Not everything in the video game industry involves Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Smaller competitors have stepped up to stake their claim in the market with budget-priced alternatives bound to find an audience.
Among them is the OUYA, an Android-based console that successfully reached its KickStarter goal last year and made its way to such retailers as Amazon, GameStop and Best Buy last week. The $99 system is about the size of a mini-Rubik's cube, along with a controller, batteries, HDMI cable and AC adapter.
What Is It?
The OUYA runs on an Android operating system, making it a cinch for mobile developers and newcomers to produce their own games. It's also hackable, enabling would-be developers and modders to tinker with the hardware however they see fit, creating their own games in the process. It runs on an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean system at the moment, but is certainly open for upgrades, and all the games and apps offered on the service have a demo mode, so you can try before you buy.
Once you start up the OUYA, you'll see an interface with the following options: Play, Discover, Make and Manage. With Play, you'll go right into the games menu where the creators split titles into categories, including Retro, Action and Sports. Discover lets you find new apps, including more popular services like TuneIn Radio and Twitch.tv, with more on the way. Make enables you to open up the creative side of your OUYA, though some computer development skills would help in this department – it's ideal for up-and-coming game makers, and you won't be subject to any sort of licensing fees. Finally, there's Manage, where you can tweak options for your account, change payment options – you'll need to register a credit card -- and more. It's quite simple, albeit a little cluttered when it comes to finding particular favorites in the game library.
The controller operates as you'd expect. It has two analog sticks you can click in as an extra function, four face buttons and four shoulder buttons, with triggers that feel a little bit mushy, but still work as intended. To replace the batteries on the controller, you simply need to slide off the face panel, insert the batteries into the slot and close it back up. Then, when prompted by the console, hold down the Home button located on the lower part of the controller to sync it. It works quite well, though OUYA is already working on a newer model that will make it easier to operate, primarily with triggers and battery replacement.
When it comes to apps, the OUYA doesn't have nearly as many as other consoles – there's no sign of Netflix or Hulu Plus, at least not yet – but there are some notable ones. Twitch.tv allows you to view live gameplay action happening across a variety of channels, while TuneIn Radio offers dozens of streaming stations that enable you to listen to music, comedy and more. There's also Flixster, which lets you view your Ultraviolet movie library with ease, though you'll need to buy movies separately. You can expect more apps over the next few months.
Now let's get to what you’ll play on the OUYA. Thus far, 200 different titles are available, with plenty of variety to choose from.
If you like old-school games, there is no shortage of emulators. 2600.emu (Atari 2600), C64.emu (Commodore 64), EMU.ya (NES), FPse (PS One), GBA.emu (Game Boy Advance), GBC.emu (Game Boy Color) and many more are available and deliver hours of classic – though unlicensed – gaming fun. The only downside is that you need to hunt down the ROM codes online. Sorry, we can’t help in this regard.
As for more popular games, OUYA has several to choose from. Square Enix's Final Fantasy III is a satisfying port of the classic SNES game; You Don't Know Jack provides hours of hilarious trivia fun for multiple players; The Pinball Arcade brings several classics from Williams, Stern and Gottlieb right to your living room, lovingly recreated in digital form; and Canabalt HD delivers all the free-running fun of the original, but with glorious new graphics.
In addition to other favorites, OUYA is also home to several independent releases. Rush Bros. delivers all the fun – and challenge – of a classic platformer, similar to Super Meat Boy; Organ Trail: Director's Cut delivers a humorous take on the classic "travel-cross-country" formula, throwing zombies into the mix; Gunslugs is a side-scrolling shoot-em-up with 8-bit flair and plenty of digitized carnage – in a cartoon sense; and A Bit of a Fist of Awesome is an 8-bit-style brawler where you beat the crud out of dangerous animals using your lumberjack character.
Dozens of games and apps are available, and you can find the full list here. Shop around – you never know what you'll find.
The OUYA is available now for $99.99 and can be purchased through various retailers, such as Target, Best Buy, GameStop and Amazon. Check it out when you get a chance – it's a decent alternative to high-priced consoles.