Doesn’t get much more “Obscure” than this… A $13 Handheld Game System

Today I’d like to review a device.  I wish I could tell you it’s name, but it doesn’t exactly have one.  It has about 8 or 9 names.  One of them is the Digital Pocket Hand Held System – Model: 8323.  The screen bezel says “32in1 Color Game ®”.  The box says a lot of things, including (and this is not a typo) “Pntlas vs. Zmoibes” and “Anger Birds”.

I picked one up from FocalPrice for just shy of $13. But I am sure you can find them in plenty of places, but nailing down this exact one may be difficult, given the uncertainty of its proper title.

When you buy a game system for less than $15 – you really shouldn’t have the highest of expectations – and I didn’t. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s kinda fun, actually.

Do be careful if you look around for other colors or styles of this same device – even in the same store. The item I’m reviewing (and linking to) is NOT one of those swap-the-screen LCDGame & Watch” type devices. The screen is attached to the device, and in full color. There’s no card slot to insert new games in. It’s not a Cool Boy or a GBA clone, either.

Of course, I hope no one buying this thinks it is a PSP or a PS Vita or a GBA… it’s none of those things. It is it’s own unique game system, with a few games on it. (It may actually be something like a NES-on-a-chip with the original X-in-One ROM loaded, I can’t be sure.)

The device is about as wide as an iPhone, slightly taller, and as thick as a deck of cards.  There are four face buttons, a four-separate-buttons “D-pad” an On/Off button, Reset button, Sound button (one sound button that cycles through LOUD, less loud, normal human volume, and mute – the sound resets to LOUD whenever you reset to the menu screen — not a good thing if you are trying to play without disturbing others – no headphone jack, either), and a button labeled “S/P” which I guess means Start/Pause or Select/Pause.  Despite appearences, there are no shoulder buttons or analog nubs.  Those bumps are just part of the case.  The speakers are on the back, again the case is misleading which faux speaker holes on the front.

There is an unlabeled slider on the side.  I call it the kill switch.  In one position the device will not come on no matter how many times you press the on/off button.  In the other position it goes off.  Sliding it back into place will turn it back on automatically unless you turned it off with the On/Off button before sliding the kill switch.

No audio-out, no-video out, no card slot, no kart slot, no USB.  The back has a large battery cover and the aforementioned speakers.  There is also a nice recess for your fingers to rest in.

The screen is about 2″ diagonal – I don’t know the resolution (I would assume either 256 × 224 [NES] or 240 × 160 [GBA]).  The images are bright, and the colors are vibrant.  The screen is very similar to a GB Micro – although the device itself is far more bulky.

It feels light and cheap.  I admit I haven’t been very gentle with it – but it’s already got 3 pretty noticable dents in the plastic case – including at least one that was there from when I opened the box.  (The box itself was pretty beat up by the time it got to me as well.)

There are no hacked or pirated ROMs here. The games are original titles, well, original in that someone had to actually code them. Most of them are variations on a theme (2 different whack-a-mole clones, one game where you are going up the screen from platform to platform – like Doodle Jump – another with the same graphic set, except you are going down the screen. The main draws are clones of existing games in a NES/SNES style. They usually have names that would make any trademark/copyright lawyer giggle with delight: Anger Birds, Plants vs. Devils, Fruit Knight, Melons vs Zombies (that last one is a completely different game from PvZ – although they used the same sprites).

The Plants vs Zombies clone was worth the price of the device for me. The Angry Birds clone is fun too. Risk-King is a Super Mario clone with scrolling-lag issues. Sudoku, Matching, whack-a-mole clones, and arcade-style shooters rounded out my playlist.

Their version of PvZ is actually nearly as engaging as the original. There are some twists, though, there are no Sunflowers, you just collect red beads dropped from the sky – and there’s no way to know how many you have, or how many each plant type costs, you just keep collecting them and the plants you can afford to plant light up so you know you can use them. Another twist, which makes it a bit easier is that you don’t lose all your plants between levels.

The Angry Birds knock-off was interesting because you use the D-Pad instead of a touchscreen (which this system obviously doesn’t have). So your shots can actually be more precise. However, the physics of the falling objects is nothing like the real game – or real life for that matter. Only the exact block that your bird hits will move. The rest will fall straight down, meaning taking out the bottom of a wall will not knock the wall down, just make it one block shorter.

It could be a fun device to toss in a bag for a road trip if you wanted to save your tablet/phone/laptop batteries for more important things. I wouldn’t recommend it as a gift, unless the person you are gifting has a sense of humor, or likes unique cheap game systems. Oh it runs on 3 AAA batteries – not included.

*UPDATE (again) – I removed the slideshow as it was causing some weird issues with the homepage.  Sorry about that. You can still view it if you would like.

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