(Note: This is the second part of a two-part review. The first, which focuses on the Ouya’s emulation abilities and hardware, can be found here.)
It’s a little easier to form an opinion on the library of games available 20 or so days from the Ouya’s launch. In short, it’s not nearly what I expected. Actually, that isn’t quite fair since I’m not sure exactly what I expected. At any rate I’m sure what we have isn’t it.
My biggest problem? As shallow as it sounds, the visuals. With a few exceptions – Shadowgun probably chief among those – pretty much every title we tried suffered from a severe case of but syndrome: “This is a good game, but man those graphics are awful” is an apt description for most every decent game we played. As I said in the last review, you’d have to be on some pretty strong meds to expect anything resembling a console experience for a mid-range tablet in a box. That doesn’t mean we have to suffer with sub-NES levels of visual quality, however… where a lot of Android games are guilty of looking like tweaked-up flash titles, the Ouya’s stinkers can be downright horrendous.
Fortunately, there are a lot of games to turn to if the one you’re trying offends your delicate artistic sensibilities (or makes your eyes bleed). A broad sample of fighers, shooters, sports titles and RPGs, among others, make for a satisfyingly deep launch catalog. The venerable You Don’t Know Jack franchise even makes an appearance. If you have ADD or, like me, tend to stop playing a demo the second something comes remotely close to making you angry, it’s a wonderful thing indeed.
Though my incessant whining about pricing and freemium game models has made me AndroidShock’s resident tightwad, I’d be remiss not to whine about how much most titles for the Ouya cost as well. I don’t mind paying $10 or $15 for, like, a downloadable game on a major console. The problem is that many of the Ouya’s games feel just like mobile titles. In some cases they feel even less complex than that. Not every game comes with a ridiculous pricetag, mind you, but I found myself downloading a demo, checking the price after playing for a bit, and audibly scoffing more than a few times.
Outside of those three points, there’s not much of a unifying theme between the Ouya Store’s offerings to complain about or praise. The following list of mini-reviews reflects a few titles whose qualities (good or bad) make them stand out against other available launch titles.
You Don’t Know Jack
We brought it up first, so let’s talk about it first. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll be pleased to hear it’s an excellent Jack experience, with 20 hilarious episodes featuring Cookie Masterson and company for a mere $9.99. If you’re not… wait a second. You dislike You Don’t Know Jack? Weirdo. It’s one of the best values on the Ouya to date and probably my favorite game available for it besides.
You may remember our not-so-enthused review of Ravensword: Shadowlands, in which we dogged on the framerate and semi-wonky controls. On the Ouya, things look and feel much more natural, with solid OEM controller support and far fewer instances of stuttering/slowdown. It’s an unabashed Elder Scrolls clone, sure, but it does its job well enough to more than justify its $7 price tag, especially considering the cost of some of its competitors.
I keep saying terms like “killer app” thrown around in online discussions about TowerFall. I personally don’t get it. I wish I would have known I wouldn’t get it before I dropped $15 to buy it, too, because my disappointment probably colors my opinion of the whole game. It’s a decent multiplayer title that gets fun the more players you add, but $15? Really? Either the people lauding it with praise have lower expectations than I do or I (along with all the people I had playing it with me) am missing something. At five bucks, it’s a good deal. At ten, it’s okay. Past that, I’d have passed.
I spent most of my time with this game trying to figure out what the hell it was I was supposed to do. This was due in part to the gameplay and in much larger part to the visuals, which resembled games I played on computers and came installed on floppy disks. It’s a downside of lax restrictions for developers, I suppose – the folks making the decisions must have opted for quality over quantity. I can’t help but think they should have raised the bar at least a little higher. An abundance of games resembling this one backs me up on that, I think.
Jump To Win!
Okay, seriously. Again, I understand the importance of giving newer and lesser-known developers access to the marketplace, but this looks like something out of a Max Headroom video. If I wanted to watch low-poly models with floaty animation perform banal tasks in a (very) loose semblance of what the average gamer would consider “gameplay,” I’d have gone for the genre champ, Superman 64. This one’s so bad, and so bad on so many levels, it’s kind of an embarrassment.
There are a lot more games on the Ouya market, and I certainly can’t admit to having played them all. That said, the current dearth of compelling games make me think it may be worth waiting a few months before plopping $100 down on the system. I can’t say it’s a bad launch library, especially considering the sheer number of games available — I can, and will, say it’s an underwhelming one. If you don’t mind buying a system for the potential it offers, you might get a kick out of the Ouya. If not, wait it out. You’ll thank us later.