Wasn’t the Game Boy great? The Nes was incredibly hot when the Game Boy launched and everyone was itching to take their Nes games anywhere they went. Nintendo knew how to capitalize on this meaning that most Nes games had some portable version for the Game Boy whether it was a direct port or another game in the series.
You know what wasn’t great though? The screen. I love the Game Boy and it holds a special place in my heart, but if we are being honest the screen is kind of rough.
With the greenish grey hue, slight blurriness, and lack of back lighting it can be kind of hard to play today. I remember being on many a roadtrip and trying to play by each passing streetlight. Of course other models like the Pocket and Color improved this, but still no light…
Enter the Hyperkin Smart Boy
The Smart Boy is an accessory for your Android smartphone, released in August 2017,that allows you to play your original Game Boy and Game Color cartridges using your phone as a screen.
This kills the whole screen problem entirely!
The Smart Boy is designed to be used with Android based Usb Type C devices, so pretty much phones from the last year or two should work. This does mean that you cannot use the Smart boy with Iphones. Whether it be an Iphone 6 or the new Iphone 8, the Hyperkin Smart boy just is not compatible.
I personally ran into a problem since I have the Samsung Note 5. You would think since the Smart boy is an accessory tailored for Samsung that this would work, but turns out that I have a micro usb port and could not use the retail release, which was quite depressing since It was a birthday gift from my wife and she was incredibly excited about it.
Basically Hyperkin intends you to use the newest models of Galaxy phones the S8 and now the Note 8 also. There is a work around however. There is also a Hyperkin Smart Boy development kit available that comes with a micro usb port on the device instead and allows a magnitude of other phones for use, including my Note 5. The development kit is more expensive unfortunately but does function quite well for even the least of the technologically inclined.
Since I have experience with the development kit, Ill be basing my review on that model and not the retail release.
Getting into the features, the Smart Boy appears to be a pretty close copy of the Game Boy sans screen. The A/B and D pad all feel very close to the original console, the start/select buttons however are plastic (may be different for retail) on my unit as opposed to rubber but its not a huge deal. The dev kit also has small L/R shoulder buttons that I believe had been removed from the retail release as Gba compatibility was planned.
There is a game slot on the back to insert your original cartridges, both Game Boy and Game Boy Color will games work in the Hyperkin Smart Boy.
How does it work?
There is a bit of setup to be completely honest, but otherwise it works quite well actually.
- Download the Smart Boy companion app to your phone.
- Download MyOldboy emulator app to your phone.
- Load the Smart Boy companion and insert your phone into the Smart Boy. It widens to accommodate the size of the phone.
- Insert your game and wait for the Smart Boy to load the rom info.
- Load the Myoldboy app and select the game.
Once the game loads you can play in HD glory as long as your phone battery lasts.
Now lets get into the cons. The Smart Boy is a great unit like most of Hyperkin’s stuff (see our review on the Retron 5 and Supaboy S here) but it does have some flaws. My main one being that it can be a bit…clunky.
Maybe it is just because mine is the development kit, but there were some issues with the flow of loading games. Sometimes it would take multiple attempts to get a game to read, even up to the point of closing and reopening the companion app. Eventually all of my games besides 1 worked, but I will just write that off to it just being a bad cart. It was a very common game however, Super Mario Land to be exact, so buyer beware on that one.
The problem is every time I loaded the app there was a special code to input to allow communication between the two devices, this problem may not be present in the retail version.
Lastly, do not remove the game cartridge while playing! You will get an error message to prevent piracy and will not be able to play again until the game is reinserted
Those are all the problems I could really come up with though to be honest, short of the retail release not being an option for me.
So is the Hyperkin Smart Boy worth it?
Really just depends how into the idea of it you are. Sliding your original games in and playing on your phone is quite cool, and when when you get it working then it really does play excellent. For the price it really isn’t that bad either at around 50-60 dollars. Many would argue that you could just as easily get a Gba Sp for that and pretty much do the same, but it just isn’t as cool. The “wow” factor is just missing, there is no sizzle.
So personally yes, if you love Game Boy and want an innovative new way to play your games then pick up a Smart Boy. At the very least it should hold you over while you sit in wait hoping for the inevitable Game Boy Classic Edition…