Ouya: my review
Jul 18, 2013
4 minute read

I’ve owned an Ouya for about a month, and I’ve been meaning to write about it for quite some time. I didn’t quite know where to start, though. I could tell you all about the hardware, how the Tegra 3 isn’t the best chip on the market, but that it is more than enough for most indie games out there. I could tell you that critics who talk about Angry Birds or COD are both completely missing the point. I could comment on the wi-fi problems, and I could even join the self-important crowd who calls it a “Towerfall machine”.

But instead, I’m going to go straight to the point: the Ouya is, to date, the most exciting Android device I’ve seen come out. We’ve seen a lot of “TV boxes” over the year, coming from noname asian manufacturers with a barely modified Android ROM, but this is nothing like it. Ouya is, most importantly, a vision.

Every game is free to try. There are design guidelines - it’s easy to navigate, and you have hundreds of games at your fingertips. There are few damn good titles, not only Towerfall but classics like Terry Cavanagh’s Don’t Look Back and Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box. It’s easy to pick up, and for the price, you’d be silly not to grab it along with an extra controller or two.

So, what can I tell you that every other article hasn’t said yet? First, I could say that you need to forget that it runs Android. As far as developers are concerned, it runs OpenGL ES 2 and you can compile native code to it - it’s easy to export to from Unity and other game making toolkits, and that’s all that matters to indies. Forget about the smartphone and tablet market - plagued by a slew of bland, generic one-button free-to-play games by new-fangled studios with quirky names. The TV experience is something completely different, and I’ve seen a few Ouya developers understand that already.

Second, a few high-level partnerships were announced, but I remain thoroughly unimpressed. SEGA’s PC version of Sonic 4, Episode 1 and 2 was already an insult to the franchise, but recently they have displayed their complete lack of respect for the Ouya guidelines - Sonic 4 does not feel like an Ouya game, it feels like what it is - a bad port of a bad game to a platform they do not understand. So, try Episode 2 if you must (and if you can afford at 500MB+ download), be disappointed, and then quickly get back to what makes the Ouya really shine: indie games.

Third, keep in mind that Ouya is more than just a box. It’s a vision - it is a movement. It requires faith, and when you look at the sales numbers (remembering that their PR budget was teensy), it looks very much like an easy platform to trust. Like every ecosystem, the first version is rough around the edges, the hardware is only as powerful as what they had at the time of the Kickstarter campaign, and the software could use a healthy dose of polish (especially the store / download system), but the future looks good: considering that a lot of developers only got their system a few weeks ago, and the number of quality games already present, I am very optimistic. It’s also likely that a new iteration of the console will be available every year, allowing for more graphically ambitious titles.

As a conclusion, I will say this: it doesn’t matter how many people hate the Ouya right now. It is the best thing that has happened to the indie scene in quite some time, and I’m confident the next few months will only prove me right. Everybody laughed when the first iPhone came out, including Steve Ballmer - and look where we are now. When something different comes out, it takes some time to adapt to it. The adoption curve looks good, many developers will soon realize porting their titles to Ouya is a no-brainer, and while waiting for an official YouTube or SoundCloud app, just slap XBMC on there and you’re good to go.