Game­buino

PC Pro - - November 2017 Issue 277 -

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

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