The Gamebuino immediately distinguishes itself from the competition by having a microSD card slot. Rather than loading games one at a time onto its microcontroller “brain”, games are stored as precompiled memory dumps on this card – and even the smallest microSD can hold hundreds of thousands of titles.
The microSD slot is key to the Gamebuino’s clever ability to switch games on-the-fly. Where the Arduboy and Creoqode 2048 are both limited to a single game, requiring connection to a PC running the Arduino IDE to switch to something else when you’re bored, the Gamebuino is far more flexible: just reset the device, choose a new game from the file browser, and wait a few seconds for it to load into memory.
Like the Arduboy, the Gamebuino is supplied pre-assembled – although you need to remove and replace a few screws to rid the acrylic casing of its protective film – and ready to go. A bundled 128MB microSD card is loaded with games from the Gamebuino forum, and only needs to be slotted home. Switch the Gamebuino on to begin playing.
You can write your own games using the Gamebuino framework. The framework includes options for creating game menus and saving games - the data is written to the ATMega328p’s EEPROM memory, then saved to the microSD card when you switch games – plus creating high-score tables and more. There’s also multiplayer functionality, which is achieved by linking two or more Gamebuinos through the inter-integrated circuit (I²C) headers at the top edge,which can also be used to add hardware such as microphones, motion sensors, LEDs or motors.
It’s only when you dive into the examples that the power of the Gamebuino becomes clear, however. There are implementations of raycasting 3D engines, four-channel polyphonic synthesisers, MP3 players; even the demo of Conway’s Game of Life has a trick up its sleeve, using a light-dependent resistor to kill off the cells when it’s too dark.
The sole real annoyance with the Gamebuino comes from its display. The single-colour 84 x 48 LCD panel is recycled from old Nokia 3310 and 5510 feature phones, which gives the Gamebuino some green kudos but means you’re near-guaranteed to receive one with at least a few minor scuffs and scratches.
Despite this, with a pocket-friendly size and weight, plus a wallet-friendly price, the Gamebuino is a bargain.
KEY SPECS 16MHz Atmel ATmega328p 32KB program memory 84 x 48 single-colour front-lit LCD display seven buttons four-channel audio 12-hour battery multi-game microSD card storage 95 x 19 x 49mm (WDH) 57g