PocketCHIP gaming review

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The PocketCHIP isn’t quite the Game Boy you want (or need) but it’s still a lot of fun.

Back in May, I discovered the PocketCHIP handheld computer. Not only did it look retro-cool, it hyped up the Pico-8 console as a way to play and make games. I was sold and now after a few months of gaming, I feel like I can pass judgement on this piece of future past.

How it feels

You’ll notice that the PocketCHIP looks quite big…and it is. It’s a little bigger than the original Game Boy. You might also notice it has a full keyboard…it does…but this keyboard is far from elegant. In fact, it’s downright horrible. It’s so bad, I ordered an add-on D-pad to help remedy the problem. It helps a lot but it’s still far from comfortable. So combine an awful keyboard with a less than ergonomic case and you might be ready to write this thing off. And you could, if it weren’t for all the games.

Games, old and new

A big selling point for the PocketCHIP is the Pico-8 console, which is really a programming language that makes it very easy to make games that are playable on the PocketCHIP. Given it’s an open source type of thing, there are hundreds of games available through the Pico-8. They’re not all great but they’re not all crap…and there are new games getting released almost daily.

So the Pico-8 is fun and almost endless but since the PocketCHIP is a true pocket computer (a Linux machine, to be accurate), it means you can install all sorts of other applications, including emulators. I was able to successfully install and play emulators for the NES, GenesisĀ and PC Engine. Nice.

However, getting old console games to play doesn’t make the keyboard any nicer to use.

This isn’t a gaming device

If you’re looking for something just to play games, the PocketCHIP probably isn’t going to scratch your itch. Even though their marketing is all about gaming, this isn’t a gaming device. The Nintendo DS is a gaming device…and a Game Boy this is not. The PocketCHIP is a true pocket computer and with that comes all the benefits and problems of such.

Is the PocketCHIP a lot of fun? Yes it is, but only if you’re a tinker type of person that likes to futz around with configurations, installations and lots of commandline operations. This isn’t a point-n-click type of device…but it’s not supposed to be. If you’re cool with that then the PocketCHIP might be $70 well spent but otherwise, just hang on to your DS and enjoy the fun.

Oh and hey…if you do get yourself a PocketCHIP (or even if you don’t) check out a few of the games I’ve made, Invader Overload and Buzz Kill. Both pretty fun, if I do say so myself…

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About Author

Brian is a staff writer at TMA. He races Hot Wheels at RedlineDerby.com while watching cartoons with his kid. You can follow @morningtoast on Twitter.

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