My kickstarter backed Gamestick finally came in the mail today after forgetting about it for the last year or so, which was a nice little surprise for this afternoon. Lets check it out. The packaging was actually a little bit nicer than I expected – it came in a nice matte box which opens to present the controller right away (look like they took a cue from how apple does things), with all the extras tucked away underneath. The controller itself is presented in a plastic enclosure with the Gamestick logo nicely embossed on the top. The cables feel like they are decent enough quality, and the carry the brand across each one. The ‘console’ itself is super tiny, with LEDs that shine from the inside when it’s plugged in. The controller itself feels a bit cheap (honestly to be expected). The analog sticks move nice and smooth, but the feel of the d-pad leaves something to be desired. One thing to note, is that this thing is big. It feels more like a homage to a retro controller than trying to be something modern. Nothing too interesting on the back, minus the switch that releases the HDMI unit, and a couple reset and pairing switches. Buttonwise, everything feels where it should be, but the size of the controller really doesn’t feel comfortable in my hands. I plugged the controller in to charge, and was surprised to see that the cable is actually on the bottom of the unit. As I was messing around with the setup process, the short cable was actually pulling on the controller, tugging away on the bottom of it.. This is a pretty big design flaw, and is the first controller I’ve seen with this design (for a good reason). The setup was relatively painless, but for some reason they decided to switch the confirmation buttons from A to X depending on what screen you’re on. It killed what should have been a pretty seamless flow.
After I selected the language, and set up the wifi connection it then proceeded to download the software update. Once it finished, I was a little surprised to have to go back, and select the language and set up the wifi for a second time.
Oh well, lets try some games. I was surprised to see a lack of free games on the store itself, so I dropped a couple bucks on some random ones that looked interesting. One thing to note is that the OS itself looks great. It’s very minimal, and resembles the tiled look of the Xbox.
First up was Slingshot Racing, which was super fun overall, but being a 1 button game, didn’t really utilize the multitudes of button on the controller that I expected. This is where things started to get really frustrating. I picked up Shadow Gun because it was free, and I wanted to see what a shooter was like. Once the game booted up, I was presented with the main menu, but none of the buttons on the controller would work expect for the d-pad and the analog sticks, which meant I couldn’t really do anything. Next up I grabbed Beast Boxing for a couple bucks, and ran into the same issue as the last game. It loads in fine, but it refuses to let me do anything on the main menu. Maybe something happened with the pairing of the controller? After pairing it again, nothing was fixed, and I was unable to get past the main menus. When in doubt, reset! After doing that, I’m staring at the loading screen where it’s constantly cycling through “Searching for new gamepads”, lovely. Lets do a hard reset and pull the HDMI connection out of the TV, maybe a fresh restart will get things going again. Sure enough, it booted right back into the game, where I couldn’t get past the main menu yet again. At this point, I’ve lost all patience to continue any further. The controller itself seems fine as the buttons work in one game and the OS, so I’m assuming it’s a software issue. I’ve had some really bad luck with the quality of kickstarter projects in general, and this is yet another to add to the list. I would not recommend purchasing one of these at least until they have the kinks worked out.