Ouya. No, that’s not an exclamation of alarm - it’s the name of a new kind of open-source gaming system which runs Android and connects to your TV, offering the value of mobile gaming on a large screen. For just £99, it’s priced well below modern consoles, but can it really be considered a challenger? Ahead of its high street release in just a few weeks’ time, we plugged on in to find out. Has this Kickstarter sensation been worth the wait?
In purely physical terms, Ouya is a hit. Famous designer Yves Béhar came up with the casing, which exudes a subtle yet appealing charm. The wireless Bluetooth controller is also decent, offering a comfortable button layout and responsive dual analogue sticks. Spin the diminutive Ouya console around, and you’ll discover an impressive range of connections, including HDMI, USB, Micro USB and Ethernet. Add Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to the mix, and you’ve got one seriously well-connected gaming platform.
Because it’s running Android, Ouya can potentially play all of the best games Google’s mobile OS has to offer. Titles like Final Fantasy III, The Bard’s Tale and Canabalt are available right now, and look amazing on your LCD TV. Future games like Sonic CD, Shadowgun and Dead Trigger are expected to arrive soon, and will most likely play much better on Ouya than on your phone or tablet, thanks to that effective joypad. It also runs emulators, which means you can turn it into a retro gaming monster.
For those of you sick of spending £40 on games for your Xbox 360 or PS3, Ouya’s pricing structure will be of interest. Every game on the Ouya store can be downloaded and sampled for free - developers use in-app purchases to make their cash. Some will ask you to pay a flat fee to unlock the full game, while others adopt the free-to-play approach and tempt you with in-game items or currency.
A games console is only as good as the games available on it, and at the moment Ouya doesn’t really offer anything that’s likely to get hardcore gamers excited. Many of the titles on the store are shallow mobile offerings adapted to use the controller, and few will keep your attention for more than a ten minutes. Ouya needs killer software, and hopefully that will come as 2013 progresses.
Although it’s priced attractively at £99, Ouya seems less appealing when you consider you can now pick up a PS3 console for just £40 more - and that has a massive library of amazing titles, including The Last of Us and Gran Turismo 5. Although we’d love to be proven wrong, it’s unlikely that titles of that standard will ever appear on Ouya. Mobile prices mean mobile experiences, and they don’t tend to translate very well to the big screen.