Hands-on: Green Throttle review
This year was always going to be interesting for gaming and, specifically, console gaming. Not only are we expecting the next-generation machines from Sony and Microsoft - the PS4 and Xbox 720 - and keeping a close eye on the Nintendo Wii U to see if it can rise above early shortcomings, but it's also the year of Android-based games machines.
There are three that we've talked about in some depth over the past few months here on Pocket-lint, OUYA, GameStick and Green Throttle, but the first two have had their troubles of late. OUYA has been poorly received after the initial Kickstarter funder machines were shipped, prompting the company to respond by saying that things will improve before the summer's official release. And GameStick has slipped in release date until summer too, with PlayJam citing overwhelming demand for the delay.
So of the three, only Green Throttle Games has been able to launch to date, and that is more than likely because you've owned the games console part of the platform for a while now.
The Green Throttle system is made up of three parts, essentially. There's the Atlas Controller, which looks and feels very much like an Xbox 360 joypad. There's the Green Throttle Arena application, which houses the compatible games and allows you to keep all your digital content in the one place. And the third part is an Android device - any Android device, as long as it runs Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0.3) and up.
Of course, in this case, the better the device the better the experience you will have, but for the purposes of testing, Pocket-lint paired the two Atlas Controllers we have with a Kindle Fire HD - the first device to be supported on launch - and they work very well indeed.
Pairing is a doddle. You download the Arena app, head to the settings and follow the instructions. After a few taps on the tablet and a press on the Atlas Controller's Green Throttle icon at the top, it was paired. Indefinitely. It will even immediately come to life when you next launch the app.
The controllers are each powered by two AA batteries (again, much like the Xbox 360 controllers from the box) and you get a pair in the packet so you're good to go from the off. And if you want to play your Green Throttle games on a big screen, you'll need a HDMI cable to run from the tablet to the TV. Green Throttle Games also provides one if needed, as well as a power plug to keep the device active and not zonk out halfway through a game.
The only things missing at present are the games themselves. We could have reviewed the Green Throttle system fully, but have decided to wait for this one main reason - there is little choice when it comes to compatible apps. A few homegrown titles are available to download, several for free, but they ape classic retro games rather than give a full rounded idea of the potential experience.
Coral Combat, for example, is Space Invaders underwater, and Crystal Swarm is Smash TV or Robotron. Both, however, allow for two players on screen, so we could at least see how the two Atlas Controllers fared when both were connected at the same time - admirably, it must be said.
As it stands, the investment you might decide to make in acquiring one or more of the controllers - the Arena app is free - has to be with one eye on what the company has planned for the future. Thankfully, there's enough to get excited about, with The Bard's Tale promising support in the near future and a puzzle game from ex-Bioware programmers, 9 Lives: Casey & Sphynx, looming on the horizon. And those are just a couple of quality titles.
We'd like to see Madfinger Games's Shadowgun and Dead Trigger too, and then Green Throttle will be a serious player in the race to own the living room. After all, bar for the controllers themselves, you don't even need extra space in your equipment rack.
You can find out more about the Green Throttle gaming system at greenthrottle.com. One Atlas Controller will set you back $39.95 (£26), while a two-player pack will cost $79.95 and currently comes with a $10 Amazon voucher on a limited offer. Green Throttle also provides bundles with connectors for Kindle Fire HD and other Android devices; check the site for details. All kit can be shipped to the UK too.