What is the Wiz? Well, it obviously is a handheld console. Less obviously, it represents the fourth generation of handhelds by Korean manufacturer GamePark, and is an open and Linux-based console. Just like its predecessors (GP32 and the GP2X variants) being open means the Wiz is a platform everyone can program for, without paying any licensing fees whatsoever; it is thus ideal for enjoying freeware, indie and emulated retro games. Exactly the kind of games this very blog enjoys covering, though admittedly some high-profile commercial releases can at times be also tolerated. Might look nice on the Wiz too, though not much has been made available yet.
What's more, the Wiz seems to be based on some pretty powerful hardware. It's roughly the equivalent of a Sony PSP, though some argue the Wiz is actually the more powerful device. Besides, it even comes with a touch screen and its battery easily outlasts Sony's. I haven't really measured how long one charge will keep the thing running, but it must be more than 7-8 hours. Possibly less when overclocked, which reminds me that overclocking is another nifty feature of the thing, that -impressively- is easily accessible.
Built quality is better than I expected and definitely above the original DS in feel, though not on par with the more expensive mainstream consoles such as the latest PSPs or the DS Lite. The screen on the other hand is brilliant and reminiscent of the shining beauty that was the tiny Game Boy Micro one. The main buttons feel great, despite their awkward and not particularly comfortable d-pad like placement. The shoulder buttons and d-pad itself also work and feel fine, in a machine that sports an overall smart, good looking and practical design, where everything, from the slot of the SD card to the stylus and the built-in microphone are easily accessible.
Although the Wiz does come with some rudimentary apps (such as a decent video player, a clock and a voice recorder), we all know it's gaming that matters. Of course it's quite early in the console's lifetime, but from what I've already seen gaming is indeed its strong point. Especially when we're talking retro gaming, as most emulators I've tried worked brilliantly, despite being mostly in their very early versions.
Classic arcade machines, the ZX Spectrum, the Amiga, the Atari 2600, the Game Boy, the Neo Geo CD and the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis have all been played to death on my very own Wiz and I really can't find fault. Controls, sound and sights are simply perfect. I'd even dare say that the Wiz screen makes classic games look better and sharper than ever. And let's not forget, that this is the only handheld absolutely built for playing classic adventures via ScummVM. I ran, played and enjoyed Elvira, both Monkey Island games and Beneath a Steal Sky without the slightest problem.
Now, as commercial games haven't been released yet, all I managed to try apart from emulators were some pretty impressive freeware indie games, covering everything from abstract shmups, to rogue-likes, first person shooters and retro remakes or ports. And keep in mind that -as mentioned- the console is still young and devs have yet to come to grips with. Oh, and there are almost daily releases of new software and updated emulators.
So, to wrap this short review up: is the GP2X Wiz worth the modest asking price? If you are interested in indie and retro games, that's a definite yes. More mainstream gamers might have to wait a bit and see if the higher profile games released for it will be to their liking... As a console it's a great piece of hardware though.Related @ Gnome's Lair: