OUYA? "What's that?" I hear you cry!
Well, pronounced "Ooh Yah!" the OUYA is a new kind of video games console. It started off as just an idea on a website called Kickstarter, where people can give money to get a variety of different projects off the ground. These have included new smartphones, craft coffee shops, and even a Hollywood movie, with over half a billion dollars pledged in the past 12 months, and the number of projects growing all the time. Even in this crowded market the OUYA had an outstanding response, collecting over eight million dollars!
Although it was pitched as "a new kind of video game console" this Rubik's Cube-sized box is capable of more than just games. I'm going to run through some of its features and games, and tell you a bit about why I love it so much.
The technical bit
The console runs on the Android 4.0 operating System, with Full HD, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in.
The full specs are:
Tegra 3 - Quad-core processor
1GB LPDDR2 RAM
8GB on-board flash
HDMI connection to the TV at 1080p HD
Bluetooth LE 4.0
Enclosure opens with standard screws (making it easier to open it up, tinker with the OUYA and create new peripherals)
USB port for expansion/controllers
So, what does that mean?
That's the specs out of the way, but what can it actually do?
The OUYA, although based on Android, isn't like a mobile phone. It has its own version of the Android OS installed, which has its own store/marketplace, allowing users to simply download games straight to the device. A stand-out feature is that every game is free to try, which means that you can try plenty of games without any obligation to purchase them. If you don't like it, simply uninstall it. With over 650 games and counting, there is sure to be something for everyone.
What games are available?
Of course, the ultimate test for any console is the quality of the games available, and a number of perfectly decent consoles have come unstuck in the past because they just didn't have the portfolio of games to draw people in. That shouldn't be a problem for the OUYA though. Below are are just some of my favourites:
Neon Shadow - a fast paced Cyber Punk FPS inspired by classic shooters.
Minigore 2 - an award-winning Dual-stick shooter masterpiece
Ice Rage - brings the classic 8-bit hockey experience to the 21st century!
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (Episode 1) - the sequel fans have waited for is finally here
Soul Fjord - a rhythm based action game made exclusively for OUYA
Bombsquad - eight player party game madness!
Did you say eight players?
Yes. This brings me to another great point about the OUYA; as well as one controller in the box, the OUYA is compatible with PS3 and Xbox 360* controllers, and even the Wii Remote for certain games and applications.
(*One thing to note; the Xbox 360 Controller requires a USB receiver, which is sold separately.)
But you said it was capable of more than just games...
It is. The OUYA can also become a media centre for your TV capable of playing all your music and videos from your PC or NAS. There is also an App for the radio. Here are just a few of the media related apps available for the OUYA:
Plex - "With Plex, you can stream your music, videos and photos from your home computers"
XBMC - "An award-winning, free and open-source software media player."
TuneIn Radio - "...lets you listen to the world's radio with music, sports, news, talk, and comedy streaming from every continent."
Twitch TV - the world's leading video platform and community for gamers
Vimeo - "Watch amazing videos from the world's best creators on your huge awesome TV"
Toon Goggles - "...an entertainment destination safe for kids to watch what, when and where they want!"
I'm still a bit in awe of the fact that this tiny device is capable of handling games, music, video, photos and can even browse the internet, which is made even easier with the built-in touchpad on the OUYA controller.
What's in the box?
This is the first thing that you see when you open the box:
This nice little slogan comes from the Kickstarter campaign. The developers wanted their console to be different, and they were adamant that the people buying the console could decide what they wanted from it, and be the game developers - it's a far cry from the console giants Xbox and Playstation where titles are decided by huge publishers.
Once you remove the mission statement, the controller is revealed along with the biggest surprise of all...how small the console is!
You also get the AA batteries and HDMI cable in the box, so for under £100 you are good to go.
When you first turn on your OUYA you will have to create your account, similar to Xbox Live, so will need to connect it to your internet via either an Ethernet cable or WiFi.
Once your account is created you're ready to go...well almost. This brings me to one negative point about the OUYA. Before you actually get to the Home screen you have to specify your payment options. I found this annoying as there is no way around it, and considering that all the titles are free to play this seemed a bit unnecessary.
Luckily for me I got some OUYA credit with my console (game stores offer different bundles). Once you have selected your payment method you are in and can start downloading games.
Simply head to Discover and you can browse and download over 650 games and applications.
What's the verdict?
The OUYA isn't an Xbox or PlayStation, so don't get one expecting the games to be on par, because the reality is they're not. But that isn't what OUYA was designed to achieve. They didn't set out to compete with the console giants but to offer an alternative; a cost-effective device open to anyone to develop, use and enjoy.
As you might have already guessed, I love it! I really enjoy the range of games, the controller and the overall user experience. I also really admire the ethos of the whole project - making gaming and game development far more accessible and affordable. I'll say "Ooo Yah!" to that!