Ouya Uh-Oh

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I’d been looking forward to getting an Ouya for quite a while, despite a general lack of enthusiasm for the console. I started embracing all platforms a long time ago, so I knew that when I finally got one, I’d find games and features that would make me happy. After trekking to a local Target and bringing my Ouya home, I have to say it’s been one of the most disappointing experiences in my years of gaming. It has promise, but Ouya needs a lot of work if it’s ever going to be a contender.

Taking the system out of the box, it certainly looks as forward thinking as its marketing would have consumers believe. The system is sleek and small, not much bigger than a pool ball in the palm of a hand. Those used to the multiple ports and holes on the back of contemporary consoles will be shocked by how few actually exist on the Ouya; HDMI, power, and a USB port are just about it. Not that that’s a bad thing, as I found the minimalist approach refreshing. It felt very much like stepping back in time to the days of plug and play.

The controller got the better of me, though, as I fell victim to what stumped many early adopters and asked: “how the heck am I supposed to get the batteries in?!” That thought wracked my brain until I finally wimped out and went to Google to find out. For the handful of you who don’t already know this, the face plates on both the left and right halves of the controller actually pop off, and that’s where the batteries go in. Sigh, I know, weird. The controller feels sturdy and has a typical Xbox 360 setup, though the face buttons read O, U, Y, A, and there’s a neat touch pad in the middle of the device. It’s comfortable, but I thought overall it felt a little aftermarket, with stiff buttons and a weak d-pad. I haven’t had any problems playing Sonic, though, so I’m giving the Ouya the benefit of the doubt that it’s all in my head.

Booting up the Ouya, and after a lengthy software update, I made my profile and was off to the races. Until I started browsing for software, that is. Again, I can normally find things to keep me happy on any given console, but Ouya’s marketplace is woefully underwhelming. I immediately downloaded all three Sonic games (which are really fun), and I’m eventually going to get Final Fantasy III, Canabalt HD, and Super Crate Box, but beyond those titles, I didn’t see much that looked all that great. Amazing Frog? seems interesting, and there are other games that people have raved about, but I’m going to have to do some research before moving forward.

The digging for new content is half the fun of any system, but it shouldn’t be the only way to find games to play. My biggest gripe, though, wasn’t the lack of software, but the overabundance of Nintendo emulators. Ouya makes itself out to be the fourth head at the big table, yet allows its marketplace run amok with pirates swiping off one of its competitors. That’s far from classy and not something that gives me much solace as a customer. I know Google Play has more than a few of these emulators, too, but it’s not a very good excuse. Something should be done, and Ouya should be the ones doing it, not waiting on consumers to email complaints that they’ll eventually get around to reading.

I’ll be sticking with Ouya, though, and searching for the diamonds in the rough. I’m not sold on the idea that free-to-play can fuel an entire system, but Ouya is trying something different that just might work, in the long run. With shifts to that policy being made, a wider variety of publishers will hopefully start showing up, and sampling games under the original model has been interesting. Pricing is also pretty reasonable, which is one of the things I like about mobile and am digging on a home console. Whether a Dreamcast in the making or a force to be reckoned with down the road, it’s going to be an interesting journey.

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