If I were to write a book of personal game recordings, I would mark a page for the Ouya: New console that didn't play in the box longer than any other I've ever had. 3 days. Sealed. No urgency to play the smallest console I've ever seen. It's so tiny, but I still wasn't sure I had room for it in my life. Who even asked about the ouya?
In fact, many people have. Lots of people helped crowdfund Kickstarter last summer – 63,416 backers who contributed $ 8,596,474 (the Ouya only asked for $ 950,000).
Last summer, however, the season had come to dream of a hackable Android-based console for $ 99, on which at least part of every game would be free. This summer is a reality. And this is the summer when anyone who loves games can decide if the ouya makes sense.
For me, this is a summer that already has an Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, and PC in my house that can all play some very good games. I often have an iPad, a 3DS and / or a PlayStation Vita in my work bag. They play great games too. So is my iPhone, which is usually in my pocket. I don't hurt for slots or games. I realize that the ouya may not be for me. But here's the craziest thought: Maybe this is it.
My Ouya was sent to me by the Ouya people. I interviewed you. And like game companies do, they sent me hardware for review. This Ouya came in its dachshund-sized box. Some games were pre-installed. That was great. The Ouya made my life extremely easy. Just start playing and have fun, they said. Check this thing out.
Unlike other consoles, The Ouya doesn't promise a bright future. You get the ouya for now.
I carried the Ouya box back and forth last week, optimistic that I would play it at work. Not at home. No, at work tomorrow. No, really home tonight. Guaranteed.
On the fourth day, I unpacked it and spent a day carrying the absurdly small console (Rubik & # 39; s Cube, Big Tomato … choose your size comparison) and the system's wireless controller. The Ouya also requires an HDMI cable and a power cord with a small brick (computer mouse size? Toddler fist?). It all fits in my pocket. And it stayed in my pocket for another day. The ouya is really easy to resist. This is one of the big problems for now.
We got lost in video games. They are everywhere. If you're reading this, you are currently using a device that plays good games, and you are probably within calling range of a second or third device that does the same. What draws me or you from one to another is the same thing that draws everyone to a device that plays games: the games. What draws people to new play equipment is the promise of new games. The first day – hell, the first year – of owning a Wii U or a PlayStation 3 might be a strain, but you know Nintendo and Sony will eventually deliver some instant classics. You can look beyond the year.
The Ouya does not promise a bright future. It sells for $ 99 with a less than top-notch Tegra 3 quad-core processor (full specs here). As an Android device, it signals that it will likely be replaced with a better iteration if chip prices go down. Ouya managers said that too. There is no 10 year life cycle for Ouya 1.0.
You get the ouya for now. You will receive it for summer 2013 and autumn. You get this to wedge it in the gaps of your gaming life or in place of bigger, beefier consoles that you can't afford.
With this console you can play the latest Ouya games.
You hook it up on the fifth or sixth day. You may get ready to play Towerfall, a game worth your time and the most ballyhooed debut Ouya game.
These games are tiny. And the first bite is free. So, download, download, download … At launch, Knightmare Tower is my favorite.
But here's the cool / funny / progressive / crazy / oh-so-ouya thing: you turn on the machine, sync the controller, connect to the internet, select the "Explore" option in the system's menu, and hit the Online store to games, all of which are free to download, are queued with the gluttony it provides for a player to access "free" games. All of a sudden you have this machine full of new games and you find that two of the downloaded games start with levels that require you … park vehicles.
Yes folks, Ouya is already saturating the market with park-based games:
The first game, No Brakes Valet, had a title screen that had a worse art direction than an NSA PRISM slide. At least the game was fun.
The second, The Little Crane That Could, is all about parking on the first level and then picking up things with the crane.
You start playing Ouya and it hits you: oh yeah, this is really an Android based machine. This is mobile gaming coming to TVs, people. That said, this is the wild west. Good games, bad games, games that run on timers before being asked to pay, games that block most of their content but offer you the first levels for free.
Look, it's canabalt!
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And what is that? Here's a game that looks like Canabalt! (And is good in itself.)
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Is this a twin stick shooter tuned for dubstep?
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Waiting. Someone set a twin stick shooter to dubstep? It's called Dub Wars. I don't like dubstep and I don't know if I'd pay for it, but if I can download a twin stick shooter set to dubstep for free – see, the ship only shoots with the music you only control the aim and when the drop hits the enemies better watch out! – so the Ouya begins to tie you up.
Soon you will be playing Nintendo 64-looking puzzle platform games about a man wearing a monocle. It's Monocle Man!
