The OUYA is ready to make a name for itself among video game consoles.
The Android-based system, which blew past its KickStarter funding goal last year, hit store shelves this week at an affordable $99. 99. With this system, users can download popular releases like the hilarious trivia game "You Don't Know Jack" and "The Pinball Arcade" simulation, as well as new independent titles like the side-scrolling shooter "Gunslugs" and other offerings from independent game developers. [See also: Top 10 Kickstarter Tech Projects of 2013 ]
As one of the project's original KickStarter backers, I received the console approximately 10 days ago (many backers are still receiving their systems) and have put it through its paces. While OUYA does have the potential to be something special in the game community, it's not without problems. Here are big fixes that the OUYA team needs to make if it wants the system to succeed.
1. De-clutter the interface
One selling point of OUYA was to be an interface that would help gamers look up what type of experiences they wanted within slotted categories. However, the design, as it stands now, needs cleaning up; it can be difficult to fine-tune the search. If you're looking for a particular favorite, like "You Don't Know Jack," you basically have to go on a bounty hunt, clicking through two or three sub-menus before finally getting to the product page.
This interface should better highlight newer games and more-popular titles, rather than forcing you to dig through dozens of classic-game-machine emulators and obscure games. Maybe OUYA wanted an interface in which you would look around and discover games, but the setup can be frustrating if you know what you want to play and just want to get there quickly.
2. Sped up game performance
Some of the games offered by OUYA, such as "The Pinball Arcade" and "Organ Trail: Director's Cut," work wonderfully with the service. Others, however, need a lot of work. The futuristic racing game "Flashout 3D," for example, had stuttering visuals, even though it plays smoothly on handheld Android devices.
Another game that ran worse than expected is "Canabalt HD." Considering that you need to have critical timing with your jumps to keep going, it's a bit upsetting when your input isn't read when it's supposed to be. [See also: Is OUYA Android Game Console Outdated Before It Ships? ]
3. Reduce loading times
The OUYA network's performance is a far cry from that of Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. Games take quite a bit of time to download: I waited more than a minute for a mere 10 MB title to make it into my system. With wait times like that, you may lose interest before the game even gets to you.
4. Cut down on game emulators
We're all for seeing and playing new experiences on the OUYA, but one trend we couldn't help but notice is the mass of classic-game-device emulators being released for the system. These include GBA.emu (for Nintendo's Game Boy Advance), Snes9x EX Plus (for Super Nintendo games) and NES.emu (for Nintendo 8-bit games).
While these are decent emulators, they work in the same way as those for PC do. You have to hunt for illicit game ROM's from BitTorrent sites. On top of that, some folks might not be so fond of downloading older games on a just-released console — especially when they want to play something new.
5. Add social and better video apps
The OUYA supports a number of applications that provide entertainment outside of gaming, including TuneIn Radio and the popular Internet broadcast channel Twitch.tv. But the system is missing some video apps with greater popularity, like Netflix and Hulu Plus, which are available on other game systems.
Furthermore, the OUYA provides no way to connect with other social apps, like Twitter or Facebook. It doesn't even offer YouTube support. Again, that could change somewhere down the road, but at the moment, there's no official timetable.
The OUYA is available now for $99.99 through various retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy and GameStop.
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