Ouya: A Look back
Yes, I bought an Ouya. To this day, I don't regret it.
This unique item came to surface after the very succesful Kickstarter campaign from what seemed like an eternity ago (July 3, 2012 to be exact), which attracted many consumers with the promise of a retro android gaming experience on your TV. All titles are free! Mod your console, we don't care! Many quotes by the brand enticed people into the microconsole craze.
"We welcome you to unscrew it and have a look around." The creators of the small box proclaimed.
"All that 1080p goodness isn't just for gaming." They alluded to.
All signs pointed in the right direction for this surprise system sprung upon the general populace to become an overnight success.
Then it came out, and people angrily lashed out upon the small device, proclaiming it to be shallow product that was missing pivotal features such as the most basic of friend lists. To add insult to injury, the fact that the hardware was inferior than current smartphones out on the market and you have yourself a controversal new gaming machine.
To be fair though, the Ouya had a variety of interesting new ideas which were fascinating to try, such as the open approach towards its operating system, free to play design philosophies(with credit card), and very affordable price tag.
This is a bit of a mixed bag, as the Ouya currently has a beefy lineup of titles in its expanding marketplace (734 as of this post) but most range from clones of more popular franchises, to simply garbage meant to pad the amount of games released.
Some of the more famous and well received titles include the likes of Amazing Frog, which embodies the quirks and overall joy that one can be had exploring the console, as well as blockbuster hit Towerfall, a retro masterpiece that has been so succesful, it has been able to hop onto other platforms such as the PS4.
Sadly, more than half of Ouya's library of games consist of bland, monotonous 8-bit role playing adventures and weird concepts that don't really pay off in any redeeming way. Some participants of these lame titles include Fist of Awesome and Puddle, games that put style over actual substance in many gameplay aspects, representing the philosophy of how the majority of games here are created.
Many games on the system are also derivatives of titles we've seen before on the App Store and Google Play, which to its credit, are ported faithfully with sleek presentations. However, these titles give a sense of rehash as they charge a bloated amount for 2.3 year old games on this supposed "new" console.
Where it really shines
While the Ouya tries its best to become the "people's console" by attempting to make the system an indie game development ground, the most practical use you can get out of the product manifests itself in the form of emulation.
With a well stocked arsenal of emulators redesigned for the Ouya, fans of gaming in the past will be delighted to see the likes of PlayStation 1 and Nintendo 64 ready to go off the bat, no assembly required. If one such emulator is missing from the dozens stockpiled onto the marketplace, you won't have to travel far, as with a bit of easy modding (and I mean easy) you will have access to the whole Google Play Store through a wonderful feature known as sideloading.
With sideloading, any apps are able to be installed on the Ouya, regardless of it being on its own marketplace or not. This is due to that easily modifiable software as mentioned before. The art of sideloading on the Ouya can be achieved in a variety of ways, from inserting a flash drive into the one of the usb ports, to Dropboxing it right into the console itself, options are plentiful.
Truly the creators of this tiny system really wanted you to go crazy in all your Android desires as other entertainment apps, such as Netflix and Onlive can be installed on your Ouya with as much difficulty as washing your hands.
The Ouya severly stumbles in many feature implementations that are supposedly second nature with game consoles today.
No actual start button, the controller is squeaky piece of crap apart from its tractionpad, notifications as well as a hub for all your friends are no where to be found, and specs on the device are severely outdated(running Tegra 3), all further damage the experience. On top of it all, the standard Ouya only comes with 8 measly gigs of storage, prepare for external solutions people.
Perhaps the most unforgivable sin of this miniature console however is how underdeveloped and overall barbaric the interface of it all is. I understand they are simply trying to give there console a sleek and cool look, but at sacrificing basic options on the home screen like a freaking search bar. The lack of categories on the interface also force options like the internet browser being sorted into random places, like the "Make" choice.
I just don't feel like Im playing a revolutionary Android console advertised, but a gimped phone that attached to my TV. These missteps really hinder the overall package that the Ouya is trying to sell, leaving it open to criticism and ridicule.
It was obvious the moment I first received my Ouya that its creators really wanted to reinvent the gaming wheel in the form of inexpensive retro android gaming. The serious problems plaguing the system, however, really botched their whole vision, leaving behind a severely unpolished system with some good ideas, but missing their goal of an alternative to other platforms all together.
I really hope a new iteration of the Ouya comes out, this time actually delivering on all the experience aspects it promised before, as well as improving on its good assortment of ideas attempted by the original.