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This working GameBoy phone case is the ultimate time and money waster
Yes, that’s a GameBoy case. A fully functioning GameBoy case, to be precise. Well, of sorts — it’s not an officially licensed Nintendo product.
In fact, I doubt the manufacturer has the rights to market such a close likeness of the iconic handheld game console, let alone use the name or sell the games. But that’s the current state of Chinese manufacturing, and it’s not like Nintendo is ever going to make something this awesome.
Read more: The ultimate guide to buying phone cases
The design perfectly encapsulates the classic GameBoy vibe, which initially lured me in. The kicker is a set of nostalgic games to give those idle thumbs something to do. If you’re after the ultimate retro look for your phone and accompanying time sink, well, this case is absolutely what you’re looking for. At least if you own a recent iPhone or Galaxy handset, as the range of supported models is very limited.
What’s it like to use?
This gaming bit is running on a Chinese game emulator, complete with some poorly translated game titles when selecting the English language option. Which you have to do on every restart.
It includes 36 built-in games with classic GameBoy titles like Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and Tetris.
It includes 36 built-in games in total; a handful of GameBoy classics, titles nabbed from other platforms, and some which I doubt ever saw commercial release for their sheer shoddiness. The list includes Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Tetris(a), Ice Climbers, “Boom Man,” and an assortment of more banal titles like Soccer, Pinball, and Chinese Chess. The selection might keep you occupied while waiting for a bus, but it’s hardly a GameBoy highlight reel.
The case features a soft D-pad and A/B buttons (they’re not solid plastic like the original), along with on/off, reset, start/pause, and sound keys. It can be charged up via micro-USB and has a little LED light to let you know when it’s charging.
It functions pretty well as a case too, in the sense that it’s hefty. I’m now more worried about breaking the console than I am about the phone. There are well-placed cutouts for usual things like the camera housing and USB-C port, and you can continue to stow the Galaxy S22 Ultra‘s stylus with the case on. The soft power button and volume rocker keys complete the design. It certainly looks and feels the part of a pretty rugged phone case.
Cheap manufacturing at its finest
Alright, with the good stuff out of the way, I do regret spending $37 on this epitome of crass consumerism (actually $74 — I bought two of them!). While the aesthetic draws you in, once it’s in your hand, it’s immediately obvious that it probably costs about $7 to make.
With no battery indicator, figuring out when you need to charge the thing is a game in and of itself.
For starters, the rubber buttons have popped out of their enclosure on numerous occasions. The speaker is crummy and distorted, the display is not centered properly, and it makes the already rather large Galaxy S22 Ultra more than a centimeter thicker. Not to mention that you lose wireless charging capabilities with the case on, and you have to charge it separately via a micro-USB port. It’s clearly too much to ask for a battery level indicator, though. The screen just dims and then goes black when the juice runs low, but the games keep running for a few minutes more. Figuring out when you need to charge the thing is a game in and of itself.
There are at least a couple of other things the manufacturer could have done to make this a better product. It’s wasted the opportunity to leverage reverse wireless charging, or at least a USB-C attachment to draw power from the phone. A microSD card slot to load up other games would have been awesome as well, rather than being stuck with the built-in library that you’ll tire of quite quickly. It’s really not a proper GameBoy experience without Metroid, Pokemon, or Zelda. Serious Nintendo fans would clearly be better off with an Android emulator.
This is certainly a case of form over function — I guess that’s what I should have expected anyway. Although it is still undeniably cool looking and warmingly nostalgic, it’s not a well-thought-out enough product to command a $37 purchase, never mind the supposed $74 RRP (it seems to be a perpetual “today only” discount). If that hasn’t put you off, though, you can buy the case at the button below.