Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Caanoo Review (With Gamepark GP32, GPH GP2X, Wiz)

This Caanoo review is also going to be a bit of a GP32, GP2X, and Wiz historical review. Some of you guys, like myself, may have been following along for years now. This unknown Korean company came out of nowhere and built a handheld gaming console. It was named GP32 after the company's name "Game Park." To the masses, it wasn't anything special, but it was revolutionary.

The GP32 was a new paradigm in portable console gaming. Not only was it able to play commercial games, but it was also meant as a video player, a music player, and an e-book reader. It used standard off-the-shelf SmartMedia cards which allowed anyone that had the desire to create games and applications for the system.

GamePark had problems and ultimately fell apart, but a core group of brains from the company went on to create GPH (Game Park Holdings). While similar to the original GamePark, GPH was a new company, and their flagship product was the GP2X.

The GP2X was unlike it's predecessor (GP32) in hardware. It was faster, used SD cards for storage, included USB support, had TV output, etc. In vision though, it was quite similar, and it expanded on the open-source focus by employing Linux as its operating system. This was another revolutionary move in the right direction, and homebrew developers loved it. The GP2X had a good life going through a few revisions and ultimately adding touch screen support.

About 2 years ago, GPH let it out that there was a new generation coming in their open-source handheld gaming console line. The GP2X Wiz was taking things to the next level.

The Wiz was smaller than anything that came before it. It still included the standard SD card support, ran Linux, and borrowed the touch-screen from its recent predecessor. However, the Wiz now boasted a 533MHz CPU, 3D hardware, and an AMOLED screen (among other things).

Things have gone rather well for the GP2X and the Wiz. GPH has been releasing commercial games, there are tons of homebrew games/apps/emulators, and GPH is opening their app store soon. In fact, the massive GP32Spain coding contest just closed their submission period. Among them are notable entries such as a PSX (PlayStation) emulator, Wonderswan emulator, SNES Emulator, a full remake of Sqrxz by the Giana's Return team, and the original title Polarity by TJ Hooka. Check out screenshots of the GP32Spain competition entries at NewsWeez for more info. Keep in mind that that's just the tip of the iceberg as far as Wiz homebrew goes.

The culmination of the GP32Spain contest coincides very nicely with the release of GPH's latest addition to this long line of unique open-source-minded handheld game consoles. Their new Caanoo handheld and its FunGP app store are already causing a stir.

The Caanoo isn't a large departure from the Wiz. It borrows features such as stylus touch-screen input, expands on things like USB support by adding a full-sized USB port (allowing such things as movie playback from a USB stick), changes it up a bit by replacing the digital dpad with an analog joystick, and adds features like rumble vibration feedback and tilt sensor. The way I look at it, it's more like the Wiz's more grown up and cooler big brother.

I have seen 3 of the Caanoo's original commercial titles: Rhythmos, Propis, and Asura Cross. Rhythmos is an addictive rhythm game set to Korean music. It boasts 2 gameplay modes. One is more Guitar Heroish while the other is more Elite Beat Agentsish. Propis is a puzzle game somewhat in the vein of Bejeweled but with cute anime characters. Asura Cross is a 2D SNK-ish fighting style game. Rumor has it that the Caanoo launch may also see titles such as Rotate Patissier, PGM2010, Redemption Liar, Deicide 3, and an arcade game pack featuring 16 classic licensed arcade titles.

In my first impressions article, I asked for input as to what people wanted to know about the GPH Caanoo. Other than battery life (which you can read about in my Caanoo Battery Life article), there were really two main things. People want to see how certain games run, and people want to see how well the analog stick works.

I have been making videos of these things, so let's take a look.
We started with some real classic games to test the dpad. Zaxxon and Mx. Pacman both played well. The main issue here, though, is with games like Pacman, the original game did not physically allow the player to push two directions (like up and left) at the same time. Modern joysticks do, and often the player will inadvertently press a little in an adjacent direction whenever he means to press true up/dn/l/r.

Some may believe that the analog stick exacerbates this problem, but I (from a developer standpoint) believe that the analog stick gives us a perfect solution to the issue. Now, game/emulator developers can tell if you are pushing a direction just slightly. In the past, all they could tell was if you pushed that way or not. If you mean to push up, you will be pushing it 100%. If you accidentally push to the side a bit, it will register something like 100% up and 10% left. In games like Pacman, it would then be obvious that you meant to go up, not left.

Also shown in the above video is a test of the tilt sensor. I was fairly amazed that Ms. Pacman just worked right away. It takes some getting used to playing a game like that using the tilt controls, but it works. This really opens the doors for new innovative gameplay even on old classic games as shown.

Here's another video showing classic emulated games. As you can see, Mario Brothers, Moon Patrol, Domino Man, Lode Runner, and Missile Command all play well.

Maybe you're getting tired of the videos, but there are several just so you can pick and choose what sorts of things you're interested in. Requests for old-school games seemed to be topping the list, so that was my main focus. I still have some video footage to obtain and upload, so please watch here and at my cfc2ngpc YouTube channel for updates.

