Official Review: Evercade (Hardware)

By Ben Sellwood, Oct 27, 2020 (updated Oct 19, 2020) 9 6

Evercade has pulled out all the retro stops by letting us experience the world of collecting cartridges all over again, but is it worth it?
Ben Sellwood

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As many of you know I am a collector, a hoarder, a completist of gaming ephemera. For as long as I can remember, whenever I set my mind to collect a full set of items, I dedicate my time trying to accomplish this goal. From N64 carts to Amiibo's I have a slew of collections on the go at any one time, and I just cannot get enough of those trinkets that I so affectionately adore.

Founded in 2018 and eventually released in May 2020: The Evercade portable retro device has rekindled my passions by launching a handheld console that takes cartridges and there currently 17 to collect with a total of 197 games, and best of all: the cartridges are numbered!

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Firing up this beauty you are treated to a very nostalgic boot up screen. A very 80s'/90s' VHS introduction sound effect plays as the logo glistens and draws you in. After this, you are asked to insert a cartridge if you haven't done so already, and from there, there is a battery indicator and a menu that you can bring up using the 'menu' button so that you can configure things like menu sounds, language, screen brightness and ratio. Interestingly hitting 'Legal and support' does nothing with no game cart inserted.

Inserting a cartridge seems to complete the circuit if you will, in that the 'Legal and Support' option is populated with per cart information and save states and files are held on the cartridge. This is a smart way for the developers to mitigate legality of the device as first and foremost it is licenced anyway, but failing that each cartridge has its own legal disclaimer, proving its legality of holding what are essentially roms. Each game cartridge contains between 2 and twenty games, and there were ten cartridges available at the console's launch in May, with Blaze giving the figure of over fifty to be available across this products lifetime. Interestingly the way this Linux based system works means you essentially have the emulator, disclaimers, artwork and ROM files on the cart, the Evercade comes with nothing preinstalled, and even more fascinatingly; you can have roughly 99 save states per ROM. The ROMs too are slightly different as they seem to be home conversions of arcade games, or slightly modified to remove certain things like a company names, or the date to make them all say 2020

The hardware itself is nothing short of awesome. Running a 1.2GHz Cortex-A7 quad-core processor, Linux based OS, and sporting a 4.3" screen with a 480x272px resolution it is a perfectly pocketable device that packs a lot of features into a soap bar form factor. The device measures 184mm wide, by 84mm tall and just over 20mm deep and packs in a fantastic feeling 8-way D-Pad, four main face buttons (A/B/X/Y) select and start buttons, a menu button, two shoulder buttons, a mini HDMI socket, a 3.5mm headphone socket, a micro-USB socket for charging, volume buttons, and a power on/of slider. The D-Pad is modelled after those of the Sega Megadrive or the Sega Saturn, offering a perfect range of motion whilst not feeling spongy or wobbly. The decision to use this style of input was decided by Poll on their forums, which is a superb way to interact with their target audience and should be applauded. It was entirely the right choice too as it's tight and feels exceptionally pleasing to use. The main buttons on the front are clicky, responsive and more than adequate for everyday use, and the shoulder buttons have a raised lip to them that lets your fingers sit firmly against them, and they have a distinct click to them letting you know that they have been pressed. All buttons are digital (I/O) rather than analogue, which is perfectly fine for the first several generations emulated by this device. I'm a huge fan of this simplistic form factor as it feels right in your hands, well balanced and solid as a rock.

The screen is a very similar size to the PSP, with an LCD panel in place giving you 16:9 wide and 4:3 ratios on its horizontal display. Overall it looks perfect face on and at a slight sideward angle, however tilting it upward cases an extremely dark accent, and conversely, tilting it downward makes the screen appear washed out and overly whitened. I would say I tilted the device less than thirty degrees toward or away from me to make these changes occur, so its not the end of the world, but perhaps a slightly better screen could be used in future iterations. I also didn't notice any framerate issues, ghosting, stuttering or screen tear during play which was superb given its compact stature. One niggle I have would perhaps be that three levels of brightness aren't enough for daytime use, perhaps a fourth would push the device further in terms of playability but obviously decrease battery life. On max brightness, I achieved 4 hours runtime on just one charge, which is amazingly resourceful. Considering the device is rated with a 2000-mAh battery and a 4-5 hours usage, I could totally see it lasting five hours at least on the lowest brightness if you were playing at night.

