After weeks of waiting, my OUYA has finally arrived in the mail! I’ve spent the last two weeks playing with my newest gadget, mastering the ins and outs of the little silver rubiks cube. The OUYA has come out to some lukewarm reviews in general from the press. A sad start for what was one of the biggest Kickstarter projects of all time. However, reading about the OUYA and actually getting hands-on with it are two completely different things. So, how did the OUYA stack up against the reviews and expectations?
The OUYA is a little under 3 inches on all sides, making it about the size of a medium rubiks cube. Even knowing the dimensions of the console didn’t prepare me for how petite it is up close. You’d think this would lend it a flimsy feel, but the designers have upgraded since the clear plastic days of the prototype OUYA. The console is instead made out of a hefty metal, and thick black plastic. It’s got a decent weight to it that leaves the impression it can take a beating.
The top of the OUYA is black plastic, and features a power button that lights up an OUYA logo when turned on. The light is rather dim, so if you’re sitting more than ten feet away it can be hard to see. On the back of the console is where all of the ports can be located. These ports include:
1 USB 2.0
1 Micro USB
1 DC Power
It’s too bad that they removed the SD card slot we were shown in some previous incarnations. But, in all honesty the USB port functions just fine for expanding memory, and it support USB hubs as well. The fan exhaust is housed on the underside of the console for some reason. I don’t know if this was just a style choice or what, but it’s dumb. If you read reviews you’ll notice people complain about how hot the console gets, the exhaust location is why. I found that simple turning on it’s side was an easy way to relieve this issue. Not only did it resolve the console getting hot, it also placed to power button facing front, and put the ports on top for easy access.
The controller seem a bit flimsier than the console itself. It almost feels like a knock off version of a 360 gamepad. The only real complaint I have about the controller, is that sometimes (rarely) the buttons can become stuck under the faceplate when pressed at a particular angle. This doesn’t come up that often, and can be easily resolved in a second, but is a little annoying during gameplay. If you’re just looking at the triggers on the back of the controller look very strange, they are broad and curved. Once you have it in your hands though, you’ll praise the change to the triggers, as they are ergonomic and responsive. The black stripe on the center of the gamepad functions as a touch pad. This seems awkward then I first starting using it, but after a week I was easily able to interact with it while holding the controller normally.
The controller takes two AA batteries, each on individually housed on each side of the controller. The two silver faceplates on it are easily removable, so custom painting your OUYA controllers are going to be pretty easy. The controller takes most of it’s design from the legendary 360 controller, it’s made some changes for the worse, and some for the better, but overall is a fine little controller.
The best way to describe the built in OUYA launcher interface is…clunky. The home menu has four different options: PLAY, DISCOVER, MAKE, and MANAGE.
PLAY: Gives you access to any game you have installed via the OUYA store
DISCOVER: Sends you to the shop,
MAKE: Let’s you play test working builds of game and use any side-loaded software
MANAGE: Basically your settings area.
The store where you purchase new apps is horrifically organized. Just about the only sections ever worth going into are the trending section, and the section organized by genre. The selection of games is Paltry at best, and most of the ones on there aren’t even worth your time. There are, however, a few gems in the rough. I’ve gotten many hours out of the likes of Deep Dungeons of Doom, Knightmare Tower, Organ Trail, and Final Fantasy III. Thanks to being able to bring over games like Dead Trigger, we can get a glimpse of what that Nvidia Tegra 3 is capable of putting out. If someone takes the time, we won’t be stuck with underwhelming graphics for long.
This may all seem like it’s leading up to a not-so-positive conclusion, but in reality it’s not. The ability to hack the console so easily, makes it one of the most fun consoles I’ve ever gotten to play around with. Thanks to it’s ability to run most Android apps, it can be side-loaded with all sorts of fun stuff. I easily loaded it up with Drop Box and Utorrent, in order to help get me the software I needed. That clunky interface I was complaining about was replaced by the awesome Nova Launcher. I even programmed my home button on my controller to bring me to the Nova Launcher desktop instead of the OUYA Launcher.
This insane level of customization is where the OUYA truly shines. While it can’t run every Android app right now, there are certainly a huge number of them that turn the OUYA into an awesome deal at $99. I can stream Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and my PC straight onto my television with just an icon click. It’s actually pretty fun to make a list of Android apps you think could help you on your OUYA, and test them out to see how they do.
Let’s talk emulators. Emulation was a big part of the discussion on both sides of the OUYA battle lines. As it stands, the OUYA is capable of running an emulator for pretty much every system up to PSX and N64. They run smoothly as well, which was something I was seriously worried about. If you want a little emulator box, then the OUYA isn’t a bad choice. Of course it’s illegal to download and use roms and emulators if you don’t own a physical copy of the corresponding console or game. So totally don’t go and do that.
Is the OUYA an earth shattering move, destined to forever leave the other console companies in shambles? No. Is it an awesome little game box with an insane amount of customization that’s totally worth $99 dollars? YES! Think of all the things you’ve bought for over $100 dollars that really didn’t end up all that entertaining. With emulation alone, the OUYA is worth the money to get it into your house. If it keeps selling out the way it’s been doing, then it’s likely to attract more game developers.
Even if people aren’t developing specifically for the OUYA, just making Android apps OUYA compatible will open a ton of doors for users. I’m satisfied with what the OUYA can provide me at this stage. Granted, it took a bit of work on my part to get it where I want, but that’s honestly part of the fun. Why get a console designed to be easily hacked and modded, if you’re going complain about getting to hack and mod it? Buy an OUYA, customize it to your hearts content, and within a year there’s going to be even more options to make it awesome.