I wasn’t a Kickstarter backer of the Ouya, because I thought an Andoird-powered gaming system sounded pretty dumb. It wasn’t until I started hearing about how it was pretty great for emulation that I started considering it. Then over the summer I got a $100 Amazon card and it was burning a hole in my pocket, so I ordered an Ouya. I’ve been meaning to write up a review for months, but I hadn’t used it much until the past couple weeks.
When I first got it, I loaded up a bunch of ROMs, from NES all the way up to Nintendo 64 and Playstation 1, onto a flash drive and dove into setting up emulators. Some are obviously just ports of Android apps and have very crappy UIs, but there are a few that are very nice and look great on a TV in your living room. Overall, they worked well, but N64 and PSX games were a lot more flakey.
I thought for $99 it wasn’t a bad little gadget to get if you wanted an easy (and couch-friendly) way to get ROMs on your TV. The made-for-Ouya games I tried were horrible, and so I wrote off that whole aspect of the console. Then last week I played Towerfall with a friend.
Towerfall is hard to explain, but I can honestly say it is worth the price of the Ouya to play this game with friends. It’s a local multiplayer game that is almost like a 16-bit version of Super Smash Bros where everyone runs and jumps around trying to shoot each other with arrows. It’s a very fast-paced game and it’s simple to understand but with deep gameplay at the same time. Most of all, it’s just damn fun.
Made-for-Ouya games are free to try, but after one round of Towerfall I immediately paid for the full game. It gets you access to more game modes and customization, which is a really cool aspect of the game. You can setup custom rules and control just about everything. Is there a particular powerup you don’t like? You can turn it off. Want bomb arrows all the time? There’s a setting for that.
I played with one friend and each round was mayhem. I can’t imagine playing with four players, but I can’t wait to try it sometime.
So, would I recommend buying an Ouya right now? That’s a tough question. Towerfall was only exclusive to Ouya for six months, and the trailer above is for the sequel which will be on Steam and the PS4. However, all the updates from that game will make it to the Ouya version with no extra cost. Chess 2 is apparently the next must-play game, but I have never played chess in my life so I haven’t tried that one.
If Ouya can find more developers with games like Towerfall and strike exclusive deals with them, I could see the system carving out a little niche as a fun thing to own for emulation, as a media center (I’m completely obsessed with XBMC, which now runs on the Ouya), and for playing cool indie games.
The company is supposedly releasing updated hardware each year, but I haven’t heard any official word on version 2 yet. I’m not a hardcore gamer by any means (I recently unplugged my Xbox 360 because I hadn’t touched it in months), but I would say the Ouya is well worth $99.
Update: Well, that timing was weird. Just after I published this, Ouya announced some new hardware. I don’t think it’s official “version 2″ yet because it uses the same Tegra 3 processor, but it’s $129 and has “improved wifi” and more storage.