Game on Friends console review- the best Pandoras Box arcade? or Game Over?
With the retro games scene gaining popularity, the Jaycar distributed Game on Friends console is currently the only Pandoras Box retro arcade games console to make it into mainstream retail and can be purchased from places like Jaycar, JB Hi-Fi, Kogan, Catch and many other online and brick and mortar retailers.
While the design might not be to everyone's liking, the buttons and Joystick are decent and the finish of the product overall is clean.
At first glance this console is nicely packaged and presented. It has a fair few old school titles like Galaga, Dig Dug, Double Dragon and so on. So the Nostalgia factor is big and the games play ok. So if this is all you're after and are happy to pay $249 and upwards then apart from checking out the games list below, probably no need to read on.
While no unit is perfect, as you start to become more comfortable with this retro games console and clock up the hours you may start to notice its shortcomings.
The unit comes with 1660 games which one would think is enough. That said in true Pandoras Box tradition there is a mix of good and bad along with foreign language titles. Here is the Game on Friends 1660 game list..
The unit won't win any awards for speed, however if you're looking at say the older titles like PacMan or Space Invaders then that shouldn't matter right?
With no search or favourites function and a mixed bag of 1660 games across around 166 pages, finding your desired game gets tricky.
In true Pandora's Box tradition, the outside appearance has little relevance to what hides inside. In this case while the Game on Friends console may be beautiful on the outside, sadly what's under the bonnet isn't great and lacks the required performance and features for its asking price.
That said if you were to pick this up for sub $150 second hand then it may suit your needs.
The mainstream appeal with Pandora's Boxes is that they are hassle free plug and play, the down side is the games lists are never vetted, so you will always have a mixed bag of games.
A search function is therefore key in order to sort through or find what you want easily. The better systems include a favourites function, that hearts your selected titles and shows them at the top of the list.
What about performance?
I mean we are talking about old school games right?
OK, let's touch on the heart of this thing, the main board is a GB2000 and has a H3 allwinner chipset which features a Quad-Core Cortex-A7 ARM CPU bla bla bla..
A great games machine or great marketing?
What's this all mean? If you search on eBay you'll see a ton of cheap listings stating they are the latest, best, greatest, most games and so on with a "powerful Quad-Core" (these are all Cortex-A7 machines). The reality is, performance wise, the Australian delivered "Game on Friends console" is an entry level product (11s territory) that can be had for sub AUD$150.
Given its priced from AUD$248 to $349 might be more of a... Lets not be friends.
If you were to search for reviews on the "Game on Friends Console" you would likely find favourable overseas listings and write ups that refer to the higher spec 8 core s812 chipset unit/board. The higher spec board has an improved menu system with features such as save, search and favourites along with a games store. Navigating through games is much easier and the faster board means it will play games smoother and enable you to play up-to Playstation and N64 titles.
While we are critical on these devices as believe the performance should be inline with what you pay, some might be super happy with the performance of their H3 Quad-Core Cortex-A7 based Pandoras Box and that's great.
For those who are looking for a bit more oomph and the ability to play games like Mario Kart N64, Ridge Racer 2 or other demanding titles and consoles like some N64, Playstation or Dreamcast then the fastest Pandora Box at the moment is the s812 chipset either in a 3D Plus gamesboard or SAGA board. This article talks more about Pandora consoles and how to identify what you're actually buying.
Features aside, if you're wondering how much of a performance difference there is between the Game on Friends A7 gamesboard and the S812 boards, here's an insight;
The green bar is the A7, while the s812 in blue is 4+ times faster.
Display and picture stretching
Lets touch on display quality. These games and systems were made pre widescreen days at a ratio of 4:3 or thereabouts depending on each console. In most cases your screen or TV will likely be a 16:9 widescreen. So the picture on all stock Pandoras Boxes will be stretched/distorted. Our King of Retro Arcade gaming consoles have additional software installed that auto corrects this. You can also easily cycle through 3 different screen ratios with a click of a button.
If you have a Game on Friends arcade machine and your friends are not digging you, then the options are get new friends, sell and upgrade or seek out a replacement GB3000 board. You can chose two options ;-)
You're keen to tinker and/or upgrade the Game on Friends gamesboard or components?
Given the setup of the Game on Friends console, you will need to remove the 9 screws from under the metal base plate. Once removed you can access the board. As there is little room inside the case and it has its own external face plate, any replacement board will need to have the exact same ports/positions and the board size and holes will also need to match. You will also need to ensure you're not getting a JAMMA board and the onboard power and speaker connections are in the same place - otherwise you'll find yourself needing to do some electrical work and extend cables.