Let’s get one thing out of the way really quick: the Ouya controller is horrible. One of the worst gaming controllers I’ve ever encountered. Now granted, I wasn’t around for such unworkable inputs as the Intellivision pad, the Atari 5200 floppy stick, the Jaguar, etc. The closest thing I could compare the Ouya’s controller to is a generic plug-and-play controller I picked up from a Walgreens for under a dollar on clearance. Laggy. Unresponsive. Cheap-feeling. Tough to corner with. The bumpers are horrendous. And the way you put batteries in it is just fucking absurd. This controller SUCKS! There’s word going around that Ouya kiosks are being set up, and I can think of no quicker way to sink the system for good. If they don’t fix the controller, they’ll drive away more people than they’ll convince to purchase. Almost every game I tried out for it, I was immediately aggravated by. I almost wrote the machine off entirely.
And then I plugged in a PS3 controller. I swear to God, it became an entirely different experience. Games were suddenly playable on the damn thing. I can’t stress enough: as soon as convenient, dump the Ouya controller for a PS3 or Xbox pad. Then find the nearest hammer and take it to the Ouya pad, so as to never be tempted by it again. If a game comes out that doesn’t have alternative controller support? Fuck it. Not worth your time. Not that the PS3 support is perfect. I couldn’t turn the fucking controller off when I put the system to sleep. The option that says “turn off controller” in fact does not turn off the controller. The only way to turn it off was to physically unplug the Ouya. And not every game has support for it, despite the fact that developers told me including support is super easy. For a few games, the mapping seemed to either not work or be off in some way.
With the PS3 pad, my Ouya became a perfectly fine little Android-based gaming device. But the controller is hardly the only problem it has. The interface is missing a lot of key things that most consumers care about. Like, oh, THE FUCKING PRICE OF THE GAMES! There is no listing for the prices for anything on the market, or even on Ouya’s website. Instead, you have to download the demo for the game first. Only it’s not called a demo. It’s called a “free download.” Now, if you’re not familiar with the system, someone might think they’re pulling a bait and switch here. But this is also bad for people on a budget. Let’s say you only have $10 to spend. You can’t sort out anything that costs more. It’s something that dreamy-eyed idealists would probably think is a good idea. In practice, players are not going to wade through games of unknown price until they finally stumble upon one they can afford. They’ll just spend their budget on a different platform. This is yet another “what were they thinking?” moment, of which Ouya has plenty of.
It’s especially annoying for me because I don’t sample anything I intend to review at Indie Gamer Chick. I select games for review based on how they look and sound in concept, or maybe a trailer. That’s just my preferred style. It’s often not possible on Ouya. There’s too much emphasis on demos and not enough on sales. Another problem is there is no way to sort games by new releases. A lot of people, myself included, enjoy looking through new releases. The lack of such a tab really hurts the novelty of digital distribution, where any given day could be the day that a platform’s new best title hits. Instead, you have to poke around the genre tabs. If “what were they thinking?” is the number one running theme of the Ouya, inconvenience is the number two theme.
Again, I hate demos. But hey, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So here are all the demos I downloaded, and my thoughts on them.
Towerfall: By far the most talked about Ouya game. And naturally, I can’t play it. It’s not compatible with my epilepsy. Thankfully, the developers are talking about adding an effects switch for the PlayStation 4 port. Oddly enough, this is the second console I’ve gotten this month where the most hyped game was unplayable by me. I couldn’t play Resogun on PS4 for the same reason.
Amazing Frog? The Hopping Dead: The idea is kind of like Pain for PS3 meets a sandbox game. Walking around a pretty decent sized world, you want to crash your frog into as many things in a single jump as possible. Nice concept, and the full single-player experience is mostly free. But Amazing Frog is hugely glitchy, which wrecked the experience for me. Scoring is based on how much shit you crash into before you stand yourself up. But, while you’re limp and rag-dolling around, you can still move pretty much indefinitely. Plus, there are lots of issues with clipping, slowdown, or your character just plain falling down as you move around, because it registers him as bumping into something. And why is the jumping so weak in this? You would think a game based around a frog character would at least let your initial jump be pretty high, but that’s just not the case. I wouldn’t consider spending a dime on this until it’s cleaned up.
Globulous: Globulous looks like a clone of unsung N64 gem Tetrisphere. There’s a game that nobody talks about today, and I have no idea why. I was very excited by this. But, after downloading it, I discovered the PS3 controller support is broken. None of the buttons work, just the sticks. Weirdly enough, if I also turn on a Ouya controller, the buttons on that work but not the movement. In theory, I could play it with my left hand controlling movement on the PS3 pad and the right hand controlling all the action on the Ouya pad. This seemed to be a bit sloppy though. Then again, the controls seem sloppy all around no matter which way you try to play it. I didn’t get too deep, because the only option to play it without looking like a tool was to put down the PS3 controller and slum it with the Ouya pad. I wasn’t kidding earlier. I absolutely refuse to use the Ouya controller. No game is worth it.
Red: A really bland and basic twin-stick-shooter. I’ve played so many of these since starting IGC that, without a really novel hook, I can’t get into them. And this one’s starting gun requires you to repeatedly press the fire button instead of just shooting, which wears on your fingers quickly. Easy pass.
ittle Dew: The winner of the “worst timing on Ouya” award goes to ittle Dew, a homage to classic 2D Zelda games. Which I unfortunately played right after starting A Link Between Worlds. It’s hard to get excited about this after playing the first real, authentic 2D Zelda since Minish Cap (the DS games don’t count. Zelda is not meant to be played with a plastic stick). Not that ittle Dew would be perfect if not for those circumstances. Even with a PS3 controller, the controls are sloppy and the combat is clumsy. I also didn’t love the hand-drawn graphics, but at least it seems to place an emphasis on puzzle design. I still would have probably bought it, but now that my Zelda itch has been scratched, I might not ever touch it again.
