that seem to not match my experience.

Ouya is an open source console, supported by novice and pro developers alike, powered by Android and offers unprecedented access to the hardware. The console set records on Kickstarter last year when it was a tech writer’s darling. Ouya’s Ridiculously Successful Kickstarter Ends with Millions in the Bank. This thing is really a geek’s toy more than a console for the masses. I will say if your familiarity with video games begins with the Playstation 2 this is not the console for you. If however like me, you cut your teeth shoving quarters into Phoenix and Galaga machines at the arcade back when games were only 25 cents, then you are the audience for this device. Not many of the 200 or so games currently available will keep you glued to any one them for hours like on current generation consoles, nor do they look as pretty. What the games do offer is a lot of fun in quick play sessions pretty much like my experiences in the heyday of the arcades where I would hop from machine to machine in search of the next high score.

The console itself is small, about the size of an orange, and has connections for power, HDMI, full and micro sized USB ports and a network connection. The Ouya does have Wi-Fi but I found myself going wired after I could not get the Ouya to join my home network. Fortunately my router is in the living room with my TV so I have this option. I can see this being a bigger problem for any who lack access to a wired connection. The controller has been improved since the original one that went out to backers and earlier reviewers. I have not encountered any of the problems that have been mentioned regarding sticky buttons or lag. I dare say the controller works almost as good as the one for my Xbox 360, the benchmark for good controllers. I had to apply an update as soon as I connected and powered up my device and a second update came through a couple days later, good to know support is on the job.

So what can you play on this thing? There are already lists of the Best Ouya Games online. I have spent a lot of time with racing game Flashout HD, Canabalt HD, an addictive running game, shooter Dub Wars and Knightmare Tower my current favorite. These games can be found in the Ouya store, by clicking on Discover in the main menu, downloaded and tried out for free. This is the chief way of adding content to the Ouya. Another option is to add apps not available in the store, by connecting the Ouya to your PC or even downloads using the Ouya’s built in browser, a process called sideloading. Full versions of the games in the store are around $3 to $4 and I’ve paid for 4 so far. These games are similar to fare you would find on your smartphone or tablet but I find them more enjoyable on a big screen TV with a controller. This has led some reviewers to claim that if you own a tablet with an HDMI out and Bluetooth gamepad you essentially have an Ouya, to that I would counter show me a tablet with all that for $99.

I would be remiss if I did not talk about the best kept secret in Ouya’s arsenal. The Ouya store, despite concerns of piracy, contains emulators of many past systems. You cannot get ROM files for games from the store; remember owning a ROM file for games you have not bought is illegal. The emulators I tried performed flawlessly and I can say I will be spending much time on my console replaying many of the games I enjoyed in the past.

All in all I am very happy I ordered my Ouya. My Xbox 360 has nothing to worry about as it is not going anywhere any time soon. For a quick fun diversion this little aluminum cube delivers something more recent games have been lacking originality and variety. It will be interesting to see what the future brings and how the games shape up 6 months or a year from now.

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~ by Vinny Alascia on July 5, 2013.