Sound quality on the device is fantastic. With ten levels of volume and a 3.5mm jack for headphones, this thing bangs out music in crystal clear quality consistently. Every system I tried sounded truly authentic and emulation-wise the sound speed was more than optimal. Some of these devices seem to nail the graphics only and the sound its pitched wrongly or stuttery, however, the Blaze Evercade performs perfectly across all fronts. There is no hiss or crackle to be heard and the fidelity is crystal clear through out all the emulated chipset across all of the 8 and 16-bit console carts.

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The Cartridge slot is a basic push to fit system with what appears to be a 30-pin connector on the inside. When you push a cartridge in it fits flush and perfectly into the slot, however, it's honestly sometimes super hard to get the cart in or out. For some reason, I think the specs have been shared within nano-micron of the consoles hardware rather than a small amount of wiggle room. Honestly, there is no wiggle room, the cartridges have to be forcibly removed by squeezing and manipulating them up out of the main body, which is quite scary to do the first few times. The inside top left and right of the cartridge bay on my console is now gnarled up due to the issue of starting the cartridge into the slot, and through no fault of my own, it's just how tight it is. The uber flush fit is perfect on one hand, it gives you confidence that the cart isn't likely to move or disconnect, but on the other hand, it's a nightmare to remove. The Mayans would have loved the seamless joinery once they are slotted in though, there is not even a hairs width to movement.

Each cart comes lovingly crafted, with its own label, a snazzy retro-inspired case and a lovely little manual in each box. The retro vibes are massive here, as the cases remind me of Atari cartridges, or the cases you could store your tape cassettes in back in the late '80s. The booklets give you an insight into the games on the cart, and they even go as far as to stir you up with adverts for other available carts in the back. Though the box itself is a little flimsy feeling, its decent for stackable, collectable storage of your cart selection, and the nostalgia is real once you delve inside the box. I was somewhat taken back to the C64 days when magnetic media ruled the Earth. The uniformity of the crimson and black on every cartridge also amps up the nostalgia in having them all lined up on a shelf, in numeric order, when not in use.

Sure, there are core historic games of incredible importance, but they also seem to contain a lot of lesser-known, or niche titles that frankly only seem to bulk up the offerings and somewhat detract from some of the carts potential essential status. Atari offers up 40 classics such as Centipede, Asteroids, Missile Command and the Yars games, Data East includes Joe & Mac 2, Bad Dude's and Burger Time, Namco give you access to 22 titles which includes Pac-Man, Galaxian, and awesomely two of the Splatterhouse games, Interplay has 12 games including Earthworm Jim, Boogerman and Clay Fighter, Technos have 8 games including Double Dragon and River City Ransom, Piko has 20 games with Top Racer and Jim Powers standing out to me, and lastly, Mega Cat Studios has 10 games with Coffee Crisis and Tanzer amongst other more contemporary indie games. With Xeno Crisis and Tanglewood out on cart number 11 and the Indie Heroes Collection cart, number 17, featuring 14 games: Ploid, Uchusen, Kubo 3, Super Homebrew War, Flea, Chain Break, Twin Dragons, Doodle World, Foxyland, Debtor, Deadus, Alien Cat 2, and Angun; there is a hell of a lot to look forward to on this pocket rocket.

Full listing of available games and which cart they belong to:

1 8-Eyes Piko Interactive Collection 1
2 Adventure (2600) Atari Collection 1
3 Air Sea Battle (2600) Atari Collection 2
4 Alien Brigade (7800) Atari Collection 1
5 Alien Cat 2 Indie Heroes Collection 1
6 Almost Hero Mega Cat Studios Collection 1
7 Anguna Indie Heroes Collection 1
8 Aquaventure (2600) Atari Collection 1
9 Asteroids (2600) Atari Collection 1
10 Asteroids (7800) Atari Collection 2
11 Astyanax Jaleco Collection 1
12 Awesome Golf Atari Lynx Collection 1
13 Bad Dudes Data East Collection
14 Bases Loaded Jaleco Collection 1
15 Basketbrawl Atari Lynx Collection 1
16 Basketbrawl (7800) Atari Collection 2
17 Battle Cars Namco Collection 1
18 BattleChess Interplay Collection 1
19 Blue Lightning Atari Lynx Collection 2
20 BMX Simulator The Oliver Twins Collection
21 Boogerman Interplay Collection 1
22 Bowling (2600) Atari Collection 2
23 Brave Battle Saga Piko Interactive Collection 1
24 Brawl Brothers Jaleco Collection 1
25 Brutal Sports Football Piko Interactive Collection 2
26 Burger Time Data East Collection
27 Burnin’ Rubber (Bump & Jump) Data East Collection
28 Burning Force Namco Collection 2
29 California Games Atari Lynx Collection 2
30 Canon – Legends of the New Gods Piko Interactive Collection 1
31 Canyon Bomber (2600) Atari Collection 1
32 Centipede (2600) Atari Collection 1
33 Centipede (7800) Atari Collection 2
34 Chain Break Indie Heroes Collection 1
35 Checkered Flag Atari Lynx Collection 2
36 Chips Challenge Atari Lynx Collection 2
37 City Connection Jaleco Collection 1
38 Clayfighter Interplay Collection 1
39 Clayfighter 2 Interplay Collection 2
40 Claymates Interplay Collection 2
41 Coffee Crisis Mega Cat Studios Collection 1
42 Crash ‘N’ The Boys: Street Challenge Technos Collection 1
43 Creepy Brawlers Mega Cat Studios Collection 1
44 Crystal Castles (2600) Atari Collection 1
45 Crystal Mines II: Buried Treasure Atari Lynx Collection 1
46 CyberVirus Atari Lynx Collection 1
47 Dark Chambers (2600) Atari Collection 2
48 Deadeus Indie Heroes Collection 1
49 Debtor Indie Heroes Collection 1
50 Demons to Diamonds (2600) Atari Collection 2
51 Desert Falcon (2600) Atari Collection 1
52 Desert Falcon (7800) Atari Collection 2
53 Dig Dug Namco Collection 1
54 Dig Dug 2 Namco Collection 2
55 Dizzy The Adventurer The Oliver Twins Collection
56 Doodle World Indie Heroes Collection 1
57 Dorke and Ymp Piko Interactive Collection 1
58 Double Dragon Technos Collection 1
59 Double Dragon II: The Revenge™ Technos Collection 1
60 Double Dunk (2600) Atari Collection 1
61 Dracula the Undead Atari Lynx Collection 1
62 Dragon Spirit Namco Collection 2
63 Dragon View Piko Interactive Collection 1
64 Drakkhen Piko Interactive Collection 1
65 DreamWorld Pogie The Oliver Twins Collection
66 Earth Defence Force Jaleco Collection 1
67 Earthworm Jim Interplay Collection 1
68 Earthworm Jim 2 Interplay Collection 2
69 Electro Cop Atari Lynx Collection 2
70 Eliminator Boat Duel Piko Interactive Collection 2
71 Fantastic Dizzy The Oliver Twins Collection
72 Fighter’s History Data East Collection
73 FireHawk The Oliver Twins Collection
74 Flea Indie Heroes Collection 1
75 Food Fight (7800) Atari Collection 1
76 Football Madness Piko Interactive Collection 2
77 FoxyLand Indie Heroes Collection 1
78 Full Throttle: All-American Racing Piko Interactive Collection 2
79 Galaga Namco Collection 2
80 Galaxian Namco Collection 1
81 Gates of Zendocon Atari Lynx Collection 2
82 Go! Dizzy Go! The Oliver Twins Collection
83 Gordo 106 Atari Lynx Collection 1
84 Gravitar (2600) Atari Collection 1
85 Haunted House (2600) Atari Collection 2
86 Hoops Shut Up and Jam Piko Interactive Collection 2
87 Hoops Shut Up and Jam 2 Piko Interactive Collection 2
88 Human Canonball (2600) Atari Collection 2
89 Ignition Factor Jaleco Collection 1
90 Incantation Interplay Collection 1
91 Iron Commando Piko Interactive Collection 1
92 Ishido: The Way of Stones Atari Lynx Collection 1
93 Jim Power – The Lost Dimension Piko Interactive Collection 1
94 Jimmy Connors Tennis Atari Lynx Collection 1
95 Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the tropics Data East Collection
96 Justice Duel Mega Cat Studios Collection 1
97 Karate Champ Data East Collection
98 Kubo 3 Indie Heroes Collection 1