I guess there's not much more to say. This review is already much longer than I intended. Basically, if you're here, you are probably interested in one of the following things.
  • Homebrew Coding and Development
  • Obscure and/or Rare Handheld Gaming Consoles
  • Korean Videogames
  • Linux-Based Consoles
  • Not Being a Slave to "The Man" (Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, etc.)
  • Classic Gaming
  • Emulation

If any of those items resonate with you, then the GPH Caanoo is a great investment. It builds on the already solid foundations that GPH has laid. The GP32, GP2X, and Wiz have all been successful open-source handheld game consoles. The Caanoo simply adds to this long legacy of portable gaming by upgrading to features like increased screen size, full-sized USB port, tilt sensor, vibration feedback, and analog stick. If you've made it this far through my review, then you're obviously interested in this stuff, and I think you'll be pleased with the the GPH Caanoo.


Anonymous said...

The analogue stick is obviously the achilles heal of this device, no matter how you sell it. What were they thinking? A decent dpad would have kicked ass.

Anonymous said...

You need to redo the latest videos and this time show how good or bad qbert and the others play. Moon Patrol hardly uses a directional control in gameplay and we couldn't see a thing in that last video with the poor angle, lighting, and blur.

Try Dodonpachi or any other shooter for more than 5 seconds this time and we will see if it's worth buying the Caanoo for anything, but GPH's bland line up of games. The analog stick is as bad an idea as the Wiz's pre-sell d-pad. Such potential wasted.

Mike said...

Im just trying to confirm if the wiz or the caanoo are compatible with 64gb sd cards or even the 2tb card now available.have you any idea?( it's just with the new ps1 emmulator being made by franxis could do with a bigger memory card).

Flavor said...

Mike. You're right that the PS1 emu would make those large cards quite useful. I just don't have one to test, myself. I know that the Caanoo and Wiz take SDHC, but 4GB is the largest I've tried, IIRC.

Mike said...

I've got a 32gb sdhc card which works fine .
I've heard that the pandora is compatible with the 64gb cards but I'm not risking spending £200 to see if it works!!

Flavor said...

New Caanoo vid with Shinobi, Double Dragon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wonder Boy, Street Fighter II, and Raiden.

Flavor said...

Also, there's another good review that I just noticed at openXile.


Mike said...

To be honest,I'm in no rush to buy a caanoo.
Firstly,the games on the wiz are not com
patible with the caanoo so I'd have to wait for ports to be released.
Secondly,it's not as portable as the wiz and wouldn't fit as easily in my pocket.
And lastly,it's an LCD screen.it's vertually a wiz in a gp2x case!

Mike said...

It's also hardly any more powerful than a wiz, having a little extra RAM being about the only improvement.
I need more convincing yet if I'm to splash out on one of these caanoos!!

Flavor said...

Mike. If you're that skeptical, give it a bit more time. More developers are receiving their units now, and I think we'll start seeing much more news about what will be released for the system.

Anonymous said...

@Mike you won't be able to use any sd card higher then 32gb with it because of the sdhc reader that it has.
If you would want to use cards with more memory you would need a sdxc card reader. maybe if you could somehow connect a sdxc reader to the cannoo and make it work that would be fantastic, but if you ask me 32gb is more then enough. :D (srry for bad english)

Daniel Greenwood said...

I really want to get one of these. I was going to get a Dingoo A320, but then I came across this thing. It sounds promising, and I actually like the idea of an analog stick, force feedback, and tilt controls. They could have kept the directional pad, but I guess they saw no room for it, or saw it as a thing of the past. I'd like to see some 32-bit games, like Gameboy Advance, for example... or Playstation. How about Donkey Kong Country for SNES? CTR and MGS for Playstation? I'd also like to see that touchscreen in use.

Jonathan said...

A "little" extra RAM? How about twice as much? 128 over 64 isn't a "little" extra

Anonymous said...

No you guys are wrong. Ive had one of these for a while now. The analog stick takes a bit getting used to for SOME games, but it works fine. Really have to try it before passing judgement.

Matt Warren said...

I'm interested in some kind of update to these thoughts. I am so close to purchasing a Caanoo. Like many commentors, I'm concerned about the Analog controls for games designed with the D-pad in mind. However, if the thing can pull off any N64 emulation (along with mame games that have more demanding control schemes), that would make the analog control valuable.

I don't own any of the previous handhelds, even though I've been lurking for many years, checking out the original gp32, hoping things got better.

So, what gives? It's many months later. Do we have more emulators? Has firmware improved control issues? If any of you have some additional thoughts, I'd love to read them.

Mike said...

It's mike,
You'll never get an N64 emulator on the cannoo or wiz, you'd better get a pandora if you want that. the wiz can emulate ps1 but it's only running some games full speed.

Anonymous said...

The thumbstick gives great accuracy for shmups. CPS2 and NEOGEO emulation are full speed. Much better experience than the Dingoo.

Dave Clark said...

Anybody tried Robotron in the MAME emulator on this thing? How was it? Thanks.

Ade said...


I'm also interested in the ROBOTRON experience with this handheld..I'm tempted to buy but the only only thing stopping me is buying an "Open Pandora" handheld because it has 2 micro analogue joysticks which is almost obligatory for the best game on the planet in your hands !

So Pandora or Caanoo ?? what shall I go for



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