• Ouya

  • Ouya

  • Can't do this with an Xbox

  • A USB hub is a worthwhile extra

  • If only the controller felt as good as it looks

  • Who decided O would be the bottom button?

  • The Ouya controller isn't as ergonomic as its inspiration

  • Game pages lack prices

  • Repetitive recommendations

  • Rush Bros has distinctive styling on its side

  • Puddle couldn't be much more addictive

  • Towerfall + friends = multiplayer magic

  • TuneIn adds internet radio

  • While Plex lets you stream your network-stored media

Ouya gave the world a new kind of games console when it launched its phenomenally successful crowdfunding campaign in August 2012. With a tiny form factor, a cheap price tag and an open operating system, the company’s console was the complete antithesis to the po-faced Xbox and PlayStation. Following early delivery to Kickstarter backers, the console is now available to everyone through Game and Amazon for £99, and launches with over 200 games and apps, all of which are free to try. That may sound like gaming heaven, but the truth is that this is just the start of a long journey for the Android-based home console.

One cute cube

Can't do this with an Xbox

A USB hub is a worthwhile extra

Ouya is tiny, like a Rubik’s Cube with a curved base. It weighs just 300g, making it the most portable home games console we’ve ever seen. It helps that it uses mobile hardware, including an Nvidia Tegra 3 graphics processor, and it ditches the disc drive for downloadable games and hard drive in favour of 8GB of flash storage.

The console’s connections are simple; HDMI, ethernet, USB and a micro USB port. On the wireless front, there’s wi-fi internet and Bluetooth. It’s got everything you need, although you may want to buy a cheap USB hub if you plan on connecting more devices.

Flawed controller

If only the controller felt as good as it looks

Who decided O would be the bottom button?

The Ouya controller isn't as ergonomic as its inspiration

Ouya’s controller sadly isn’t quite as well designed as the console itself. The control sticks feel nice, a touch-sensitive pad allows you to navigate web pages, and it takes standard AA batteries. However, the shoulder buttons lack precision, the D-pad is unresponsive, and it generally feels cheap and plasticky. We found the standard wired Xbox 360 controller fared much better, and works with Ouya straight out of the box. The PlayStation 3 DualShock 3 controller also works if you prefer a wireless controller, but the Bluetooth setup takes a bit more time.

Finding games

Game pages lack prices

Repetitive recommendations

Ouya’s store is basic, sporting only basic information about each game, the number of "likes" from the community, and some screen shots. The most frustrating feature, or lack of, is pricing, which isn’t revealed until you’ve downloaded and played each game. Final Fantasy III is US$15.99, for example, and all of the prices are in US dollars, even in the UK.

The store is split up into different sections, highlighting journalist’s choices or particular genres, but the same games are recommended over and over. In short, the store is a bit of a mess that makes finding and downloading new games more chore than pleasurable jaunt through a digital sweet shop, and that's a great shame.

And storing them

The Ouya’s 8GB of internal storage isn’t a lot, and we hit the storage limit quickly. As yet, there’s no way to expand the storage using external devices, although Ouya promises this feature in future. The interface doesn’t make it easy to delete content either; there’s no option to sort your games by size, or by games you’ve been playing the least. It’s another foible of a system that’s already pretty user unfriendly.

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Happy hacker

Ouya actively encourages users to hack the device and load games and software not designed or approved for it. For the uninitiated, the process is called “sideloading”, and there are plenty of guides online to get you started if you want to go down that route. You can already play games such as Grand Theft Auto III, Jet Set Radio and Max Payne on the console, and install media players such as Netflix and XBMC. These programmes frequently crash or break, but they’re a sign that the Ouya community is dabbling in taking the device to some interesting places.

Making devs of us all

Every Ouya is also a development kit, allowing you to make your own games using a PC. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as it sounds – you’ll need to learn a little bit about programming – but to its credit Ouya makes everything as simple as possible. The website includes all the software and documentation you need to get started.

More than just games

TuneIn adds internet radio

While Plex lets you stream your network-stored media

We particularly like the suite of free apps and services already available on Ouya. Twitch.tv is a live streaming service for gamers (most of whom seem to play Starcraft II), while TuneIn streams live radio from around the globe. Plex is a media player that can pull content from a local server, and while it’s a little buggy, points to Ouya’s potential as a media centre.

Verdict

Ouya shouldn’t be thought of as an alternative to a console from Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft; the quality and breadth of games falls way short of the offerings on those machines. What it is, however, is an intriguing games console for those who want something they can hack and tinker with. Given the fan support Ouya has already gathered, it could soon flourish into a decent little games console and media player. It’s just not there just yet.

So do you fancy joining the Ouya community and developing and hacking it to perfection? Or are you going to wait for the early adopters to make it better before taking the plunge? Let us know below.

Stuff says... 

Ouya review

It’s so far lacking mass appeal, but Ouya boasts some good games, great apps, and a following of people set to take it in interesting new directions

Ouya

£99
Good Stuff 
Open-source approach
Everything's free to download and try
Small, lightweight and cute
Bad Stuff 
Gamepad is cheap and nasty
Some good games, but most are awful
Store is messy and hides prices
games
0
Graphics
0
design
0
smarts
0