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Home / Tips and Tricks / The DIY Game Boy with LEGO-inspired Design – Review Geek

The DIY Game Boy with LEGO-inspired Design – Review Geek

  GameShell is an excellent, yet expensive, portable DIY game machine.

STEM toys and games are in vogue and video games are still popular. If you want to combine simple electronics with retro games, GameShell lets you create your own open source Game Boy.

Okay, that's a bit simplified. The ClockworkPi GameShell is a modular system. By "building," I mean "assembling," as you're just putting together some pretty simple pieces, sticking them together, and closing the shell over them. Everything contained in the kit and already programmed, including the battery and software loaded on a microSD card. So, if you're looking for something that challenges your home improvement skills, it's not like this: it's more of a LEGO kit that you can load with ROMs when you're done.

  GameShell is fully composed and looks good as an evolved version of the original Game Boy.
The fully assembled GameShell looks like an evolved version of the original Game Boy. Michael Crider

But now that I write this, the "LEGO kit that you can charge with ROMs" sounds pretty darn cute. And it is! This is especially true if you are looking for something for a child: Younger children can assemble the kit with a little help from a parent, and middle school children can do most things themselves, possibly with a little help loading new games in the included emulators.

They do not do them the way they are used to (but you can).

The GameShell ships in a series of segmented boxes and subshells, like an old model car. Pull everything out of the various boxes and bags, remove the plastic from the part compartments and follow the enclosed installation instructions. When you're done, you have something that looks like an open source game boy from 1989. That's about it.

  The various parts and components of the GameShell before assembly.
The various parts and components of the GameShell before assembly. Michael Crider

The process of creating an adult takes about an hour, though small children may need a little longer. All of the sensitive electronics, such as the motherboard, the screen, and the keyboard are quickly embedded in their own modular plastic trays so they can be roughly assembled without having to damage them. If you help a little kid put this stuff together, you can probably leave the main modular parts alone to do the rest at their own pace.

The modular structure of GameShell deserves special praise. Following the straightforward instructions is quite difficult to put this stuff together in a catastrophic way: if you can not disassemble some of the tough plastic in half, everything can be disassembled and rebuilt in the right way. This is a remarkable accomplishment in the world of DIY electronics kits (I'll be missing out on how many keyboard boards I've destroyed through tedious soldering). With this kid-friendly design, everything under the full tantrum is likely to be reversible.

  The modular parts design - screen, pad, motherboard, battery - makes mounting safe and easy.
The modular part design – screen, pad, motherboard, battery – makes mounting safe and easy. Michael Crider

I particularly liked the two optional backs of the gadget: one in the original Nintendo style, one with LEGO-compatible stones, so you did not think my allusions to toys are just illustrative and not literally. The base set includes an optional upgrade on the back, five additional shoulder buttons that can light up with the included LEDs. These are connected to the motherboard and snap over the LEGO studs.

It's a pretty little add-on if you like Compatibility with more complex classic PC or PlayStation games, but the cable that needs to be routed to the motherboard means it's likely to be somewhat fragile when traveling.

Only enough power for the classics

Secure the outer plastic shell with the two easy-to-remove round snaps. They have a Game Boy style portable gaming gadget that includes a backlit LCD screen, a familiar key layout, and a preprogrammed user interface. The electronics runs on a Cortex A7 processor with 1 GB of memory and 16 GB of memory via the MicroSD card. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and HDMI output via a mini-port are included, and the battery is charged via a direct MicroUSB connection.

  Yes, DOOM is running!
Yes, DOOM is running! Michael Crider

Although GameShell improves their "hackable" hardware and programmability, beginners like myself are encouraged and pampered if we ignore this and treat the thing as an emulation machine.

RetroArch and a Few other emulators are integrated from the beginning, and ROM files can be quickly stored directly to the storage drive via USB or the built-in Wi-Fi file server. I could easily put my trusted Pokemon Crystal game file there.

  The preinstalled operating system on the MicroSD card is surprisingly flexible.
The preinstalled operating system on the MicroSD card is surprisingly flexible. Michael Crider

The hardware is powerful enough to run just about everything until the Super Nintendo and Genesis era, with occasionally a few low-power PlayStation games. (However, with PlayStation ROMs, this thing gets hot in your hands: there is no fan or heat sink.) If you want to avoid legal gray areas or piracy, you can download Linux-based software or play the included Open source versions of Cave Story and DOOM.

Technically Unlimited Potential

But what if you're incredibly familiar with electronics and want to make GameShell more than just a kid's toy? You are welcome to do so, provided you can work with the custom CPI motherboard. In terms of hardware, the modular hardware parts are pretty tightly pegged in the Game Boy shell, but a few cable access openings mean you can attach hardware to the outside and attach to the LEGO studs if you're feeling creative ] One of the backs contains LEGO-compatible studs that feel very good. ” width=”2000″ height=”1333″ data-credittext=”Michael Crider” src=”/pagespeed_static/1.JiBnMqyl6S.gif” onload=”pagespeed.lazyLoadImages.loadIfVisibleAndMaybeBeacon(this);” onerror=”this.onerror=null;pagespeed.lazyLoadImages.loadIfVisibleAndMaybeBeacon(this);”/>

One of the backs contains LEGO-compatible studs that feel very good. Michael Crider

Not customizable enough? If you have access to a 3D printer, you can roll your own shell or external parts, with STL files available for five dollars. This will theoretically allow you to design additional hardware indefinitely if you have the required knowledge and time. Anyone with such technical knowledge (and I'm not in this group) does not need super-secure modular plastic parts and preinstalled software to build their own portable console. You are probably more than happy to start a project like the PiGRRL or just start over.

  The hardware can be extended with external hardware, eg. With this button and the LED bar.
The hardware can be extended with external hardware such as this button and LED bar included. Michael Crider

But I guess a true extension of GameShell is a real possibility: children who use this retro style hardware can use it as a starting point for more elaborate projects.

Not exactly cost-effective

At $ 200 for the complete kit, currently $ 160 for special editions and only $ 140 for students, GameShell is in no way cheap. Those looking only for a portable retro console will have cheaper options with more power and less elbow grease for entry. The GameShell is not cheap, but the great design makes all the difference.

  The GameShell running a Game Boy emulator with the additional button bar.
The GameShell will run a Game Boy emulator with the additional button bar. Michael Crider

With a comprehensive modular design, great tutorials and documentation, and surprisingly easy-to-use software, the entire package provides an excellent introduction to the world of home electronics.

The end result With the Switch and the Nintendo 3DS currently on the market, you will not be puzzled, let alone mobile games. but that is not the point. It's more than capable of doing what it's meant to do, and the extra sheen and polish that's been incorporated in the product makes it praiseworthy in every way.

The GameShell is a fun diversion for any retro-obsessed adult player and a fantastic beginner electronics project for kids. Both will appreciate the result of their efforts and it is just a springboard into a larger world of hardware and software customization. It is easily recommended to me.

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