99 Libble Rabble Namco Collection 1
100 Little Medusa Mega Cat Studios Collection 1
101 Log Jammers Mega Cat Studios Collection 1
102 Loopz Atari Lynx Collection 1
103 Magic Girl Piko Interactive Collection 1
104 Magical Drop 2 Data East Collection
105 Malibu Bikini Volleyball Atari Lynx Collection 1
106 Mappy Namco Collection 1
107 Mappy Kids Namco Collection 1
108 MegaPak Atari Lynx Collection 1
109 Metal Marines Namco Collection 1
110 Midnight Resistance Data East Collection
111 Millipede (2600) Atari Collection 2
112 Missile Command (2600) Atari Collection 1
113 Motor Psycho (7800) Atari Collection 1
114 Multidude Mega Cat Studios Collection 1
115 Mystery World Dizzy The Oliver Twins Collection
116 Night Driver (2600) Atari Collection 1
117 NightShade Piko Interactive Collection 1
118 Ninja Golf (7800) Atari Collection 1
119 Old Towers Mega Cat Studios Collection 1
120 Operation Logic Bomb Jaleco Collection 1
121 Pac Man Namco Collection 1
122 Pac-Attack Namco Collection 2
123 Panic Dizzy The Oliver Twins Collection
124 Phelios Namco Collection 2
125 Planet Smashers (7800) Atari Collection 2
126 Ploid Indie Heroes Collection 1
127 Power Factor Atari Lynx Collection 1
128 Power Football Piko Interactive Collection 2
129 Power Piggs of the Dark Ages Piko Interactive Collection 1
130 Power Punch II Piko Interactive Collection 1
131 Prehistoric Man Interplay Collection 2
132 Quad Challenge Namco Collection 1
133 Quest Arrest Indie Heroes Collection 1
134 Racing Fever Piko Interactive Collection 2
135 Radar Lock (2600) Atari Collection 2
136 Radical Rex Piko Interactive Collection 1
137 Realsports Tennis (2600) Atari Collection 2
138 Remnant Atari Lynx Collection 1
139 Rival Turf Jaleco Collection 1
140 River City Ransom Technos Collection 1
141 Scrapyard Dog Atari Lynx Collection 1
142 Side Pocket Data East Collection
143 Soccer Kid Piko Interactive Collection 2
144 Solaris (2600) Atari Collection 2
145 Splatterhouse 2 Namco Collection 2
145 Splatterhouse 3 Namco Collection 2
146 Sprintmaster (2600) Atari Collection 2
146 Star Luster Namco Collection 1
147 Steeplechase (2600) Atari Collection 1
148 Street Racer (2600) Atari Collection 2
148 Submarine Commander (2600) Atari Collection 2
149 Summer Challenge Piko Interactive Collection 2
151 Super Asteroids/Missile Command Atari Lynx Collection 1
153 Super Dodge Ball™ Technos Collection 1
154 Super Double Dragon™ Technos Collection 1
156 Super Goal! 2 Jaleco Collection 1
157 Super Homebrew War Indie Heroes Collection 1
159 Super Painter Mega Cat Studios Collection 1
160 Super Robin Hood The Oliver Twins Collection
161 Super Spike V’ball™ Technos Collection 1
162 Super Sqweek Atari Lynx Collection 1
163 Switchblade Piko Interactive Collection 1
164 Swordquest Earthworld (2600) Atari Collection 1
165 Tanglewood Xeno Crisis & Tanglewood Dual Game Cartridge
166 Tänzer Mega Cat Studios Collection 1
167 Tempest (2600) Atari Collection 1
168 The Adventures of Rad Gravity Interplay Collection 2
169 The Brainies Interplay Collection 2
170 The Humans Piko Interactive Collection 1
171 The Immortal Piko Interactive Collection 1
172 Tinhead Piko Interactive Collection 1
173 Titan Interplay Collection 1
174 Todds Adventures in Slimeworld Atari Lynx Collection 2
175 Top Racer Piko Interactive Collection 1
176 Top Racer 2 Piko Interactive Collection 2
177 Totally Rad Jaleco Collection 1
178 Tower of Druaga Namco Collection 2
179 Treasure Island Dizzy The Oliver Twins Collection
180 Twin Dragons Indie Heroes Collection 1
181 Two Crude Dudes Data East Collection
182 Ushuen Indie Heroes Collection 1
183 Video Pinball (2600) Atari Collection 1
184 Warp Man Namco Collection 2
185 Water Margin Piko Interactive Collection 1
186 Way of the exploding fist Piko Interactive Collection 1
187 Weapon Lord Namco Collection 2
188 Winter Challenge Piko Interactive Collection 2
189 Wizard (2600) Atari Collection 2
190 Wonderland Dizzy The Oliver Twins Collection
191 World Trophy Soccer Piko Interactive Collection 2
192 Xeno Crisis Xeno Crisis & Tanglewood Dual Game Cartridge
193 Xevious Namco Collection 1
194 Xump Atari Lynx Collection 1
195 Yars Return (2600) Atari Collection 1
196 Yars’ Revenge (2600) Atari Collection 2
197 Zarlor Mercenary Atari Lynx Collection 2

