Exploring the OUYA’s Playcast Beta App

Last week, the $100 OUYA got a Playcast app for both LEGO Batman 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction. Sadly, the company didn’t have Northern Virginia servers at the time, so I was unable to check it out. Fortunately, I decided to give it another shot today and was amazed to see that they had one. It’s worth noting that this app does require a wired connection to your system, so if you’ve only got it hooked up with wi-fi, you won’t have any luck. Going with a corded connection gave me a better connection than I ever had with the OnLive – at least on a practical level. This could be aided by only two games being supported in Splinter Cell: Conviction and LEGO Batman 2, while OnLive supported a lot more, but even in beta form, it’s impressive.

We’ll start off with a look at Splinter Cell: Conviction – the higher-end game of the two by far. It’s got complex graphics, controls, and is a taxing game for a computer – let alone a streaming service. When I started, I expected this to be a bit like OnLive, where it’s kind of playable but not a way to really get through the entire game. Right from the getgo, it’s clear that Playcast is a step above Onlive on its best day. The video quality for the stream is pristine – whereas OnLive’s was heavily-pixellated most of the time. Here, you get some slight drops, but it usually results in things looking about as clear as something on the Wii U’s Gamepad. It’s clear, but you can tell it’s not HD-level. When things work perfectly, you really can’t tell the difference between playback here and on a console like the Xbox 360. In an impressive move, the OUYA’s button prompts are used here so it’s much easier to get acclimated to the controls if you’ve never played the game before.

Unlike a lot of Splinter Cells, this one is more action-oriented with some stealth in there to make things easier. The stealthy approach is far less risky, but harder. Having more action and guns available, with a greater risk for using them, means that it’s a bit more accessible for folks who suck at stealth games. As one of them, I found myself easing into the game with the guns, and then focusing on stealth whenever possible. In that sense, the guns are a bit like training wheels. The mix of fast and slow-paced gameplay means that major lag can be a killer and luckily, it’s not too bad here. While there is about half a second of lag, it’s not so bad that you’ll wind up dying too much due to it. If you play with a stealth approach, you’ll have more than enough time to still win – being trigger-happy can cause trouble though since you’ll have to be faster than enemies with stronger hardware to survive.

Still, for something streaming a game of this level to a $100 console, the performance is impressive. LEGO Batman 2 is far less taxing game, and has less of an issue with lag. There’s now about a quarter-second of lag, which isn’t perfect, but won’t cause you as many problems here. Visually, things look really good – but you can see flaws a bit easier than in Splinter Cell because the shiny LEGO designs look duller than they should to the eye.  The folks behind it are being proactive with problems, and on the OUYA Forum, asked folks with problems to send them as much info as possible and they’ll work to iron out problems. There isn’t a release date set in stone for the full app, but right now, both LEGO Batman 2 and Conviction can be played through in full at no charge to the players as a little thank you for folks testing the games out. If you’ve got an OUYA, definitely try these out – and be sure to check out the service at different times of day because the servers do seem a bit iffy. Still, for being in beta form, the overall performance is impressive.