The holiday season can be a mixed bag sometimes. Between the socks and the body wash there can be little surprise for an adult Christmas! However, there was an exception for this Christmas when the Smartboy from Hyperkin appeared under my Christmas tree. Much to my delight!
The very first console I owned was a Nintendo Gameboy, and I still own it. It resides in its original very flattering messenger carry case. It was my first fore into gaming, and I still have my original cartridges that I acquired in my youth. And it’s a good thing I’ve kept them too because one of the primary usages of the Hyperkin is not to just to look like a Retro Gameboy but to play old Gameboy and Gameboy colours Cartridges. Happily, the unit supports NTSC/PAL cartridges so most people can be accommodated.
Setup for the Smartboy was a little complex; there is a proprietary cable that you need to use for the initial setup. Where you have to connect both the Hyperlink Unit and your phone through this cable. It took me about two tries to get it all up and to run. But my biggest fear for me would be losing that cable should I ever swap handsets, which I do fairly regularly. Though, a nice thing to balance that is the Smartboy does not need any batteries unlike the Gameboy that it is modelled on.
After that though, it’s predominantly smooth sailing. The SmartBoy needs two separate apps to work with the unit. Both are free, and once you have them installed and fully setup, it works seamlessly every time after that.
While the Smartboy is designed for the Samsung Galaxy line of phones, it has an adjustable frame that will adjust to most phones regardless of size (5.2 – 6.4 inches). Right now I have the Galaxy Note 8 which is notoriously broad. But the Smartboy can support it just fine. There is a bottom at the back of the unit which expands the width of the phone, and then you can push the sides together to ensure a good fit.
The buttons are tactical, and the unit has the same button and hand feel as the old Gameboy used to. I would say the noise of the keys has a little bit more of an audible clack, but nothing that distracts from the overall experience. Particularly in the age of mechanical keyboards and cherry switches!
Games that are inserted into the cartridge slot at the back are put in traditionally. Those games are subsequently upgraded to the handsets resolution. Your mileage may better, but Tetris, Pokemon Gold and Mickey’s Grand Adventure have never looked so crystal clear.
There were only ever one or two features that are borderline annoying. Usually, if you touched the back of the cartridge in a Gameboy that’s it, you stop playing and risk losing your cartridge data. Although, I’m sure there were many of us as kids who just ripped their cartridges out of their units while the Gameboy was still on. I certainly did, and I instinctively did the same when I was swapping over to another cartridge. Only to be greeted with a Piracy Warning which then locks down the system. So, that in itself is a bit of a pain to contend with.
As you physically have to take your phone out of the unit close and restart all the apps again. It only happened a handful more times in my first few days with it, and mostly that was user error on my part by not inserting the cartridge firmly enough into the unit. However, its undeniable that it has taken away from my enjoyment of the experience.
So, is this something that I could recommend to the gamer in your life? Sure, but at $59 for the unit itself then the additional cost of the old cartridges (Which depending on the type of game and its rarity could cost more than you might think) it’s a hard sell to recommend to anyone other than the hardcore retro gamers in your life.