The Best Handheld Console You’ve Never Heard Of

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The market for smaller video game devices is, ironically, getting bigger all the time. Yes, all the fuss in the press and on television might be about the big, shiny new consoles that Microsoft and Sony have launched this month, but the full-sized next-gen consoles and their ultra-powerful games are only part of the video gaming market. Away from those machines, the devices that play games are getting smaller and smaller. The advent of mobile gaming made the idea of playing games in the palm of your hand popular again, and dozens of companies are attempting to capitalize on the trend. Now there’s a new option available – and it’s one we suspect you’ve never heard of.

The trend for making games smaller and, therefore, more portable and accessible is everywhere. If you follow the money, you can see a huge chunk of the revenue made by web-based casinos moving away from online slots and toward mobile slots. The same people behind the games are still making money because mobile slots websites are really just online slots websites scaled down, but they spend more time catering for players on small screens now than they do on big ones. What’s true of casino games is also true of video games. We don’t expect this trend to change any time soon, so the market should prepare itself for an influx of new platforms – platforms like the My Arcade Pixel Classic.

The first thing you’ll notice about the My Arcade Pixel Classic is that it looks more than a little like a classic Nintendo Game Boy. We suspect that the resemblance isn’t identical, and we don’t know how Nintendo feels about it. Despite its familiar looks, this isn’t a Nintendo device. If you were to go on eBay (or any other internet marketplace of your choosing) and attempt to buy yourself a Game Boy, you’d have to pay something in the region of three hundred dollars to acquire one. By contrast, this delightful new handheld console costs a mere twenty dollars, and you wouldn’t have to buy the games separately. In fact, it comes with three hundred classic arcade games installed. Most of the games are made by Data East, and there are a few duds on there, but for a mere twenty dollars, it’s hard to argue that you aren’t getting value for money.

The My Arcade Pixel Classic (which we’ll admit is a name that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue) emulates the look and feel of the Game Boy in more ways than one. Unfortunately, part of that is its dependence on batteries. It requires four AAA batteries to switch on and run, and you might find that it chews through them fairly quickly. That might sound surprising when it has little more than a 2.75-inch screen and a single speaker to power, but try to remember that your original Game Boy didn’t have a color display.

This device does, and batteries haven’t become any more advanced since the 1990s. Keep plenty of batteries to hand, and you’ll get to grips with the chunky 8-bit handheld just fine. Alternatively, you can plug it into any power source that accepts a Micro-USB. That partially defeats the point of the console being portable, but it saves on battery use when you’re playing games at home.

Your familiarity with the games will probably depend on your age and the type of games you played when you grew up. We’ll list off a few of the highlights for you; how many of you remember playing “BurgerTime,” “Bad Dudes,” “B-Wings,” “Karate Champ,” or “Caveman Ninja?” If you’re currently grinning from ear to ear because of distant memories from your youth, you’ll hopefully be delighted to know that they’re just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the extensive back catalog that this mini-console has to offer. If, on the other hand, you’ve never heard of any of those games in your life, you might be a little younger than the target demographic that My Arcade has in mind with this new product.

The device isn’t perfect. People who’ve played the device have complained about button mapping issues on a few of the games and a lack of instructions making some of the less familiar titles difficult to understand. The button mapping issues are thought to be limited to a mere eight of the titles, though – and none of the best-known ones – so they ought to be looked at as a minor concern. There’s also no current suggestion that there will be more games added to the console in the future, so this isn’t a platform that you’ll be able to add to as time goes on.

The three hundred games are all you’re going to get. That being said, nobody should expect a lifetime of entertainment for twenty dollars. That price, by the way, is available as a short term introductory offer. When the device goes up to its full recommended retail price at an as-yet-undecided point in the future, it will be sold at fifty dollars rather than twenty. If you like what you’ve read in this article so far, your best option would be to act quickly if you don’t want to pay more.

We’re not recommending this product as a better option than the Nintendo Switch. If you (or your children) want a handheld console to keep them entertained this Christmas, the Switch is still your best option. The only problem with that is that Nintendo has been struggling to keep up with demand for the Switch since February, and supply has run dry several times this year despite repeated assurances by the company that they’re getting to grips with the issue.

Right now, there’s simply no guarantee that you’ll be able to get hold of a Nintendo Switch before Christmas Day arrives. If you’re on the hunt for one, we sincerely wish you luck. If you’d be satisfied with a less powerful device – or if you’d like something cheap to scratch your handheld gaming itch until the Switch comes back in stock at a place near you – it’s hard to look past the My Arcade Pixel Classic as a budget option.