Hands On! First Impressions
I won't bore you with the story of getting my Ouya - it involved landscaping equipment, miles of vine cordage, and about six beers... The point you should know is, at 2pm yesterday my Ouya finally arrived, and the postman scared the bejesus out of me while I was doing so heavy lifting in my front yard.
However, before going into my detailed 'First Impressions' report, I would like to say much has transpired since my previous article. And in the lapse of time, it has come to light that Ouya as a company is indeed very much behind in producing units not only for Kickstarter backers, but also for retail. They recently partnered with new investors and seem to be finally on track with shipping, pushing back the retail launch some 3 weeks. Therefore, I was wrong with theorizing they were on the other end of the spectrum: making units slated for retail and holding back on shipping to Kickstarter backers. Anyone reading my output and regular articles should know something about myself: I have no problem admitting I'm wrong. However, in a bit of my defense I ask everyone to understand this fundamental point: Ouya allowed people to speculate wildly due to their lack of transparency and inability to answer the public's questions, by and large. This is something Ouya should address going forward. Many theories could have been right because of their obvious obfuscation of the facts. Even at present, many answers they provide are ambiguous and unclear and I still find myself weary of most of their PR. However, I now have an Ouya unit which is better than where I was one or two weeks ago, and that has definitely softened some of my more ardent feelings of anger and frustration.
Pretty nifty little case they packaged all their business in (Good job, Ouya-folk). I also found the "Thank you for believing" note attached to be touching. As a consumer, here's what you'll find in your Kickstarter box:
- Ouya Console
- HDMI cable
- Instruction Booklet
- Power Cable
First thing to know: shitcan the instruction booklet. It's worthless. To be honest, you don't need it anyhow because if you've assembled any type of console in the last 10 years, what is required of you to do here is no different. Here's a quick breakdown should you find yourself lacking the inherent assembly instinct:
1. Remove the faceplate covers located on each side of the Ouya controller. Do not be afraid to manhandle them because they are on fitted fairly tight (apparently held in place with very strong magnets).
2. Configure the battery latches to the shape of the battery holsters the latches are attached to. This will allow the batteries to be placed on top of the latches with about a half inch of the latch loop left dangling out of the battery holsters (to allow you to pull the batteries out later when you want to change them out).
3. Insert the batteries in their respective holsters on each side, over the latches.
4. Replace the faceplate covers. Congratulations. You're now done assembling the controller.
5. Attach the HDMI cable to your television and to your Ouya console.
6. Attach a LAN cable (not included) to your router and and to your Ouya console.
7. Attach the power cable to an electrical outlet and to your Ouya console.
Your Ouya is now set up.
Why they didn't include these instructions is beyond me but it's easy to do on your own. So what's missing besides instructions? As noted above, a LAN cable would have been nice but most all of us have a few of those laying around our garage or closet space. The Ouya also has a micro-USB input so having the adjoining cable would be nice as well. However, much like the LAN cable, if you already own an Android phone you probably already own this cable. I think at last count, I have 4. These are obviously minor quips. Let's power this magic pony on.
POWER UP & NAVIGATING THE UI
The first item of business at power up is pairing the controller to the box. An easy endeavor. I had no issue here (which is definitely a pat on the back for the Ouya team). Once done, I was placed into the UI. Let's get into this mess...
There are four areas of the UI to navigate to from the top menu. I won't bother with going through the in's and out's of it all because, well, if you're reading this, you've probably watched a few unboxing videos on YouTube and frankly, my experience offers nothing to add to what most have said previously. Simply stated: The UI is a mess and needs to be managed better. It's laggy, bulky and slow, and unintuitive. No one would know where to instinctively navigate to in order get games and play them. If you're having issues, I suggest going to YouTube and watching a few demos, of which there are many. The good news here is, there really are only a handful of interactive areas you'll find yourself in once you get the hang of navigation and thus, you will eventually get the swing of things. It's not hard, just a bit off-putting and frustrating.
And though there isn't much to the UI, I do have a few additional comments to add to the user experience not so readily covered in previous unboxing or demo discussions.
1. Only download one game at a time. Multiple downloads seem to end in all of them being dropped. This is probably the most annoying aspect of the Ouya experience. There's no indication when games are being downloaded except for the initial confirmation.
2. Don't bother with the wireless LAN connection if you don't have to. Seriously. The wireless LAN is a last resort.
3. The sub-menu icons take forever to update. This isn't to say you can't use your Ouya right away but many pictures and text items may be missing. Therefore, my suggestion is to turn on your Ouya on and walk away for 20 minutes. Just. Walk. Away. I chose to go buy a bottle of wine, do some dishes, and make some phone calls.
4. Don't even bother with the browser, especially if you're looking to watch any kind of video (read: pr0n).
4a. There is no inherent video player to watch videos (read: pr0n).
4b. The browser registers to websites as mobile so it truly is like having the cellphone experience on the big screen (read: it looks shitty).
4c. It's really hard to input characters using the onboard keyboard with your gamepad.
5. To truly power down the unit, you have to hit the power button on the unit and then confirm with the controller. A truly "WTF" moment will occur shortly thereafter when you realize you have to do these specific steps just to turn off the console. Alternative powering off method: pull the plug from the back of the housing for a few seconds.
The controller feels excellent just sitting in my hands. It might be the best in-hand-feeling controller I've ever used. I'm 6'4" and my digits reflect my ginormous size. All the functional pieces of the gamepad are nicely spaced yet, nothing seems too far of a reach. The mousepad works nicely in the UI, too, especially in the otherwise abysmal internet browser experience. The overall gist is the controller feels substantial and far from cheap. However, The shoulder buttons (R2 L2) are obtrusive and mushy and really muck up how much I want to like the controller. During certain games highly dependent on their use (Beast Boxing Turbo), it's hard to time when to press them and to what level. Also worth noting are the invariable issues most are having with the O-U-Y-A buttons becoming lodged under the faceplate during gameplay. Yup. It happens and there doesn't seem to be an adequate quick-fix; adjusting the faceplate yields no results. The only option is to be cognizant of the issue and not press the buttons so hard which is like telling someone to swing a battle axe gently during battle.