(Editor’s note: This review will not feature a final score. Like all systems, the Ouya will have success or failure based on what games it features. Instead, this will be a review of the controller, components and what’s available for the system at launch.)
The Ouya is a system designed around potential.
Sure, you could say that about any system. However, you always know that the big three will have huge first-party and third-party titles that will make the purchase worthwhile.
With the Ouya, though, there are a lot of unknowns and possible potential. The system could be a great platform for indies with the right games, or could fall into the same level of obscurity as Game.com.
What gamers will remember most about the Ouya years from now is how it all started. It was a console for gamers funded by gamers. It’s a great success story for Kickstarter and showed what could be accomplished without a big company’s support.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the system, shall we?
For $99, you get a small, curved cube of a console that can fit in the palm of your hand.
The Ouya is definitely basic to help meet that price point. The package comes with the system, controller, power cable and an HDMI cord, all that’s needed to get the system up and running. Don’t have an HDMI-enabled TV? Well, then you’re going to be out of luck here.
The console has ports on the back for the power and HDMI cables, USB, micro USB and Ethernet port. The only button it features is the one on top for power.
It’s a very simple design and compact shape, and fits nicely into basically any available space you may have on your entertainment center.
The internal workings are also nice for the system. It’s features the Tegra 3 Quad-core processor with Android 4.0, and also features Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities. I did have a bit of a problem originally getting my WiFi to connect to it, but after it did I haven’t had a problem since.
One small problem fans of the Ouya in the long run will find out is that space is lacking. There’s a total of 5.78 GB of space internally for the system, meaning that not many titles will fit on the system, even if they are Android games. Sure, you can buy an external drive for more titles, but options for bigger internal memory would have been great for different levels of backers.
One of the weakest parts of the console seems to be the controller. Even with some of the retooling they tried to do, there are still some problems to be found with it.
The decision to put two removable faceplates on front of the controller to hide the batteries seems to be a poor one. Even though the faceplates have been fixed, I still sometimes had problems with buttons sticking in the faceplate. I know it was probably done to allow customization, but removable plates around the grip seem like they would have made a better choice if it was possible. Also, why not just do one overall faceplate instead of one on each side?
In addition, there is a bit of lag associated with the controller also. It’s a bit noticeable in most titles, but ones that require precision like Canabalt or Deep Dungeons of Doom show just how much that lag matters when timing becomes key.
What also suffers a considerable amount of lag is the touchpad, which I tried to avoid most of the time. Except when some games forced it, I really found no reason to use the touchpad. Maybe some games will better utilize it in the future, but for now it’s an idea that’s best left alone.
The control itself is comfortable to hold and the sticks are spaced nicely and move around smoothly. There is no select, instead using start to both pause the game and double-tapping to exit a game.
As a side note, a PS3 or 360 controller can be plugged in and used to play the Ouya, with the only noticeable loss being the touchpad. In most cases, this becomes a better option.
The interface for the Ouya is pretty self-explanatory. After updating the system and setting up an account, which includes being forced to immediately enter a credit card, you get to the main menu with the options to Play, Discover, Make or Manage. As you can guess, Play lets you pick from games you downloaded, Discover lets you download new games, Make is for developers to add their own games or to add custom software and Manage lets you edit account info or download new updates.
The library system used in the game puts box art of each game to view before getting a bit of info on the game and downloading a demo. The games are set up to be browsed by genre or playlist by developers or other well-known people.
One plus for the Ouya is that all games have to have a demo for players to try. However, you can’t actually buy from the discover area. Instead, you have to download a short free demo, go into the game, buy the full thing and download a bigger title.
As of this writing, there are more than 170 games and some apps on the Ouya, with plenty more promised in the future. However, like the Android Marketplace, for every one good game there’s quite a bit of disappointment to wade through.
For the enjoyment I had with Canabalt, Deep Dungeons of Doom, Chronoblade and a few others, there were quite a few that I questioned why were they even on the marketplace. However, considering there doesn’t seem to be a monitoring system so far on what games get on the marketplace, bad games seem like they’ll find a perfect place on the Ouya for now. Some bigger titles that use more processing power also seem to suffer some graphical problems, but updates should be able to take care of those.
The biggest question for the Ouya, going back to my opening paragraphs, are what games can the system get to draw gamers in? Sure, a lot of developers committed to developing for the Ouya and bringing games to it, but what exclusives will make people want to go out and get the system? There’s been talk of Minecraft and other bigger games coming to it, like Sonic 4 Episodes 1 and 2 and Sonic CD, but they can also be found on other systems or the PC.
The Ouya may be indie-friendly, but it doesn’t need to be a dumping ground for whatever lackluster titles people make and want to throw out there to try and make a quick buck. Some big titles need to hit the console before more than backers become interested in getting it at retail stores.
The Ouya is hard to judge based on what could be for the console. The console could become great, with amazing indie titles to play that just fit nicely on the system. On the flip side, it could become littered with filth, with the truly good games getting pushed to the side or being picked up by other systems more have. The system has some problems with the controller, but it’s still fun to play around with.
Until more is out there, even the small $99 asking point seems to be a big leap to take without more quality titles to make the purchase worth it. There’s plenty of potential here, but now the ball is in the court of developers to make the potential become reality for gamers.