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Ouya: Unboxing and First Impressions

Anyone who has paid any attention to the crowd-funding phenomenon known as KickStarter should be familiar with the Ouya.   Generating an astounding $8,596,474 dollars in 28 days, the Ouya is the highest funded campaign in the video games category and 2nd highest on all of KickStarter.  The device that was supposed to tell the big 3 where to stick it, and start the Open-Source Console revolution.

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Many months have passed since the KickStarter campaign ended, and those of us who backed the project have started to get our devices.  I received mine yesterday and thought, what better way to kick off the revolution than by unboxing the thing and playing with it, all the while documenting every step.

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The shipping container you may receive your Ouya in could be a bit smaller since mine came with extra controllers, but you can expect it to be about the size of a shoebox, or two stacked on top of each other if you get extra controllers.

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Upon opening the box and pulling out the box for the Ouya itself and the extra controllers I finally had a sense for just how small this little box of wonder was going to be. I believe the final product Ouya that comes out will have a silver/grey hue on the box and controllers themselves, but as a KickStarter backer, I had the option of this nice sort of copper color, and I like it, it’s definitely the most different looking thing next to my TV now.

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At first glance, the controller seems to be a bit of a hybrid from the DualShock and the XBox controller, with the staggered analog sticks.  Personally I despise this configuration and would’ve liked the feature to move the d-pad over as seen on some of the newer third-party controllers.  It fits well in your hands though, and after adding the batteries in (we’ll cover that shortly), it weighs just enough to get that normal feeling you would from a good solid controller.

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One thing I’ll say, you can’t ever call the Ouya team ungrateful, they’ve thanked backers every chance they can get, and here’s just another one.

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Inside the Ouya box itself is the Ouya, one controller, an HDMI cable, a power cable, and what you could call an owners manual but is really just one page and a whole bunch of legal jargon repeated in several languages that make up the book.  I thought this picture would help illustrate just how tiny the Ouya is while next to the controller.  I’m sure many of you have seen the picture of it sitting next to a soda can and that’s not far off, this thing is tiny.

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On the back of the unit is your power, HDMI, USB, ethernet, and a micro USB slot as well.  The device is WiFi capable, and that is ultimately the route I went, although some of the early criticisms that have come through on the WiFi capabilities seem to be accurate.

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This is the only page you’ll ever need to read on the owners manual, and quite honestly, you don’t even need this to figure it all out.  It’s pretty simplistic by design, and the on-screen instructions can fill in the gaps.

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A word on the controller battery compartments.  These are a bitch to get into, I honestly didn’t expect the entire faceplate to come off on each side and kept trying to gain access by sliding up and down, pushing and pulling until I eventually learned that they come off, but none too easily.  Once you get the batteries in, it also never quite feels like you get a sense that you’ve put the faceplates back on correctly as there’s nothing tactile to sort of say “yep this is back on”.  I’m probably just nit-picking on this one, though.

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Plug in your Ouya, hook up the HDMI cable and press the big round button on the top.  I tried to get a pic of that, but the top is so glossy I couldn’t take a picture that actually looked like anything, so you’ll just have to believe the power button is there.  Anyway, upon first powering the console you’ll see this screen.  Pairing up one of the controllers is as easy as pressing the “Ouya” button (for lack of a better term, it’s a button with an U inside an O), and waiting until the two middle LEDs are flashing.

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Then it’s time to set up your network.  I had to re-scan the WiFi connections in my area 3 times until it finally found mine.  Setting it up was a breeze, except for one fatal flaw.

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I saw this screen more times than I’d like to admit.  Much of the early criticism has been on how the WiFi just isn’t strong enough.  I even have a WiFi booster in my living room and came across this several times until it finally connected, without even telling me it had successfully done so, though.

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Right out of the box there was a firmware update, so great, did that, and restarted back to pairing up my controller, again a breeze.  This part should work every time and so far it has, so we know the bluetooth works as it should.

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Oh great, here we are again.  After several more attempts to 1)find my WiFi and 2)connect to it, I was finally able to get past this screen and go start playing some games in the Ouya library.

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My library naturally had none, so it was time to go fine some under the “Discover” option.  Just to give you a quick breakdown from what I could tell in about 30 seconds, Play is where your games are stored, Discover is where you get new games, Make is for creating a game, and Manage is for the various settings of the device.

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Anyway, it was off to the library.  I had been informed that there were now 151 games ready to be played on the Ouya when I entered Discover mode and found my second major disappointment with Ouya.  It’s just a barren wasteland right now, the list of games is like something you’d find on a lesser flash games site with the exception of a few titles.  The Apps are even more disappointing where after the Twitch TV one (which is also disappointing, but that’s the app itself) there’s really nothing worth downloading.

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I did try out a few games, however, as I couldn’t truly give first impressions without doing so.  I grabbed the Giana Sisters platformer, the popular flash launching game Knightmare Tower, the also popular flash running game Canabalt, and finally, this gem of gems, and right now the absolutely best game on the Ouya, the irreverant trivia game, You Don’t Know Jack.

The platformer I’d rate about 3 out of 5 stars.  It was very basic and similar to the early days of Mario, but the controls felt a little stiff, making jumps (you know, the bread and butter of the genre) rather difficult as the game went on.

Knightmare Tower is almost as fun as it is on a computer, but that transition from mouse to analog stick doesn’t quite work as well, but it could be just getting used to the new control scheme.

You Don’t Know Jack was where I spent the rest of my time, so I missed out on trying Canabalt, but You Don’t Know Jack is where everyone should be spending their time anyway right now.  You can definitely tell the game is not on a next or last gen system because there are noticeable delays while waiting for questions to appear or transitions to the next question, but they’re not that bad, in that if I hadn’t been a long-time player of YDKJ before, I honestly wouldn’t notice them at all.

So, that’s the unboxing and my first impressions on the Ouya.  I’d love to recommend you go order one right now, but the library just isn’t there yet, so I’d say hold off for now, save your money for the next gen system of your choice, and maybe consider the Ouya as your 2nd console once they’ve had a chance to work on the WiFi connection issues and bolster the library.

A part time gaming journalist and radio practitioner, and one of the first editors here at Default Prime, Mike has been gaming since birth, starting back with the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64, on through to the PS3, PC, and whatever comes next. He is educated in communications and is a project manager by trade.

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