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The cartridges provided for this review consist of 122 games spread across 10 perfectly formed carts. With companies ranging from Atari, Data East, Interplay, Mega Cat, Namco, Piko, and Technos there are a lot of game available that will appeal to a broad spectrum of players, however, I can't help but feel that there are some definite gaps in terms of what players want to play. For example, I can imagine a lot of people asking: "where are the offerings from Nintendo, Sega, Sony etc?". The answer to this would be two-fold. Firstly the companies themselves would likely lease out the rights to these games and would probably prove far too costly to partner with to get access to major first-party titles for NES/SNES/SMS/MD etc. Secondly, those companies are still major first or third-party manufacturers of IP's currently. They would want to hold on to their property and maximise sales on their own platforms first and foremost. The Evercade is a platform for the fringe games, the cult classics, and the devilishly overlooked titles that you remember playing as a kid. The Evercade is not a console for hardcore gamers, nor is it for playing everything you ever wanted, though I'm sure Blaze would happily hear from you if you suggested anything to them, their customer interaction is top-notch.

Sporting a micro HDMI socket, but not being boxed with the corresponding cable perplexed me. I wondered why they would make a device that could perform so admirably in handheld, with the ability to output to HDTV but not provide you with the parts necessary to do so. Luckily I always have a box of cables to hand with adaptors and parts for just such an occurrence. Connecting up an HDMI mini to HDMI cable the Evercade reboots itself and the resolution appear to change to 720p. Playing the games on the big screen is a joy with super crisp sprites everywhere and solid audio to boot. I had heard rumours that the HDMI output had issues with sound and there were some odd button configurations, but since my machine came with the 1.20 firmware preinstalled I didn't notice any issues on that front and everything worked as expected from the get-go.

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The elephant in the room has to be the connectivity and by association: lack of two-player support. The Evercade is not for streaming or sharing, casting or in-app purchases. It captures the purity of life before those things existed, and before the world of gaming took a leap and became more advanced than they are today with microtransactions and cloud gaming. I guess that in the effort to keep down costs and scale back useful features Blaze have steered clear of touch screens, wifi, and even Bluetooth to keep the price to a rather decent £59.99 for the main unit. Some games do however offer two-player gaming, but there is no way to accommodate a second player. Sure you could take it in turns, but multiplayer would have been killer. With just a BT adaptor or even an OTG cable to allow a USB controller to connect this could also be overcome if the developers can, though I am unsure of the technical limitations of the hardware.

Overall I would say that the Evercade has it all to play for! It nails being reasonably priced, it nails the feeling of retro gaming, and it plays splendidly well for up to 5 hours on one charge! I can't help feeling a little cheated that there is no method to play two players or play the original, arcade-perfect, versions of the games, but this is a minor gripe and one that I know the developers have already take into consideration via their forum interactions. I also know that there are teams out there that have methods to swap the ROMs out, play alternate emulators, and even play Doom and Retroarch natively, and as a homebrew enthusiast, I will be looking into these avenues very soon to expand my gaming pleasure with this solidly awesome portable device, and really test its metal in how powerful it is and what can be achieved. As it stands for this review: the Evercade is a serious must-buy for consumers looking for a reliable way to relive their childhood faves on the go and on the big screen at perfect framerates, and with incredible value and ease of use.

Verdict
What We Liked . . . Collectable and fun for nostalgia hunters Easy to simply plug-and-play Superb build quality through out including the D-Pad What We Didn't Like . . . No chance for two-player japery No scan-lines or filter options Super tight cartridge fit is scary No HDMI mini cable included
8.5
out of 10
Overall
It is incredibly tough to mark the Evercade down as it just ticks so many boxes and has so much going for it! The simple fact that two-player gaming is absent, yet some of the games are traditionally two player takes my score down a smidge and the fact that most the games feel tacked on and baited by the one or two top tier games per cart.
GABO1423, JonSilvera, Prans and 3 others like this.

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