OUYA: The initial impressions

This past week at the Game Developers Conference wasn't just a big one for third party publishers like Electronic Arts and Konami.  It was also the place where supporters for the OUYA system got a first look at what they invested in.  The company held a private event Thursday evening for a number of its KickStarter backers and other guests, providing plenty of food, drink and hands-on time with the system before it ships in June.  We managed to go a few rounds with it to see what it was like.

First off, the thing is tiny.  The controller is moderately sized enough, about on the same level as a PlayStation 3 Dual Shock 3 pad (but a little slimmer).  The main system itself, however, is really tiny, barely taking up just a few inches of space within someone's entertainment center.  It's easy to get it knocked off a shelf, so make sure you put it somewhere secure once you get your hands on yours.

The interface is quite cool.  There are various options to choose from when it comes to finding a game that you're looking for.  You can either go into a straightforward menu and browse through all the selections, or go by category, ranging from first-person to arcade to sports, and see what tickles your fancy.  It's a very capable browsing system, though there was a tiny bit of lag from the demo time we spent at the station.  Still, it was during a rather busy party, so we can forgive it a bit.

As for the games themselves, over 100 are available now for early OUYA backers to try out, and more will be introduced in the months ahead as the system gears towards its release.  Each game comes with a try-before-you-buy version, so you can give it a go before making the full purchase.  You will need to enter your credit card information before you continue doing anything on the service, but you'll only be charged for the games you agree to purchase.

OUYA

Downloading games onto the OUYA is a breeze, as it only takes seconds to activate an app and turn on a game.  Some of them are quite familiar titles, including Square Enix's Final Fantasy III (which should be a huge draw for the system) and The Pinball Arcade, which includes all the current tables released for mobile platforms, including Cactus Canyon and Central Park.  Other smaller games are also available, including the hilarious Gunslugs and other favorites like Canabalt and Wizorb.  It needs more "major" titles, however, such as stuff from Square Enix and Namco Bandai.

As for the apps, we didn't get to test them out, but the OUYA will support a number of high end apps, including XBMC, Crunchyroll, Flixster and Twitch.  There was no word yet when Netflix or OnLive would have its apps ready for the service, but come on, it's just a matter of time.

As for the feel of the OUYA system, it's rather curious.  The system is easy to operate with the push of a button, and it didn't really act up from the time we spent with it.  As for the controller, the analog sticks aren't bad, and the D-pad and face buttons perform as expected.  However, the triggers are very mushy, and take a lot of getting used to with their rectangularish design.  They don't really contort to fingers like the angled trigger buttons on Xbox 360 pads, honestly.  But don't let that sway you, you just have to get used to them.

OUYA

The OUYA still has a little cooking to do before its wide release in a couple of months, so here's hoping the team takes the time to make sure its service is running full speed, and comes with more "big name" games to go along with the independent darlings.  For now, though, we do like what we see.  We just need to see more.

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Robert Workman
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Games: OUYA

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