Review: Evercade

It might be 2020, but on the eve of next generation console releases gamers are returning to their roots. Retro re-releases and remakes, classic consoles and more keep releasing to the chagrin of gamers everywhere. This latest release is unique in comparison. The Evercade is a new handheld gaming platform that uses physical carts packed full of classic titles. This exciting new device comes in at a price similar to the likes of the recently-released TurboGrafx-16 Mini. Picking up the console with a single cartridge costs $79.99 / £59.99 / €69.99. Carts themselves cost $19.99 / £14.99 / €17.99, but each includes multiple titles. Is the console worth its asking price? The answer to that question depends on exactly how much you adore classic video games.

Folks who yearn for the days of cartridge-based systems (Nintendo Switch notwithstanding) will be interested in what the Evercade has to offer. Thanks to its reliance on carts, the launch library is huge with ten cartridges. Since each cart includes multiple games, there are currently 122 titles to play if you pick them all up! Of course, trying to complete the launch library will cost a pretty penny above any single mini console, but mini consoles only ever provide between twenty and fifty games total. Then they don’t have any means to officially/legally add more games either. Blaze Entertainment are showing real commitment to their platform with over one hundred titles and more on the way.

When it comes to the handheld itself, how does it feel? This is an attractive device despite its relatively low price. The white and red coloration stands out among handhelds of yesteryear instead of trying to simply rip off an existing design. Unlike modern emulator devices coming out of China, it also feels like a sturdy product that will stand up to regular use. The 4.3” screen (480 by 272 resolution) is generous given the system itself is only just a bit over seven inches long. The only real downsides as far as construction are concerned is that the shoulder buttons are a bit too clicky and that the charging port uses Micro-USB instead of a more modern USB-C port. The plastic front also tends to attract grubby fingerprints over time.

The Evercade itself is simple to use. All you need to do in order to start playing is stick in a cart (every version of the Evercade sold comes with at least one) and turn the system on. It boots up with a very Stranger Things-esque startup sound and then loads the cartridge contents straight away. These are presented as simplistic slides, each detailing the game’s name, year of release, genre, box art and a screenshot. It’s rather barebones but gets the job done. As might be expected by this simple presentation, there are not many options to modify. You can change the screen brightness, turn audio on or off, change the language and swap the screen ratio between the game’s original ratio and a stretched ratio to fill the Evercade’s screen.

Once a game is selected, it promptly loads up. The in-game menu is also simplistic. This is where you’ll go in order to create save states or load one. You can create numerous save states compared to retro consoles which often limit you to just three save states per game. It’s also possible to change the screen resolution on the fly. Some folks may like the concept of the Evercade but prefer playing on their TV set. Fortunately, the system can indeed connect to one! In order to do so you’ll need a mini-HDMI to HDMI cord or adapter. Chances are you’ll want one that is at least 6’ long because you’ll need to use the Evercade’s gamepad for control. It would have been nice to be able to pair a Bluetooth controller for a true “console” style experience on the Evercade. Perhaps we’ll see that available if Blaze Entertainment ever releases a sequel system.

When it comes to playing games on the Evercade, the vast majority run just as you remember them from consoles of yesteryear. There are a small handful of titles such as Splatterhouse 3 which suffer from audio glitches. Fortunately, these sorts of things could likely be ironed out in a patch. So far there has already been an optional firmware update patch released so it’s clearly possible. Aside from that, these classic games are as fun as they’ve always been. They make great sense on a handheld because many are arcade-y in nature. Those that might require multiple sessions to finish benefit from the handy save states. It’s easy to start playing, save and resume your progress later on. The system also goes into a standby mode if you leave it on to conserve battery. Overall, the device lasts around four to six hours per charge.

With such a massive library of games already available, players are spoiled for choice as to what they can play on the Evercade. It’s fun to see Atari, Namco, Interplay and even Technos collections available. Similarly, it’s weirdly exciting to know that not one but two Atari Lynx cartridges are on the way to finally give the maligned handheld its due. Alongside retro games there is also a focus on modern retro-styled games as well. The Mega Cat Studios collection provides modern homebrew titles to gamers that may have never played them before. This is a great move and it looks like this will not be the only cart. This is evidenced by the upcoming cartridge containing two great homebrew titles: Xeno Crisis and Tanglewood. No matter the collection, each game comes housed in a small plastic clam shell box reminiscent of Sega Gemesis/Mega Drive and includes a color manual. The manuals offer a few key details about each included title as well as a diagram of the control layout.

One of the few negatives about the game collection is that you’ll sometimes see a “lesser” version of a game included. The games you might know best from the arcade are not presented in their arcade version. For example, the version of Centipede included is from the Atari 2600 and Pac-Man is the NES edition. This is likely due to what the rights holders were able to procure for the Evercade. Or it might be due to availability of emulators. The other disappointment is that there are games that include multiplayer but there isn’t a way to play multiplayer. Because the console has no internet or Bluetooth connectivity, there would be no way to play multiplayer wirelessly. They likely won’t be releasing a link cable either and may just revisit the concept of multiplayer in a future system.

Closing Comments:

Those negatives aren’t a huge deal because the games immediately engross you once you start playing. Sure, some may be over thirty years old at this point, but their enjoyable nature remains unchanged. Since each cart includes multiple games, you’ll also likely discover games along the way. The decision to sometimes include prototype releases practically ensures discovery, since some of the prototypes are obscure. This system might not shake up the entire gaming industry, but it’s not supposed to. The Evercade is a love letter to retro games that will be welcomed into the homes of classic gaming fans and collectors worldwide.