I was one of the original backers of the OUYA – the little Android gaming console that could. Unfortunately, because of shipping delays I only finally got my OUYA last week, which is after it became available for sale at BestBuy (US only so far as I know). In any case I was finally able to test it out. However, due to my current circumstances I wasn’t able to really sit down with the OUYA for long but I did get to play it with friends so here are my impressions so far.
Installation and Initial Setup
Installation is a snap (HDMI, power, bluetooth controller) but for some reasons I had trouble with the sound. On the system to which it’s currently hooked in, connecting it directly to the TV (through HDMI of course) resulted in no sound, while the image was fine. Only after I connected it to the receiver, which is connected to the TV (both through HDMI again), did I start getting sound from OUYA. I’m not sure what the reason for this is, but I can see this as an issue – many people might assume that all they need to get is the OUYA, hook it up to the TV and they’re good to go. This may very well be true for some TVs but definitely not for the one I tested it with.
Once I had it connected I went through the setup process. This is fairly straightforward – you create username and password and provide an email – but it has one, potentially big issue, at least for some people. The setup requires you to enter a credit card. That doesn’t mean you have to buy anything, and in fact, OUYA’s games all have to have a way to play them for free, but it did kinda give me a bit of a bad impression – after I paid for this thing, before I can access anything I have to give it my credit card info.
I think this should be an optional step with a warning message that says, if you want to buy any game you’d have to enter this info anyway.
Also, it would be nice if they offered alternative payment options like PayPal. To be fair they do have the gift card option but you tell me – where in Canada do I go to buy one?
The main OUYA menu is very simple and pretty much speaks for itself.
I pretty much dived straight into the “Discover” menu, which is where you find and get the games. The game selection is fairly decent… for a smartphone. No seriously, this thing doesn’t even come close to Xbox360 or PS3 but then again I never expected it to, so that’s fine. Personally for me, these types of games don’t hold much interest beyond gaming with friends so I went straight to the “party/coop” gaming category. This is one of the best things about OUYA – games have a bunch of curated categories – not just “editor’s picks” but stuff like trending, party games, popular, etc. So the good stuff tends to float to the top and it’s easy to find the types of games you want to play.
Playing on OUYA
So I tried a few coop/party games and settled on two – a hockey game and a quiz game. The hockey game is a fun little time waster – you only have a goalie and one player but you can check so it’s pretty fun skating around, trying to score while avoiding the other guy. This is where I noticed that infamous controller lag I read about. It wasn’t too bad, and it wasn’t always there, but when it did occur it was definitely noticeable and a bit of nuisance. With games that requires more precision I could see it becoming a real problem. I hope it’s just a software issue and it could be fixed in a future update.
The other game was a quiz game and that was a lot of fun. But then again, it was a quiz game – do I really need the OUYA for it. And this is really OUYA’s problem right now – nobody needs it. There is no killer game or killer feature that would get customers into store to buy the OUYA. At least not for most folks. I have heard about all those emulators and putting ROMs with dozens of games but I haven’t tried that. And if you’re the kind of person who would want to do that then OUYA might be the best way to experience all those classic games on the big screen (even if you do have the original consoles). Beyond that though, there’s nothing there to catch the consumer’s eye. For PS and Xbox folks often go to buy one because of a specific feature (like kinect) or specific game (your halo’s, killzone’s, uncharted’s and so on) but with the OUYA there’s nothing like that. If you’re interested in checking out the latest gadgets and playing around with stuff you can get it and you’ll enjoyit, otherwise there’s just nothing in it for you – especially if you already have one of the other consoles.
I enjoyed the OUYA for what it is – a small console with some casual games that you can quickly pick up and play with your friends. For a $100 it’s not a bad proposition (I can’t think of a cheaper way to do that), but a serious gaming console this ain’t. Then again, if you want emulators and dozens of classic NES (or whatever else) games, then this may be the console you’ve been looking for.