View Full Version : Hands on with the Gizmondo

March 18th, 2005, 21:55
After months of rumours, a 'soft' launch last October and a barrage of mysterious advertising on television and the internet, it has finally been released. Almost.
Gizmondo goes on sale tomorrow in the UK. Tiger Telematics' pretender to the handheld gaming throne has certainly had an interesting run up to launch, not least because it's been an absolute nightmare for anyone to get their hands on a unit, thus limiting the kind of coverage websites and magazines can give it.

This has led to all sorts of reactions. "It must be rubbish," we've heard, as well as "It could be great...". Add in some of the rumours that have been circulating - including the famous 'Halo coming to Gizmondo' episode - and you've got one of the most enigmatic, if not high-profile, handheld launches ever.

Well, we finally got hands-on with Gizmondo yesterday. It was an extremely interesting experience. Since we won't get a full review unit until after the launch tomorrow we'll hold off on an in-depth dissection of the handheld, but we thought we'd offer some first impressions just in case you've got 229 burning a hole in your pocket.
That's how much a Gizmondo will set you back. It's a difficult pricepoint, especially coming so close after Nintendo's sub-100 DS launch last week. At least you get plenty for your cash: Gizmondo is the classic jack of all trades. As well as playing games on it's 2.8" LCD screen the Giz handles MP3 music and MPEG 4 movie files and comes complete with a digital camera, Global Positioning software, and GPRS and Bluetooth connectivity for email, downloads and wireless multiplayer gaming. SD cards are used to store and transfer data, and there's also a USB connection.

Jack of all trades, but master of... well? It certainly feels nice, and looks much, much better than we expected. It's smaller and thinner than you'd expect, and fits into your hands with a far more ergonomic snugness than Nintendo's DS. The D-pad in particular feels smooth and accurate under your finger, while the face buttons and strangely erect shoulder buttons are as comfortable as you'd hope for portable gaming.

The rubberised exterior is pleasing to hold and also inspires a fair bit of confidence. We wouldn't expect to see the chips, scrapes and flakes afflicting our DS and PSP causing the Gizmondo many problems.

Of course, it's nowhere near as cool looking as the PSP, but it is far more practical if you're chucking it in your bag or lugging it in a pocket populated by spiky keys and coins.

The operating system at Gizmondo's front end is equally surprising. Attractive and easy to use, the Windows CE-powered OS is quick and clear. You can access all your data from this one central hub, and quick SD card switching means you're never more than five seconds from your film, music or game.

Music playback is solid enough, but on first glance it doesn't seem that there's a great deal of features other than pressing play and listening. We're told that Gizmondo has a 20 percent better bit rate than Apple's iPod, which is nice, although you're unlikely to notice the difference unless you've got ears like satellite dishes.

We were pretty impressed by the movie playback. Watching snatches of I, Robot was pleasant enough, even if the screen isn't as impressive as the PSP's. Still, for movies on the move Gizmondo looks like it'll do a functional, if unspectacular, job.

But let's be honest - for Gizmondo, it's the games that will make or break it. While the system seems to be set up quite nicely for playing them, we worry that there won't be enough big or impressive titles available. We had a little pop on Trailblazer (a puzzle/racer hybrid based on an eighties arcade game), a preview version of Richard Burns Rally and the original Sonic The Hedgehog drawn from the Sega Classics Pack. All were fine as far as they go, but it's not Metal Gear Acid or Wario Ware, is it?

One title that does interest us is Colors, a gang-based shooter that draws on the Gizmondo's GPS system (which can also be used to find your position, tell you your nearest, say, hotel, and even alert the authorities if you get yourself snatched). The idea is that you set a GeoFence around your house, and every time someone blunders into that area with a Gizmondo and a copy of Colors you fight them wirelessly. In theory it's a great idea. In practice it sounds a little ambitious. For one thing, it's unlikely we'd drag our arses off the couch to 'invade' someone else's territory, but then it is a portable system.

With a solid game line-up Gizmondo could do alright, but it doesn't have it yet. The launch line-up is especially sparse, with only the Fathammer Classics Pack available tomorrow. That worries us. It's certainly a nice little piece of kit, and much more covetable than we expected, but it needs a lot of things to go its way before it's going to get close to muscling in on DS, PSP or iPod.

Once we get our review unit we'll give you a more detailed account of whether Gizmondo deserves to have things go its way. Until then, you can go and check it our for yourself from tomorrow at the Gizmondo Store on London's Regent Street or at Toys R Us and John Lewis shops around the UK.