Next week, the online service for Ouya will be shut down for good. Many of you are fortunate enough to not know what this means. For those unfamiliar, the Ouya is an Android-based game console that was funded by one of the largest Kickstarter campaigns in history. Its primary selling point was “Free the Games” – a promise that all games would have free demos, or be free outright. The console launched in 2013, and while the game TowerFall was referred to as its “killer app,” the hardware was quickly met with poor reviews citing flawed controller design and inconsistent connectivity. The people who looked past these issues clung to the concept of “free” games. Only a very small percent of Ouya owners actually purchased software after downloading a free demo. Thus, third-party support waned.
Although I did not back the console on Kickstarter, I purchased one very soon after its public release. Granted, this was very soon after a break-up, so I was definitely ready to be disappointed by something else for a change. While it felt neat to be part of a new gaming subculture, I was plagued with technical issues right out of the box. Connecting to my wireless router was not happening, and said router was not in the same room as my TV. Any time I wanted to download new software, I would have to plug in directly using Ethernet and connect to my PC monitor, then bring it back to my TV. Then it would take 45 minutes to sync PlayStation 3 controllers to the console for multiplayer action, only to discover that most of the games had but a few minutes of entertainment value.
However, I am a man who is determined to get his money’s worth. I weeded through the Flappy Bird clones and pretentious Terry Cavanagh ports tirelessly until I found a collection of games that I was honestly glad I gave a try. Now that the Ouya service is being shut down on June 25, 2019, I will share with you that list so that you may “free the games” from their inevitable demise. All images are displayed courtesy of https://www.ouya.tv/.
Hidden in Plain Sight
This is one of only two Ouya games I actually paid for. It is a party game with a number of modes, but every mode finds players in a room full of people. No one knows which character on the screen is controlled by a player or a CPU. Your goal is to figure out who you are, then complete some sort of action without the other players coming to the same conclusions.
If a player determines that another character is one of their opponents, they get a chance to take that player out. Whether you’re in a room with the task of assassinating as many CPUs as possible, or whether you’re racing against other players and CPUs with one shot left in your rifle, this game gets the adrenaline pumping and challenges friendships in ways that would make Mario Party jealous.
One downside of playing Hidden in Plain Sight on the Ouya is that the buttons on the controller are actually very loud. Other players in the room may hear the rhythm of your button presses and be able to determine which character you are controlling. This happened to me quite a bit, so I always made sure to play with PlayStation 3 controllers, as long as I could get them to sync.
This is the other Ouya game I spent real money on. It is some of the most fun I’ve had with competitive multiplayer, yet it’s a very simple game. You play on a top-down, single-screen field laid out similar to soccer or hockey with a goal of getting a ball into your opponent’s goal. As you and your opponent duke it out for possession of the ball, power-ups spawn all over the field. You can use these power-ups to gain speed, deflect shots or shoot waves.
Tomatoes vs. Onions
There is absolutely nothing special about this game at face value. There are onions bouncing around the screen. You shoot tomatoes at these onions while you avoid getting hit by them. That’s it! Yet somehow, everyone who came to my apartment to try this game ended up getting hooked on it. The difficulty is balanced in such a way that you always believe you can do better, and so help me, if you beat my score I’m going to play until I beat yours!
This game is not for everyone. In fact, referring to it as a “game” might be somewhat inaccurate. It’s more of an interactive novel. Your only involvement is reading the dialogue and choosing what to say.
You assume the role of a boy on summer vacation who decides to take a late night walk on the beach. There, you meet a girl and it soon becomes clear she is a ghost. The stories shared between the two characters are compelling and the development of chemistry felt natural. As natural as weird, supernatural chemistry can be.
Your dialogue choices can take the game down one of several, unique paths. I actually played through the game multiple times to see the different endings. Granted, you can play through it in a single sitting so this was not a huge time investment. If you’re into the somewhat cheesy romance genre or you’re just feeling soft, download Moonlight Walks while you still can.
It Takes Two
This game is designed for two players – no more, no less. It is a bit pretentious, but it definitely struck a chord when I played through it with my best friend. One of you plays as an orange circle, the other as a blue square, and you are tied together. You must work together to traverse the world as it expands in front of you. However, you will eventually reach a point where the implied narrative shifts and the obvious metaphor makes your cold, rejected heart start to feel again. It only takes ten minutes to beat so if you’re looking to share a brief, emotional experience while you’re waiting for a pizza delivery, look no further than It Takes Two.
On an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, the character Meatwad describes a game called “Clam Digger” which sounds absolutely insufferable. Luckily, some fan with the ability to code Atari 2600 style graphics actually built the game and put it on the Ouya for us all to download and thoroughly not enjoy. It takes just a couple minutes to play and grit your teeth through, so if you are a fan of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, then Clam Digger is worth downloading if only for the hearty laugh you’ll get.
I’ll be honest: I never beat this game. It has been in my backlog for years and I always forget to go back to it because…well, because it’s on Ouya.
Motrya is a turn-based RPG with a battle system that is comparable to the Active Time Battle system from the Final Fantasy series. Also similaris that there is a card-based mini-game which is almost identical to Triple Triad from Final Fantasy VIII. However, what really earned this game a spot on the list is the dialogue. You play as a student graduating from wizard school despite the fact that he can’t use magic. As you can imagine, the writing is clever and humorous. Motrya, at least as much of it as I played, is inspired by the best of the genre, but it has its own unique soul.
So what are you waiting for? Dust off that old Ouya and download these titles before Tuesday when “Free the Games” becomes “Free the Server.”