The BittBoy manufacturer was kind enough to ask if I’d like a Bittboy free for review, and not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth I of course graciously accepted. Now I know that there are swarms of these little NES machines all over the internet, and if they’d been offering something that maybe looked like this then I probably wouldn’t have bothered. But if I’m honest, I’ve never seen one look quite as charming as the BittBoy. It’s a blatant homage to the original Game Boy albeit shrunk down to almost half its size, and to me it’s cute as a button.
The BittBoy arrived last week, and I’ve been playing around with it a bit since then. No need for a lengthy review here, it’s a very simple little machine designed to perform the simple task of emulating NES ROMs. For the most part, it does the job pretty well – but of course it does have a couple of issues too. As is often the case with these cheap little machines, the problems could easily have been solved before sending this thing to market for pretty much no extra cost to the manufacturer. A symptom of the fact that the factories and companies branding these things don’t really play too many games themselves, probably.
Out of the box the first thing that strikes you is, yep you guessed it, wow – it looks way smaller in the flesh than it does in the pictures online. How come this is nearly always the case?! It’s a real dinky little machine, and it’s pretty beautiful for it. The second thing that struck me is how light it is – it weighs a mere 71 grams with the 18 gram GBA SP clone battery installed!
But despite it’s light weight, there’s no reason to pick fault with the build quality at all. It is a very well put together device with minimal creaking and flush seams all around each edge. I’ve not seen this case design before, so assuming they came up with it themselves then they did a really great job of it.
The slightly oversized dpad and 4 face buttons are almost clicky, with a very pronounced travel when pushed. For the dpad this perhaps isn’t ideal, however it’s a very accurate dpad never the less – and it feels pretty good after a short while playing with it. 2 of the 4 face buttons are labelled ‘T’, and they’re turbo button equivalents for A and B. The ‘R’ button returns you to the main menu when pressed.
The screen is also very good, it looks to be fairly high resolution and colours pop nicely. It doesn’t stand up very well to brightness outdoors though, best played in the shade or even better inside. Viewing angles are exceptionally good from every direction. The mono speaker is better than you expect, going pretty loud whilst maintaining pretty much perfect clarity.
The software behind the BittBoy is very basic. There are no save states and there is no battery meter aside from the Game Boy-esque green light on the left hand side of the screen. You can scroll up and down between the 300 ROMs and left and right takes you a page at a time. Aside from this, there is nothing else to do in the menu apart from to launch your game.
Speaking of games, this is where it gets a little frustrating. How hard would it have been to bring up a list of every NES game released, used some review site and loaded the 300 most popular on to the device. Instead, what we have is a weird mix of quite a few genuine classics but also loads of flickery ROM hacks and Japanese verions, and bootlegs.
A large proportion of games have a URL hacked into the title screen too. the URL points to touchgameplayer.com which I assume is some affiliation of the factory, since it seemed to come as something of a surprise when I mentioned it to the BittBoy team. I have since pointed them to a clean and genuine ROM set which they say will come loaded on to the next batch of machines.
Looking around the edges of the BittBoy, you’ll find a headphone socket which doubles up as a composite TV output with the supplied cable, a Micro USB charging port (cable also supplied), a volume wheel and on top the On/Off switch. Also in the top is what looks like a Micro SD slot, but alas there is nothing inside it. The BittBoy team have hinted that a future revision may have this in order to load your own ROMs.
I said this wasn’t going to be very long, soooo…
This thing could be close to perfect (for what it is, a handheld NES) if it came with the ability to load your own ROMs and supported save states. As it stands, it’s good enough as a pick up ‘n’ play, or maybe something to give a little kid who can’t yet be trusted with a more expensive machine.
In summary, this machine is really nothing more than a rehash of a thousand products already available on Aliexpress – however, it’s obvious that a lot more thought has been put in to the design than is usual for such a device. From the dinky, perfectly formed shell to the colourful hi-res screen and the better than average controls, you can tell that even if the manufacturers probably aren’t gamers themselves they do know how to make a solid enough device.