Ryan Wilson

First Impressions – Ouya

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The two-week old console has already seen its share of controversy, but does it receive my stamp of approval?


Release date: June 25th, 2013 (Retail)
Price: $100

“And So Begins The Revolution” are the first words you are greeted with upon opening the $100 Android-based Ouya console packaging, but is it really all that revolutionary?

The Good

Indie developers are already eating it up

As writer of It Came from Obscurity and an aspiring developer myself, I follow a number of indie developers on various social media for sneak peeks of upcoming projects they are working on. Within the first week of the Ouya’s retail launch, VVVVVV developer Terry Cavanagh already had ten games submitted for the console. Granted, the titles were ports of some of his shorter experimental titles, but the fact that he was able to bring ten formerly PC-exclusive games to the console in the span of a few nights speaks volumes to the potential of the system to expand its library rapidly.

Free to develop for

While Ouya is an Android-based console, it does not require the one-time developer fee necessary to get your games in the Google Play store. For developers releasing free titles, all you need to do is register your username as a developer, fill out your profile, publish your title, and wait for it to get approved.

If you plan on featuring some kind of paid structure to your games (Ouya supports both full version unlocking and microtransactions), the only additional step required is providing tax and payment information. They do, however, take 30 percent to handle transaction fees and taxes, which makes the payment rate around the same as a Steam release.

Compatibility with other controllers

Fifty dollars for an additional controller on a system that hasn’t proven itself yet is a lot. Thankfully, many of the multiplayer titles on the system contain support for other controllers. While I cannot guarantee that your first generation Microsoft SideWinder will work on the system, many titles are proven to work with both the Xbox 360 controller (via USB) or the DualShock 3 (via Bluetooth). Just keep in mind that the system only has one USB port to spare, so you may want to invest in a USB hub.

Every game is free (in some fashion)

Easily one of the best philosophies behind the Ouya is that every game available for the system has at least one free aspect. Any game you find in the store can be played without spending a single dime. If you find yourself really enjoying a particular title, pricing is comparable to that of the App Store and Play Store. The most expensive title I’ve found on the system so far is Final Fantasy III, which has a $15.99 price tag.


The Bad

Some early Kickstarter adopters have yet to receive their consoles

While I was able to obtain my Ouya easily from some rather confused Best Buy employees, it would be wrong of me not to at least address the elephant in the room. The only reason the Ouya ever left the concept phase was through the generous funding to the tune of nearly 8.6 million dollars by over 63 thousand hopeful backers. Contributions of $95 or more guaranteed, according to the Kickstarter, that the backer would receive a console before it hit store shelves.

Unfortunately, a number of backers have, to this day, yet to receive the Ouya they have been promised. While Ouya officials have blamed this delay on their choice of delivery services and mixups in customs, the lack of additional response from the company has left a sour taste in many mouths. We can only hope that the company does some serious conflict resolution before they lose their last shred of reputation.

Questionable design choices

While the console and controller are both very aesthetically pleasing, they are not without some inherant flaws. Starting with the console, its small profile does not leave a lot of room for the kind of fans it needs, resulting in the system becoming quite hot to the touch after about a half hour of solid game play. Extended use of the system may result in some system freezing, but I have yet to experience this. The controller is modeled very similarly to the Xbox 360 controller, making this incredibly comfortable. The battery slots, however, are located behind the faceplate that houses all the buttons, which the instructions for the system neglect to mention at all. Also, the faceplate cut is a little too tight, and at certain button press angles causes the button to get stuck under the faceplate itself.

Must-play games (as of July 1st)

TowerFall – this is the game that will sell the system to most people. TowerFall‘s charming retro style and fast-paced 4-player local multiplayer (which supports non-Ouya controllers if you aren’t ready to shell for 3 more) will keep you entertained for far too long.

The Amazing Frog? – this game should not be as fun as it is. The controls are atrocious, the graphics are ugly, and audio is practically non-existent…yet launching that stupid frog halfway across the town never gets old.

Knightmare Tower – the goal in Knightmare Tower is simple: save the princesses locked in a seemingly endless tower by launching yourself off of enemies along the way, trying to stay ahead of the impending fiery doom that creeps ever so closer. The game definitely has that pick-up-and-play feel of your standard toilet mobile game, but greatly benefits from the inclusion of a controller.

Oiche Mhaith – See my review of Oiche Mhaith here.

Should You Buy It?

At $100, you definitely get what you pay for with the Ouya. If you’re not the kind of gamer who would participate in a beta test and actually contribute to the bug testing, the Ouya is not for you. Anyone who can get past its rough edges, however, will find an experience unlike anything you’ve seen before. It might not quite be the revolution the box touts it as, but this little box has a lot of potential.

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