A Ride into the Mountains: I get flack sometimes for picking on free games. I don’t think I’m being a bitch about it, but often free games just plain aren’t fun or worth a look at. A Ride in the Mountains is totally free, and the concept of a chick on horseback shooting enemies with a bow & arrow is solid. But the aiming controls are horrible. This originally started out as an iPhone/Android game, meant to be played on a touch screen. The iPhone port was 99 cents, and I immediately recognized it as a superior game. In a game about aiming, ease of the aim mechanic is paramount, and the Ouya port just doesn’t have that. I might end up doing a full review of the phone game at some point. The Ouya version should be skipped.
Reaper: Another theme of Ouya games are ones that show their mobile roots. Reaper is an action-RPG, one that handles some of the hacky-slashy button mashy stuff automatically. Unfortunately, not enough was done in porting this over to Ouya. All movement is so slow and floaty, it’s as if the game takes place underwater. This would probably be fine if playing on a flimsy, buttonless phone screen, but it doesn’t work well at all on a console. Of all the games I played that I disliked, this one probably has the most potential to be worthwhile in a short amount of time. But for now, it’s probably better off as a phone port.
Survival: The only buttons on the PS3 controller that worked were the shoulder buttons. This meant I would have to use the Ouya pad. No thanks. We need to get the Geneva Convention involved in this. Survival looked neat in a classic Atari game type of way, but I will never use the Ouya controller ever again. After asking developers I know, they agree that implementation of PS3 controller support is super easy. There really is no excuse.
Deep Dungeons of Doom: This was, as of yet, the only game reviewed by Indie Gamer Team member Michael. He was slightly leaned against purchase. Oddly enough, this was the first Ouya game I spent money on. It was fun, in a simple, stripped-down to bare essentials type of way. The give-and-take combat reminded me a little of Super Mario RPG mixed with Punch-Out, in that enemies telegraph their moves and the object is to memorize their patterns so that you can effectively dodge-and-counter. Of course, DDOD is a roguelike, and I get along with those like a chihuahua soaked in blood would get along with a school of piranhas. But I’m cautiously optimistic about its chances enough that I took a chance and bought it. Don’t get me wrong though: this is not going to be the killer app system mover Ouya needs. Just a solid title. Maybe.
Meltdown: No, this is not a game based on my recent PS4 experience. It’s an isometric shooter-adventure. But, for whatever reason, the trigger buttons when using the PS3 controller did not seem to work. All the face buttons worked fine, as they are assigned to do, but the triggers, which you need to shoot with, did not work. I begrudgingly checked with the standard Ouya controller, just long enough to confirm the triggers on that worked. They did. I switched back to the PS3 controller, only to find that none of the buttons now worked. I turned the game off, turned it back on, and all the buttons worked fine, except the triggers again. An interesting looking game, but I am not going to play it with the Ouya pad.
Mystery Castle: By far the Ouya game with the highest Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard potential, Mystery Castle is a Lolo-inspired puzzler. But it does so much more than Lolo, or really any other homage to Lolo I’ve played, and that includes some spectacular titles. Control is a little stiff, but that’s par for the course with this sub-genre. The demo includes 36 free levels, but what’s really bizarre is that, instead of having the first couple levels on each “world” be free, the lineup seems to be totally random, as if selected by lottery. I guess this is done to show how the difficulty progresses. This will probably be my first full Ouya review.
Yes, there are plenty of solid niche games for Ouya. But many of the system-exclusives are underwhelming or mediocre. The issues with alternate input are found across multiple titles. I initially had a more detailed feature planned here where I would advocate Ouya charging smaller royalties to developers in an attempt to lure in higher quality exclusives. But, the truth is, Ouya has almost no life left in it. Regretfully, I think the system is a failure. Yea, most consoles these days launch with underwhelming lineups. But the problems with Ouya run so much deeper. The controller issues are too great, the point of sale is to sloppy, and the business model isn’t set up for success. I’ve spoken with developers of solid titles that have moved around a dozen copies on the platform. A dozen.
When I think of Ouya, I’ll think of why I never was a fan of Kickstarter to begin with. Kickstarter is free money without discipline. It never asks of its pitchers to present a solid business plan. Ouya received 8.5 *million* dollars. That’s a lot of money to throw at a start-up with this kind of risk, especially when nobody bothered to ask them how they’re going to keep the company afloat once the well runs dry. Sure, they lured in a couple of Triple-A throw-away titles like Sonic 4 or a port of a remake of a Final Fantasy game that came out when I was less than a year old. Games that any rational person would recognize were sent out to die. Meanwhile, developers are being bled for a 30% royalty, which is the industrial average, on a console that I found hidden beneath the rack with PC gift cards at Target. You can’t charge industrial average when you have less than a 1% market share. You just can’t. The best the Ouya team could come up with was their ridiculous “Free the Games” fund, which demonstrated the lack of discipline their team has. Ouya is a microcosm of the game industry run amok. For all the talk of how evil console giants Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are, those dark-hearted policies of theirs assure a vital and thriving library and a platform for profitability. Gaming is a business. Someone should have reminded the Ouya team and their 8.5 million dollars worth of contributors about this a year ago.