When the Ouya was first announced I thought it was a really cool idea. Offer people a console built on a reliable OS framework (Android), with free games, and an open homebrew and hacking community. Sounds like a dream come true, unfortunately one year later the hardware fails to impress. Hardware problems riddle the system and the operating system still needs some work; to put it in layman’s terms, the Ouya has a long way to go.
The Ouya comes in a really small package built on mobile chipsets. Right off the bat it can display some great graphics however in the next few years it will quickly become outdated. The Ouya doesn’t feel like a cheap product, it has a solid casing lined with engraved metal. The console is also really quiet, unlike our current consoles that sound like jet engines. The controller however has some big issues.
Right out of the box it feels flimsy and cheap. The buttons feel great however the triggers are a little odd. I can’t help but feel like the touch pad is completely unnecessary and a waste of resources. The controller also takes double A batteries which seems antiquated in an age of rechargeable controllers. If you don’t have a HD TV you’re out of luck because the Ouya only has an HDMI port, no component output at all. The controllers are also easily confused and take a long time to tie to the system, that and every time you turn off the Ouya you must reconnect the controller to the system all over again.
The WiFi card is terrible, every time I boot up the console I have problems. My internet gets about 25 megs and on WiFi I can download about 1 – 2 MB a second, however on the Ouya it takes me close to 30 minutes to download a game that is 35 MB total. The Ouya does have an ethernet port, except for the fact that it doesn’t work. I’m not sure if other people have had issues but my Ouya simply refuses to pick up any connection via the ethernet port. I’ve tried disabling WiFi altogether but it just flips back on automatically. On top of that, right out of the box I had tons of problems connecting to my wireless internet. The system practically requires you to be online at all times. During the system setup it refused to let me connect to my WiFi hotspot and wouldn’t let me progress any further or even use the system until I had done so. On top of that I couldn’t progress without updating which took almost two hours. Some people mentioned to me on Twitter that it shouldn’t take that long to do, but it still weighs heavily on my opinion of the system.
The Operating System
Ouya runs its own heavily modified version of Android which is good since it is a robust and powerful operating system. However, the Ouya’s custom operating system doesn’t allow for much exploration in the context of homebrew. Some of the features in the system settings don’t even have to do with the Ouya itself which makes it look slightly strange. There are call setting options like you’d see on a phone when you go deep into the system settings, why would I ever need these? There is also no overlay which makes it difficult to exit games and go back to the main menu. Some games require you to back out through various menus to finally get back to the main menu.
The Ouya is supposed to be the indie gamers console however it seems that most of these games would be more suited on a mobile platform. As of now there isn’t anything robust to sink your teeth into. Sure some of the games are a lot of fun, but they don’t feel like the kind of titles I would sit on my couch and play, they feel like something I would pick up on the go. It would have been nice for the Ouya to launch with something like Minecraft or another deep exclusive title.
When I launch the Ouya I see my screen name in the top left corner. Unfortunately, this name means almost nothing. I have no achievements, no friends, no way to track games I’ve played, no way to change my profile, no anything. The online interface is non existent, it’s about as relevant to adding screen names to a Super Nintendo. Ouya claims that it will be adding the online features at the end of the year, but to be honest it feels like half of the product I ordered is missing. There seems to be no point in even having the screen names if the online features are nowhere to be found.
Most of the games are also free which is great, but they also don’t really give you an incentive to buy any of them. On top of that commercial stats for the games are terrible so far.
I Want To Believe
When you first open the Ouya box a card comes out that says “thanks for believing.” However, like Fox Mulder of the X-Files, I want to believe. I wanted to believe that the Ouya was the great emulator, homebrew console I always wanted, with a sweet online interface, and an open distribution platform, however it feels incomplete. Playing the Ouya feels like playing the Dreamcast in the present; sure there are some great games on it, but the online interface is nonexistent and the product feels largely unfinished. Despite my negative review and score I’m still glad that the Ouya exists, I’m glad I helped it become a reality, but in truth the little console that could has a long way to go.