28 July 2017

REVIEW: Creoqode 2048

Build and play.

We're no strangers to coding. Although none of us here at Test Pit Towers use computers for anything other than writing (excellent) reviews, editing YouTube vids, and watching Netflix, we've all gotten a taste for coding thanks to a few of the items we've reviewed in the past. As coding and STEM begin to take pride of place in school curriculum, we're mad keen for more; and that is exactly what we got when we received the Creoqode 2048 open-source games console.

So, what is this? Well, the Creoqode 2048 is a hand-held games console that you both build and programme yourself. No soldering is required to finish it, but all the components of the machine, from the circuit boards and wires, to battery and buttons, come completely disassembled. This means that kids and adults alike have to follow the instructions (they're included on paper, but follow the ones online - they're bigger and clearer) and make dozens of little careful connections. It took a 35 year old member of The Test Pit team a solid hour to complete, so something to bear in mind if you're getting this for a younger person.

At the heart of the Creoqode 2048 is a Creoqode Mini Mega Development Board, which looks very much like an Arduino (which we used when building this hand held gamer from Tech Will Save Us). In fact, the Creoqode board is fully compatible with Arduino coding software, earning the product the 'Arduino at Heart' badge. If you or your kid already have experience of programming on that system, you're laughing, and will be ready to code and play in no time.

But code what? Well, as this has been predominantly designed as a games console, games; but games with a retro feel. The Creoqode 2048 is so called thanks to the 2048 RGB LEDs that make up the display. That means that everything you code to play on the device will look like an arcade game from the 1970s. Which we have no problem with at all.

Connecting to your computer to copy over your programmes is done by way of the mini USB port on the top of the Creoqode Mini Mega (which appears on the top side of the console when completed) and charging of the battery is by way of a Micro USB port on the bottom side. Being able to charge the battery is pretty awesome, as it means that once you have completed your Creoqode 2048 there is no need to take it apart to change the battery.

In the hand it feels and looks a lot like the SEGA Game Gear from the late 80s, with the buttons on the side of a wide screen. It is actually far larger than any hand held console we've seen, and even feels chunky in an adult's hands. But the buttons are still easy to grip and press, and the LEDs are bright enough to see in full daylight.

After that, and after you've mastered the simple game that comes pre-coded onto the Mini Mega, the world is your oyster. As we discovered when programming the Tech Will Save Us gamer, the free Arduino software is easy to use. Creoqode also have a wealth of programmes coded by them and by others available for free download, allowing you to boot up something new to your 2048 and play in minutes. You can also upload your own creations to share with the community, which is nice.

The software isn't the only thing that can be modified, though. As the console is essentially a bunch of stuff connected to a development board, users can add whatever kinds of hardware they want and can control. Sensors could be added to turn the screen into a display for certain kinds of info, while the whole thing could even be disassembled and rebuilt into something new; that display is bloody useful, after all.

This isn't something you can take out of the box and begin playing with immediately, but why would you want to, anyway? The real fun here is the build process; watching what goes where and finding out later, why. After that, its up to you to get creative, either with a simple run and jump game, or with something more advanced and exciting. We really enjoyed the whole process, and even as this review is being written, the Arduino programme is open on the same laptop, awaiting out next commands.

Great for kids and adults into STEM, great for gamers looking for a new challenge, and a fun start for those of us with an interest in coding. Fun all round.


Visit www.creoqode.com

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