|Mini Game Entertainment System
Find it on: Amazon
I kept coming back to the same phrase when I thought about how I was going to review the Mini Game Entertainment System. “But it’s only $20.” For each pitfall I encountered, either with the laggy controls, the reversed buttons, or the ugly screen tearing, I tried my best to remember that the unit I was playing was the same price as a salad at a sweetgreen. But at the end of the day, this excuse couldn’t overcome some of the very obvious, and very bad, downsides to this device.
Let’s start with the positives. If you only give the unit a quick glance from a distance, it does look remarkably like the Nintendo Classic Mini Edition, a console that has is selling for around $100 on eBay. It contains two wireless controllers that also resemble the Famicom, which is a nice upgrade over the usual wired cables that degrade over time. It has 620 playable games on the SoC from the 8-bit era, with some of the most famous titles from the 80s—Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Contra, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Donkey Kong and Kung Fu, to name a few. It’s also a plug-and-play machine that has all of its software contained on the SoC, so no additional cartridges or add-ons are necessary. All of this comes for the bargain basement price of $19.99.
But those positives are quickly and overwhelmingly outweighed by the negatives. Starting with the controllers, while they are wireless, this actually hurts gameplay. It’s clear the wireless chip was also bargain basement, and creates a frustrating lag during gameplay. For instance, during a test run of Super Mario Bros., a game that I can play blindfolded, I died several times on the first level. On my very first run, I pushed the jump button, but Mario didn’t receive the command in time, which caused poor Mario to careen into the first mushroom of the game. I also struggled jumping over hazards and ducking into pipes.
That wasn’t where the poor controls ended. For some curious reason, there are four buttons instead of two, despite the fact that no game from the 8-bit era would need more than A/B buttons. When I pushed the two top row buttons, they produced rapid fire commands, which are of no practical use. The worst of the issues, though, were that the A/B buttons were reversed. If you’re used to using the B button for turbo, which anyone has used for the past 30 years to guide Mario, you’re in for a shock when the B button is actually the jump button, and A is now for turbo. That on its own would ruin the experience. I’m assuming the manufacturer—they’re certainly not the only ones to have done this—did this to skit copyright issues, but in doing so, it essentially ruins gameplay. Speaking of gameplay, I tested this on a modern television with 1080p quality. The graphics on this unit didn’t translate well, and looked pixelated and stretched. I also contended with a significant amount of screen tearing, and I noticed this most on the upper lefthand corner of the screen where the points were located. And, likely again for copyright purposes, the colors appeared washed, with Mario either appearing darker, or the blue sky appearing lighter.
Moving away from Super Mario Bros., The Mini Game Entertainment System boasts that it has 620 games. That’s technically true when you flip through the menu. But anyone paying attention will also notice the game list resets around 200 games or so, meaning the game list repeats itself three times. As with most of these Famiclones from China, the majority of these games are homebrews you wouldn’t play for more than 30 seconds. In reality, there are likely only 25 titles that you’ve actually heard of. Again, this manufacturer was not the only one to have used this trick.
Predictably, the build quality is poor. The unit itself is made from the cheapest looking plastic, and looks like someone drew the “Mini Game Entertainment System” logo on the box with a magic marker. The controllers feel hallow and one of the controllers I received sounded like it had a pebble dislodged inside when I was playing. The controllers themselves require two AAA batteries, which are not included. In case you were wondering, there’s no HDMI port and instead opts for RCA connectors.
After playing around with the unit for 30 minutes, my thought process went from “but it’s only $20” in the beginning to “this isn’t worth $20” at the end. When I turned off the player and returned the Mini Game Entertainment System to its original packaging (likely to never be taken out again), I thought to myself that if paid any more than $9.99 for it, I would’ve felt ripped off (I was given a promotional unit to write a review, so, fortunately I never experienced that buyer’s remorse).
The audience for this kind of unit is limited. It’s good as a gag gift or stocking stuffer for a retro gamer who may want to display it and fool some people into thinking he owns the real thing. The only other type of person I could see enjoying this is: (1) A casual gamer; (2) who just wants to play a few 8-bit games for 5 minutes at a time; (3) who doesn’t remember (or know) how the original controls were mapped; (4) and is playing on a small 4:3 aspect television screen. Other than for those kinds of people, you’re buying a $20 paperweight. You’re better off buying that salad.