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Soon you will be playing an incredibly hideous game – game? "Game?" ?? – hop over a frog through a city. You then play this split screen and you are sure that you will never spend a cent on it. You're also sure that right now you are not doing anything that will add appreciation for great games, but damn it … it's The Amazing Frog.
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Great Crate Box, anyone? This is a really good game.
Mrs. Dad? Not only is it the best-named game on the ouya, not only is it good, but two people can play on one controller. Three people can play on two controllers.
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Remember, these discoveries come so quickly. The Ouya's online store is a buffet, and the plastic fliptop container you get for games full of games can hold around 5GB of content. These games are tiny. And the first bite is free. So, download, download, download.
And then it happens … you find a really good game. One you've never heard of. Because this is the wild west, and sometimes there is a treasure among the varmints.
I'll give you … Deep Dungeons of Doom … a kind of real-time series of RPG battles.
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DDoD is of course also available for iOS, which is the problem for many of these Ouya games. With the Ouya you can at least play with a controller. As if – ha ha – these games on the Ouya weren't almost all optimized for touch controls and not the so-so dual analog controller of the system. Good luck figuring out how to pause half of them.
The killer app for Ouya is Towerfall. It's like Smash Bros. with a bow and arrow. It has decent retro graphics (half of what Ouya games seem).
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It's good. It is fun. I declare it's not the funnest game on Ouya. At launch, I give this award to Knightmare Tower, a game so good that someone has already cloned the Flash version on iOS. Play as a knight who ricochets off the enemies he stabbed to jump up a tower and fly. Earn money to get better equipment, climb higher, and attack with more power. I paid for it. Four dollars. (I also bought Towerfall. It was $ 15.)
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Most of the games on Ouya caught my attention for a few minutes before moving on. Knightmare Tower tied me up for over an hour and I had to force myself to stop playing. It's one of the few satisfying single player games I've found. The system's library appears to be geared towards couch multiplayer experiences. Hence the love for Towerfall.
I have a thing for interactive madness and I don't mind downloading some bad games if it doesn't cost me anything. But the Ouya have to make it clearer that they are serious about this platform thing.
The Ouya team may explode some prejudices about what a game console should cost or how their games should be delivered, but there are certain console expectations they don't meet. The most basic is: things just have to work. This is the fundamental promise game consoles have been delivering for thirty years. Consoles are not PCs. They may offer fewer opportunities for technical experimentation, but they offer players more assurance that all games will be going well on them. Controls have to function and function reliably. The console should feel like it's built on a stable platform, not a series of struts that may or may not be screwed into place.
The Ouya doesn't feel like a stable, properly functioning platform. It's close, but it's not there.
The main controller occasionally couldn't read my inputs or send signals to the console that I didn't send. It could have been a game-specific problem or something that is being fixed. Who knows? It doesn't build confidence.
The console's essential online store – the Discover section – is underserved by a top notch in-house search engine that finds games only by title rather than by developer or any other category that would be useful in such a crowded market. For whatever reason, don't rely on the genre classifications that balance the system's battered action games with the pinball games.
Some games lack product descriptions or those that do not provide any information about the game.
The lack of polish and tolerance of sloppiness at Ouya are the things that make the console the most cheap.
Games on Ouya use inconsistently different buttons to pause the action and usually don't signal how to stop (this is not intuitive, but tapping the controller's Ouya button twice ends games).
A game that I tried to play alone while a second controller was syncing split control of the game between the two controllers. The sticks on one controller and the buttons on the other controlled the action. Feature or bug, you decide!
The frame rate on the Ouya version of Chronoblade is a stuttering mess.
Yes, this is an Android machine. Yes, Android does not standardize things like Apple does on iOS, let alone like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo on tried and tested game consoles. However, Ouya’s lack of polish and tolerance of sloppiness are gross and are the things that make the console the most cheap. The extent to which things get better – the extent to which the Ouya "just works" – will show how serious and how capable the Ouya people are of running a platform that players can support and believe in .
When we review games at Kotaku, we try to answer the question, "Should you be playing this?" When we review consoles, we change what we ask, "Is it time for a gamer to get an ouya? Is it a must?"
The Ouya lowers the bar with its $ 99 price point and initially free games, but it doesn't even clear well enough. There are some good games, but not many. They're hard to spot, don't always work well with the system's controller, and run the risk of getting lost in a jumble of inferior entertainment attempts that don't belong on your TV more than they deserve on your phone.
The system is a fascinating experiment and can be fun for those who don't think $ 99 is a lot to get into on a lark or risk. I'm not sure who the ouya was made for. Buyers watch out, for now. As the Ouya and its library get better – and they should indicate how far this system has come out of nowhere – we will let you know.