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.
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.
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
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.