So I got my Ouya yesterday...


TL;DR It ain't perfect, but its quite a bit of fun

So after reading about the shipment delays yesterday, I was quite surprised when I came home to an Ouya shaped and labeled package waiting outside my door. Even more surprised because I wasn't a backer, just a pre-order off the Ouya website. I hope Ouya was following "first come, first serve" but I digress. The following is my mini-review.

Packaging: Surprisingly nice. Box was about the size of a small shoe-box. Nice clean design, both in terms of artwork and packaging. Both the controller and ouya were held in place by a plastic tray. My controller was in one piece, unlike the Verge review reported. Not sure if their issue was related to a mishandled package or if Ouya changed the packaging between now and then. The unit came with a simple PSU and a HDMI cable, which was a nice touch (very short though, only a couple of feet).

Controller: A solid piece of hardware. Didn't feel cheap at all, lying somewhere in the spectrum of current-gen controllers. Analog sticks feel really nice. The front facing buttons have a nice "pop" to them. Trackpad is responsive (though I have yet to need it for anything, more on that later). Shoulder bumpers are fine, no issues. Triggers are ok, though they have a bit of friction when pulling them, definitely not a deal breaker. The only semi-major issue I've noticed is that due to the "faceplate" design for battery storage, when pressing the face buttons repeatedly and/or hard, they occasionally tend to get stuck under the plate.

Console: Unremarkable. It's essentially a taller Apple TV and disappears into your home theater setup as such. Interestingly enough, mine didn't have any of the markings about top kickstarter backers on it (im assuming because mine was a pre-order)

Setup: Fairly straightforward; plug in cables, turn on the console, turn on controller, wait for them to pair, connect to a network, wait for it to update, and you're all set. The UI guide was easy to follow with no confusion on my part (though I don't consider myself a tech novice). Only issue here was that the controller pairing took longer than I expected, presumably because I made the mistake of turning the controller on before the console.

UI: Dirt simple. Essentially only 4 main menu options, and realistically, the end user will only ever be using 2 of them on a regular basis, Play and Discover. Play shows a simple grid of games saved on-board, allowing you to, well... play them. If you don't have any games, it will tell you and immediately put you into Discover. Discover is a bit confusing at first. Essentially its rows of curated lists of games, each with a curator (perhaps top users, fellow devs, trending, popular, etc). Underneath these rows at the bottom are a list-row of genres, followed by a list-row called "sandbox" which are games that are presumably still in beta. There is some perceptible lag when scrolling through the Discover menu, but nothing horrible or deal-breaking. Clicking on a game in these lists opens up its individual game page, with screenshots, a description (which is usually partially obfuscated by the UI and thus hard to read) a download button, and a "Like" rating. The "Like" system feels out of place here; instead of a typical rating system (0-5 stars with reviews, etc), each user can "Like" a game (just like facebook). The problem is that this system makes it hard to differentiate popular games from good games. For example, a new game presumably starts with 0 "likes," earning a number over time, but if a user is browsing through games, deciding what games to try, its hard to distinguish a bad game with a low number of "likes" versus a potentially good new game. The upshot of this is that because Ouya makes developers release a free mode (more on this later), there is no downside to downloading a game and not liking it, encouraging users to try every game they can get there hands on.

Games: Downright fun! If there's any single part of the Verge review that they simply got wrong (perhaps because it was too early), this is it. I found there were plenty of games on the Discover store that I was interested in, and more often then not, they were thoroughly entertaining. If you go into this expecting AAA epic titles, you *will* be disappointed. However, if you have the mindset to play some new, adventurous, and fun indie games, you will fall in love. My personal favorites so far are Dub Wars, which is essentially Geometry Wars meets Dubstep, and A Bit of A Fist of Awesome, which is a side-scrolling kick-puncher with personified bears, a witty script, and an awesome soundtrack. I literally had laugh-out-loud joyous moments playing these games, which was completely unexpected. There are a few issues though. Firstly, a few games had weird controller mappings that weren't changeable (for example, an inverted flight stick in Dub Wars was thoroughly confusing). I had a couple games crash on me (Puddle THD in particular crashed a couple of times in my brief play with it). Various games' use of the word "Multiplayer" was confusing. Since I'm used to internet only multiplayer, it was a bit surprising that almost every game was referring to local, multi-controller style multiplayer. Finally, a more philosophical one; since all games have a free mode, it is impossible to differentiate from a game that is completely free vs a game that has a short demo mode (most of them were the latter case). Perhaps an "unlock" price listing on the Discover store is need

In Summary: Like my TL;DR said, this is not a perfect device. It has some minor hardware issues and some software issues. But I will say that this console has promise and hope. The software issues are all fixable, and the hardware ones are nothing to write home about. The most important aspect of this console are the games (and relatedly, the ease of development), which in my opinion, the console delivers on.

My final point is this; This is a device that was just a pipe-dream little over a year ago, funded by crowd-sourcing and shipped in record time. If you buy into this console expecting AAA titles and corporate developed hardware, you will be disappointed. However, if you (like me), buy into this console *and idea* because you are looking for indie hardware targeted at indie devs and indie players, you will not be disappointed.

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