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$99 Ouya Android game system: Some shortcomings, but it could be a contender

$99 Ouya Android game system: Some shortcomings, but it could be a contender

Ouya is one of the first of a new breed of game consoles using the Android platform. Priced at $99, it comes with a great perk–a free demo of any game before you buy it. That’s a big plus, but there’s room for improvement in the device itself, which seems like a work in progress. If its shortcomings are addressed, the Ouya could grow up to be a great little system.

Here’s our take on it.

Games. Being able to try a game before buying it is definitely the best thing about the Ouya. The trial period and other conditions vary from game to game, but it means you’ll never have to suffer buyer’s remorse again. The selection is fairly large, including some titles exclusive to Ouya. None of the games I played were as sophisticated as what you’ll get on Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo consoles. The visuals weren’t quite as good as on more expensive consoles, but some of the games were still fairly impressive. There are a few gems, such as Final Fantasy III and Chrono Blade, that were a lot of fun.

Features. The Ouya has some blatant head-scratching omissions. For example, there are no native streaming video services on the console. You can side-load these types of apps from the device’s web browser, so you could download the Amazon app store, for example, and use that to access more apps. But this requires some tech savvy, and Ouya doesn’t guarantee that these apps will work correctly.

Usability. The console isn’t user friendly for anything but gaming. Its settings mirror that of an Android smartphone, which unfortunately carries over several features that aren’t used on the Ouya, such as GPS location. This makes the menu a little confusing. You also have to create an Ouya account to download games. That means you can’t log in with your Google account, and you won’t have access to content that you’ve purchased on other Android devices. Additionally, the USB port doesn’t seem to function correctly. I couldn’t access any of the content from a flash drive, or save anything onto it either. I thought this might be specific to the model I bought, but I have read reports of many others having the same issue.


Get more reviews and tips at our guide to video games, consoles, and tech toys.

Design. The Ouya console, which is shaped like a small cube, is fairly sleek and definitely a space-saver compared to traditional consoles like PlayStation and Xbox. It’s also very simple, with a power button on top and an HDMI output and USB and micro USB ports in back. The controller has a solid feel and is similar to the Xbox 360 controller. All the buttons were responsive, but the squared-off design makes the shoulder buttons more awkward to use than on contoured models.

The touchpad on the controller is a nice addition since some of the games were designed for tablets and smart phones, and the touchpad lets you replicate touchscreen controls that can’t be performed with buttons. However, the touchpad was unresponsive at times, which could become annoying. Also, I found the AA batteries a bit of a pain to install or replace because you have to remove the controller’s faceplates, which isn’t obvious or particularly easy to do.

Bottom Line. The Ouya is a bit of letdown right now. In time, with added games and content like streaming video, plus some bug fixes, it could be a contender. In its current iteration I would recommend it only for those who are technically inclined.

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