Hardware Review: Evercade

The Evercade is a handheld games console which was launched earlier this year. Unlike most modern consoles, there’s no digital downloads (you can’t even connect it to the internet), and it doesn’t play the latest games. Instead you play games by inserting different cartridges, which contain licensed versions of retro games from companies such as Atari, Namco and Data East.

Prior to the Evercade, your options for playing retro games on-the-go included dedicated devices – which had a set number of games built in (such as the Atari Flashback handheld, or the MyArcade range); or make-your-own, using an emulation device (such as a GPi Case or Bittboy).

Although setting up your own device can be appealing and fun, ignoring the issue of acquiring ROM files to use in them, one major problem is choice fatigue. When you have the option to play pretty much any game from the seventies, eighties or nineties, it can be a little bit overwhelming. Evercade’s aim is to avoid this by curating a range of cartridges with a limited selection of games on each.

Blaze Entertainment announced the Evercade in April last year. The idea of a handheld games console that played properly licensed retro games, without worrying about internet connections and in-game purchases really appealed to me.

When pre-orders were announced, I decided to play it safe, and ordered the Starter Pack with the Evercade console and the Namco collection.

The Evercade

The Starter Pack​

The Starter Pack comes with the Evercade console, The Namco Museum Collection 1 cartridge, and a Micro-USB lead. It doesn’t come with a plug to charge the device, but to be fair, if you don’t own a USB charging plus in 2020, then you’re probably not Evercade’s target market.

The console​

Size comparison of the PlayStation Portable, Evercade, and Nintendo Switch

The Evercade console itself features a 4.3? screen (the same size screen as a PlayStation portable), Mini HDMI port to plug in to a TV (lead not supplied), Micro-USB charging port, Cartridge slot, 3.5mm Earphone port, and built-in speaker.

Non-gameplay buttons on the device are: Power switch, Volume buttons and Menu button. Game play controls include D-Pad, Four Action Buttons (marked X,Y,A,B), Left and Right shoulder buttons, Start and Select buttons.

1980’s style wallpaper

Although there was a limited edition black version of the console, the main colour for sale is white, with red trim. My daughter says it looks ugly, but for those of us that grew up in the eighties, it looks like childhood. The Evercade’s design is a tribute to the wallpapers, duvet covers and curtains of our formative years.

The console is comfortable to hold and the buttons feel responsive. On a button related note, if you are used to the Nintendo convention of where A,B,X and Y are positioned, then Evercade have them completely different. The company have released a firmware upgrade to adjust the buttons in some games where it might be needed but sadly this appears to be Windows-only at the moment, so Mac and Linux users are out of luck.

The cartridges​

The cartridges come in sturdy plastic shell boxes, and each cartridge is numbered, which will surely appeal to the collector mentality in some people. Numbering cartridges is not a new thing – the very first cartridge-based console, the Fairchild Channel F, had numbered carts, but the practice has died out in recent years, due to the amount of carts available for each system.

Size comparison of portable media: Game Boy, PlayStation Portable, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo Switch, N-Gage, Evercade

There are ten cartridges available for the system at present – well kind of, they are pretty much out of stock everywhere – and four carts are announced for the future. Most cartridges are based around the output of a company, such as Atari or Interplay, but upcoming carts include two full of Atari Lynx games, so I’m hoping that there will be more system-specific carts in the future.

The cartridges are a really snug fit. In fact, it’s very difficult to get them out, though this does loosen slightly over time. It does help if you have fingernails to help pry the cart from the tight grip.

Each cart comes with an instruction booklet, which gives you a brief overview of the game and the controls. This is fine for games like Pac-Man or Centipede, where it’s pretty straight forward, but for games like Atari’s Swordquest and Adventure, or Namco’s Metal Marine’s, these instructions are woefully inadequate.

Luckily we live in an age where pretty much every instruction booklet has been scanned and uploaded somewhere, but we shouldn’t have to rely on hoping that someone on the internet has scanned a copy of the original game’s manual to actually learn how to play the games we’ve bought legitimate copies of.

