Review: Pyxa (Hardware)

Reviewed by Prans Dunn, posted Oct 10, 2019
Oct 10, 2019
DIY game consoles come in different shapes and sizes, quite literally. From those that require you to solder every part together to pre-assembled units that teach you to DIY your own games, it’s a whole spectrum. Positioning itself somewhere in between is the Arduino-based Pyxa DIY console by Creoqode and we’ll take a look at what this palm-sized device offers in this review!
Prans Dunn

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You might have read my review of the MAKERbuino, a DIY console requiring you to solder its parts to have functioning console, or of the Gamebuino, a ready-to-play console whose DIY aspect lies in its software which teaches you how to create your own games for the console. Creoqode’s Pyxa sits somewhere between the MAKERbuino and the Gamebuino. Sure, you will have to assemble the unit by yourself but it does not require any soldering. A detailed guide, complete with instructional pictures, that will accompany you every step of the process is available on Creqode’s website. Everything you need to build the console is in the box and I managed to do mine in under 10 minutes!

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(Note that with the way the device is assembled, the top, bottom and sides are left exposed, hence prone to collecting dust and possibly to damage as well. Just take good care of your little precious!)

Even if the assembling process can be short, it is nevertheless a satisfying one that helps you to get acquainted with the different parts that make up a console and piece them together yourself. It’s also a great alternative for younger audiences or those who don’t want to mess with a soldering iron. Notably, in comparison to similar DIY gadgets on the market, the Pyxa has a better build quality. With its thick plastic front plate and metallic back plate, this console is also studier than its competitors. These more “premium” features are also reflected in the device’s £99.00 pricetag.

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Once assembled, you will have a cute yet sleek palm-sized console at your disposal, ready to play the built-in Pong game. But this is only the first step as next up you will be creating your very first game within a few hours! Thanks to Creoqode’s comprehensive tutorial split into 16 chapters, Pyxa owners will be guided through the process of creating a video game from scratch, without any prior programming knowledge. Its Arduino-based ATmega328P processor will allow you to re-create classic games like Pong and Pac-Man or your original creation that you can show off to your friends and relatives. It’s really an exciting process that can elicit the same feeling in gamers of any age!

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What I really love about the Pyxa is its size. At about 10 cm wide, 4.7 cm long and 1.7 cm thick, and packing a fancy 128 x 160 18-bit colour display, the Pyxa fits in my front pocket, back pocket, side pocket, bag pocket, any pocket really. Its portability and pocketability makes it ideal for casual gaming. It’s much smaller than the MAKERbuino but still gives you the bragging rights of having built it yourself. You can just forget it in your bag and pick it up to play games that you made as the rechargeable 600 mAh battery provides at least 4 hours of non-stop gaming. There are also pre-built games which you can load on a microSD (unfortunately not included) and then boot on your Pyxa.

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Despite being a successfully crowd-funded device and packing a relatively steep price of £99.00, there are aspects of the Pyxa that beg for improvement. For one, although the presence of a dedicated audience, there is no official forum for the Pyxa community to share their creations and learn from each other. There is an upload option on the website which promises to share creator's work with others but at the time of writing, nothing of that sort is visible on the website. A community-run forum might have made sharing games and projects more dynamic and get the community more active. This is a shame considering how this limits the device’s potential and I hope that the company considers these aspects for the Pyxa and its future consoles.

On top of that the games that Creoqode already made for the Pyxa is currently limited to 8 titles. While they do offer good sources for codes which users can then modify and play around with, it's still a very limited number. I hope the company will add more games and codes for users to get more out of the Pyxa.

Nevertheless the Pyxa offers great educational content while being fun to work with. I would recommend it to parents looking to introduce their child to coding and video game development or to gamers who wish to get into game development but don’t want to fiddle too much with the hardware aspect. If you can afford it, the Pyxa will be a great companion to host your very own games while doubling as a tool to help you make them.

Verdict
Pros
+ Satisfying, fun and educational experience
+ Easy to build without the need of soldering
+ Comprehensive game development guide not requiring prior experience
Cons
- Pricey
- Pre-made games catalogue is very limited
- No forums to share community-built games
7
out of 10
Overall
Packing lots of fun in its assembling and learning process, the Pyxa is a great way to get acquainted with the principles of video game development but its limited games library and inability to share games within its community restricts its potential.


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