I definitely feel like the controller deserves its own post, even though it’s technically part of the hardware. The controller has been met with mixed to negative reviews from what I have read and seen throughout the Internet.
The design and layout itself is considered pretty normal by today’s standards. It obviously takes heavy influence from the Xbox 360 controller design, which is not a bad thing because that controller is actually pretty good. It has the two analog joysticks offset from each other, the directional pad, four “action” buttons (labeled O, U, Y, and A), two bumpers, two triggers, an “Ouya” button, and unexpectedly, a track pad.
The controller connects wirelessly to the console via Bluetooth. Now, despite my pretty good experience with the console and the controller since I have owned it on launch day, I am going to have to talk about the bad things about the controller, because it really does have its faults (my mostly-positive experience notwithstanding), so let’s get into it.
There have been a lot of reports of lag between the controller and the console: movement that was never intended, characters moving off the screen, button presses not registering, or registering seconds later, etc. It appears that anything more than 10 feet from the console causes connection issues. Some people have even reported something as simple as putting their legs or knees between the controller and the console have caused lag issues.
I haven’t experienced these issues myself as I have an extremely small TV room, so I am no more than about four feet from my console with a clear line of sight. Even when I purposely put my legs or knees in the way, or a blanket, I do not experience any lag. I did however take the console to a friend’s house where there was about 20 feet between us and the console and we did experience some pretty bad lag – even with a clear line of sight. We had to kind of lean forward in his couch to get it to play properly. Hopefully this issue is just software related and they can push an update to fix them easily. Relating to this, some people have reported issues pairing the controller with the console (again, I have not experienced any problems with this).
The other issues with the controller that people have reported problems with are physical. The most notorious is the sticking buttons. Sometimes when pressing the O, U, Y, or A buttons, they will get stuck beneath the face plate. Press them again quickly and they return to their natural position. This was more of a problem with early Kickstarter releases and Ouya has since fixed the issue; you can contact their support to have new face plates sent to you. I bought mine retail and have noticed mine stick once in a while as well, but maybe only three or four times since launch day. It always happens at the worst times though.
A lot of the other complaints surround the directional pad and how it’s too sharp and spongy. Personally I don’t think it’s that bad, but other directional pads are definitely built better. I played Super Mario Kart for two hours straight and my thumb was only a little uncomfortable, but I remember having the same kind of discomfort with the SNES controller when I was kid with extended playing sessions. Some people have reported they have to press really hard to make it register any movements, but I have not experienced that issue at all.
And of course there’s the track pad. I have yet to read anywhere someone having a positive experience with it. It’s not completely unusable, but so close it’s hard to tell the difference. You can use it in very short bursts to do some quick navigation or point-and-click, but in any kind of game setting it’s impossible. It’s way too sensitive (though you can adjust the sensitivity in the Ouya settings) and it has a hard time registering taps as clicks. I don’t really recall any games that require it off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are a few.
Other general criticisms of the controller are the bumpers/triggers and buttons feel relatively cheap. The action buttons do feel pretty cheap, and look like they may fall out of the controller – but I assure you they will not. There has also been considerable wear on the joysticks from rubbing along the aluminum face plate. This isn’t a huge issue but it’s pretty noticeable, even after 15 minutes of use. You can sand it down to mitigate this, but it doesn’t stop it entirely.
Enough negativity, what are some positives? Well I find the controller to fit well in my hands; the weight feels nice and is evenly distributed by the placement of the batteries: one in each side (hint: they’re located under the face plate). As mentioned earlier the layout is heavily based on the Xbox 360 controller so the buttons are pretty familiar. Overall the controller feels nice. The joysticks respond well and since I have not experienced any lag, game responsiveness has been what I would expect.
I’m not going to talk about the games quite yet; that’s going to be a really big post since I want to touch on a lot of the games and show you what’s good (and perhaps bad) on the Ouya. Next I’m going to talk about the UI and the game store, and how it stacks up and what you can expect to see (and not see).