In summary​

Despite my misgivings, overall I’m really pleased with the Evercade and have played it a lot. As a self-employed father of two, my time for game playing isn’t always that long, and the Evercade makes it easy to just pick up and have a ten minute blast of Food Fight or something. The curated cartridges make it easy in this respect as well, as I don’t need to choose from thousands of games before I actually get down to playing.

I’ve not tried the option to plug the console into a television with the HDMI out option, as the idea seems really awkward to me, plus I have better options if I want to play on a television. As a handheld device though, it serves my purpose really well.

In terms of the games themselves, most of them are from the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, NES and Mega Drive. I’ve love to have some Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and arcade games on there too. (Apparently arcade games are planned in the future). It would be good to have carts for some obscure consoles as well, that are difficult to get hold of. There might not be much call for a Super Cassette Vision, Channel F or Amstrad GX4000 cart, but I for one would love to be able to have legitimate ways to play obscure games.

Evercade have hinted that their next step is to launch a standalone console, which supports multiplayer and plugs into a TV. It will also accept the same carts as the handheld. Sign me up already!

Carts Currently Available​

  • Atari Collection 1: 20 games including Asteroids (2600), Adventure (2600), Missile Command (2600), Food Fight (7800) and Centipede (2600)
  • Atari Collection 2: 20 games including Years’ Revenge (2600), Centipede (7800), Haunted House (2600), Dark Chambers (2600), Basketbrawl (7800)
  • Data East Collection 1: 10 games including console versions of Burger Time, Bad Dudes, Side Pocket, Karate Champ, Joe & Mac 2.
  • Interplay Collection 1: 6 games including Earthworm Jim, Clayfighter, Boogerman, Battle Chess.
  • Interplay Collection 2: 6 games including Earthworm Jim 2, Clayfighter 2, Claymates.
  • Mega Cat Collection 1: 10 games, which are all games made in recent years for older platforms. Includes Coffee Crisis, Log Jammers, Old Towers, Justice Duel
  • Namco Museum Collection 1: 11 games, including console versions of Pac-Man, Galaxian, Dig-Dig, Mappy and Xevious.
  • Namco Museum Collection 2: 11 games, including console versions of Pac-Attack, Galaga, Dig-Dig 2, Splatterhouse 2 and 3.
  • Piko Interactive Collection 1: 20 games including Brave Battle Saga, Switchblade, Way of the Exploding Fist, The Humans.
  • Technos Collection 1: 8 games including Double Dragon 1 & 2, Renegade, Super Dodge Ball, Renegade

Upcoming carts​

  • Xeno Crisis & Tanglewood: two recent games, a shooter and a platform.
  • The Oliver Twins Collection: 11 games including Treasure Island Dizzy, Fantastic Dizzy, Panic Dizzy, Wonderland Dizzy, Mystery World Dizzy, BMX Simulator Super Robin Hood
  • Atari Lynx Collection 1: 17 games including Scrapyard Dog, Basketbrawl, Super Asteroids, Missile Command, Awesome Golf (more info)
  • Atari Lynx Collection 2: 8 games including California Games, Chips Challenge, Checkered Flag, Blue Lightning. (More info)


Well, I can dream can’t I?

  • Intellivision Collection
  • Taito arcade collection (Bubble Bobble, Puzzle Bobble, Rainbow Islands, Space Invaders etc)
  • Team 17 Collection (Worms, Alien Breed Trilogy, Project X, Qwak, Super Frog etc)
  • Bitmap Brothers Collection (Speedball, Speedball 2, Xenon 2, Cadaver, Chaos Engine etc)
  • Sensible Software Collection (SWOS, Cannon Fodder, Wizball, Wizkid, Mega-lo-Mania)
  • 8-Bit Microcomputer Collection (perhaps 50 games including Head over Heels, Manic Miner, Trash Man, IK+, Dropzone etc and the ability to switch between the Atari 800/C65/Amstrad/Spectrum versions at will!)
  • Unlikely, but I’d really love a Commodore Plus/4 collection!

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