Analog Pocket Review – Retro Handheld Wonder

introduce

Retro hardware maker Analogue continues to celebrate the history of video games as game industry publishers race to implement shorter load times, ray tracing-based rendering and blockchain technology. With the latest release of the Analogue Pocket, the boutique maker is focusing on the fundamental pillar of retro gaming – the handheld.

The Analog Pocket is a marvel of design, setting a new standard for premium video game handhelds, retro or otherwise. Best of all, it’s completely legal because it relies on genuine ink cartridges.

The device features a stunning 3.5-inch LCD screen with configurable zoom and display modes, HDMI dock, popular music creation suite Nanoloop, and GB Studio game engine compatibility. Best of all, it can play original Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance game cartridges with zero emulation. The handheld also plays Sega Game Gear cartridges via a proprietary adapter sold separately, with Neo Geo Pocket, Atari Lynx and TurboGrafx-16 adapters scheduled for release in 2022 for $29.99 each.

Screen

Pocket Screen | Image Credit: Alex Van Aken

Screen

Aside from the game library, the most critical part of any handheld is the screenone. PThe socket’s 3.5-inch LCD has a 1600×1440 resolution, the sharpest I’ve seen in a handheld device of its kind. The color exudes vibrancy and rich contrast, with – if not better than – beautiful IPS display This has become standard in the Game Boy modding scene.thoriumThe e devices also feature damage-resistant Gorilla Glass and a variable refresh rate display, which helps prevent screen tearing in games.

With its multiple picture modes, the Pocket convincingly reproduces the visual artifacts familiar to Nintendo handhelds, including backlit LCD effects and sub-pixel patterns. For example, you can cycle through DMG, Pocket, and Game Boy Light picture profiles while playing with first-generation cartridges, all of which faithfully replicate the original hardware’s signature green hue and pixel grid layout. If you prefer a clean image, you can use Analogue’s custom profile, which defaults to a gorgeous black-and-white image when not playing color-enabled titles. Additionally, Analogue lets you adjust the palette, frame blending, sharpness, desaturation, and size/position, but I mostly stuck with the default settings.

Playing games on Analogue Pocket is a real visual treat. I found myself changing out the cartridges frequently to see how the advanced screen improved each title.

Handheld experience

Analog pocket handheld

Analog Pocket | Image Credit: Analogue, Inc.

Handheld experience

The analog pocket looks familiar, similar to the Gameboy’s classic form factor, albeit with some updates. Four face buttons now accompany the directional pad, and a pair of shoulder buttons sit on opposite sides of the rear game cartridge slot. Between Start and Select is the new Analogue button that invokes the OS menu and navigation options. You can remap all of these buttons to your favorite functions, which is a great accessibility feature.

The soft green power button doubles as a sleep and wake option with a single press, so you can pick up where you left off – effectively serving as a floating save state – vastly improving the handheld gaming experience of the past. The rechargeable Li-Ion 4300mAh battery ensures 6 to 10 hours of play time. You can charge the battery by connecting it to the optional analog dock or the Pocket’s USB-C port, I use to connect to my MacBook Pro provides convenient power on the go.

While the Analogue Pocket offers a great experience, it’s not without its flaws. After replacing the game, the recurring error showed a white error screen despite using a clean and properly installed cartridge. A simple power cycle can alleviate this problem, but I hope Analogue fixes it in a future firmware update.

Given its name, it’s odd that the analog pocket doesn’t fit securely in a standard-sized trouser pocket. Instead, I recommend buying a pocket hard case that retails for $29.99 to safely store the handheld in a backpack or work bag.It’s a fairly simple accessory – the case is just two interlocking pieces of hard plastic – but it at least prevents the pockets from getting scuffed in transitsit. Unfortunately, hThe andheld doesn’t fit inside the case if the Game Gear adapter is attached, so I had to keep the accessories loose in the bag.

Dock it like it’s hot

Analog pocket handheld

Analog Dock | Image Credit: Analogue, Inc.

Dock it like it’s hot

The Switch’s success proves that handheld gaming is better when players have a choice, and Analogue is smart to follow suit. The optional Analogue Dock ($99.99) allows users to place the Pocket on top to display the device’s image on an HDMI-compatible monitor, such as a TV or desktop gaming monitor. If you’re a streamer or content creator, or even have a little interest in focusing on retro gaming, the Dock is a must-buy as it easily works with capture cards and broadcast software like OBS.

But if you play mostly handheld, in your hands and on the go, then I’d say skip this purchase for now.

While it’s novel to play Game Boy games on the big screen, I’m disappointed by the device’s lack of functionality. For example, display mode switching is only available in handheld mode, and the Analogue Dock doesn’t pair with many controllers. This Official website Only five compatible gamepads are listed (see below). Unfortunately, I tried connecting my Xbox Series X controller via the Xbox Wireless Adapter without success. While I’m lucky and have a Switch Pro controller in my desk drawer, I’d like to see support for a wider list of controllers in the future.

GB Studio – so many possibilities

analog pocket

Gurb’s Adventure running on an emulated OS | Image credit: Alex Van Aken

GB Studio – so many possibilities

One of the most exciting features of Analogue Pocket is its ability to play software created in GB Studio, a drag-and-drop retro game engine that unlocks a whole new library of games to play from indie developmentErr. Developers already support Pocket on Itch.io, it you can find here. However, highlights like this action and Possum country Not yet working on Analogue Pocket as their creators had to release a new file type (.pocket) for the game to work on the device.

If the game download contains a GB Studio project file (.gbsproj), another possible workaround is to create your own .pocket file, eg Gubu’s Adventure and Pushingo Provided, I have detailed the general usage instructions for GB Studio below. Note that you may encounter bugs with this workaround, but it will be interesting to explore the possibilities for handhelds while we wait for official developer support.

Oh! I almost forgot. Since the Analogue Pocket recognizes GB Studio games as proper Game Boy versions, you can switch between its display modes to see how these modern indie games look back on original hardware in the ’90s. I like this very much.

Make music with Nanoloop

Make music with Nanoloop

Nanoloop is a popular music creation suite for gaming handhelds that has been widely used for chiptune soundtracks since the early 2000s, and Analogue Pocket has it built-in. At first glance, the software may look intimidating; however, its minimalist layout is easy to learn if you have experience with a digital audio workstation or MIDI-based sequencer.While the learning curve can be steep, I quickly started going through the reference digital brochure and had a great time. The sequencer only has four channels (a limitation that fuels creativity), and I like the process of determining which sounds should be prioritized in my track. The synth, drum, and noise tracks produced by Nanoloop are pleasing to the ears while creating the sound. Let’s say you’re interested in the process of making music, even as a beginner. In this case, Nanoloop is a great place to start, and the fact that Analogue Pocket includes it is incredible.

judgment

analog pocket

Alex Van Aken Photography

Analog Pocket | Image Credit: Alex Van Aken

Verdict: A

Analog pockets are a collector’s dream. Whether your collection is emerging or established, the handheld brings new life to the beloved era of portable gaming. Despite its quirks, it offers unparalleled convenience for fans of exploring the vast library of Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and Game Gear cartridges.

release

December 13

price

Analog Pocket – $219.99

Mock Dock – $99.99