I’ve now had my OUYA game console for a little over a month. After decidedly mixed reviews, many of which stemmed from the somewhat unfinished nature of the pre-order and demo versions of the console, I decided to take the plunge and buy an OUYA shortly after the retail version was released. Is it worth it? Here’s my opinion.
- OUYA gets points for having the sexiest console name. Nobody sounds sexy saying “eks bawks” or “pee ess three” or “weeeeeeeeeeeeeee”. “Oohyahh” is by far sexier, so much so that I get embarrassed discussing my new console in front of my in-laws or small children.
- The OUYA is tiny and extremely lightweight. It doesn’t take up much in the way of shelf space, as opposed to other consoles. It also doesn’t give off a lot of heat, so it’s easy to nestle into a nook and/or cranny. Plus, if you’re roadtripping it and just have to get your gaming fix, its size and weight make it easy to stow in a suitcase.
- Ever spend frustrating minutes navigating Xbox 360 or PS3 menus trying to find that one app you need? The OUYA has a very clean and simple interface. With only four main categories, it’s pretty easy to find what you’re looking for. (However, the home screen is slightly more cluttered with the newest update.)
- The controller is fantastic. I have heard that early pre-order versions of the OUYA had controllers with major problems: buttons that would stick down, joysticks that were too loose, or faceplates that would pop off. With the retail version, these issues have been fixed. I love the shape of the controller, and the metal cover is nice and cool on the hands. Plus, the middle of the controller acts as a trackpad for when you’re using the web browser!
I only have two problems with the controller:
- I had to Google where the batteries go (hint: the faceplate has magnets!).
- The left joystick has a tiny squeak that can get very annoying after a while.
- While I’m not a developer, the OUYA is open source and ready for development. My understanding is that developing for OUYA is easier compared to developing for other consoles or for PC. OUYA claims to be a full dev kit without any restraints.
- The graphics actually look pretty good. The OUYA isn’t going to rival PC graphics, and it’s not going to be able to run AAA titles, but the graphics have yet to make my eyes bleed (not counting the game American Dream, which is supposed to be that way).
But don’t think that the OUYA can only handle 2D platformers. The popular game The Ball uses Unreal Engine 3 and, despite some terrible texture choices by the designers, is a pretty great-looking 3D game. There are also ported games like Final Fantasy 3 and Sonic the Hedgehog 4 that look great played on the OUYA system.
- Every game as a free-to-play component. This is one of the requirements for a game to be sold on OUYA. Some games are 100% free, and others have a time- or level-based demo period. As I will discuss below, this is very important.
- Game quality is all over the place. On one hand, this is good because hobbyists are being encouraged to learn new skills while developing for an actual game console. Learning is great! However, there isn’t much of a system to help you decide which games are good or not. While good graphics do not necessarily make a good game, I’ve found myself blindly choosing games based on how “professional” they look.
There are some games with very basic graphics that are very engaging and fun to play, however. Experimentation is part of the fun of the OUYA. Luckily, thanks to the free-to-play aspect of every game, you can decide if you like a game before spending money on the full version.
- The OUYA is HDMI only, which won’t be that big of a deal to 99% of users. However, those of us with old-school non-flat TVs are out of luck when it comes to hooking up an OUYA. (Really, I’m just a tiny bit butthurt that I can’t play it on my bedroom television.)
- Downloading can be tedious. Now, part of that is the fault of my terrible Internet. However, having to download everything can be a real pain. Graphics-heavy 3D games have massive file sizes, and updates take a long time to download as well. When first setting up the console, it’s best to let it sit and download for a while.
- Also on the subject of downloads is that there is no visible download queue. If you set up a chain of games and apps to download, it’s hard to tell where you are in that queue without going through the entire list of games on the Discover menu. However, it’s not impossible, just a bit time-consuming.
- You have to provide credit card information before playing. Granted, the online transaction system is the bread-and-butter of the OUYA economy, but it would be nice to actually see the main screen before getting hit up for credit card numbers.
On the bright side, if you don’t want to provide credit card info, don’t have a credit card, or are afraid you have a mild video game shopping addiction, you can buy $25 OUYA game cards at Target. I’ve also heard that you can use prepaid gift cards as well.
I think that the OUYA is a great system for people who love to experiment, who are adventurous in their gaming and willing to ride through the quirks of an indie system. It’s also a console geared towards wannabe developers. If you’re a AAA game snob or an FPS dudebrah you’ll probably hate it. The OUYA has to be approached with a sense of open-mindedness to realize its full potential. It’s not a plug-and-play system. The OUYA is for people who love tinkering with gadgets.
One of my few disappointments is that I’ve found very few games that have that real “must-play” feeling. While many are great games, I haven’t felt as though I needed to boot up the system to play a game. Perhaps I just haven’t found the right game yet. OUYA is making strides in cleaning up the game discovery system, so hopefully I’ll find that must-play game soon.
Overall, I’m happy with my OUYA and I’m glad to have it as part of my console collection. While I don’t think that it’s a replacement for a mainstream console or a PC, the OUYA is GREAT for a change of pace.