Evercade Review: A Stylish Handheld That's New and Nostalgic at the Same Time

evercade new cropped hed
(Photo: Blaze Entertainment)

Evercade is a bit deceiving at first. While it might come across as just another retro video game handheld when seen on the shelf, Blaze Entertainment has actually developed a solid little device with a lot to love. Rather than have the games baked into the hardware or downloadable, it instead features a variety of physical cartridges that folks can swap in and out much like the Game Boys of old, and each offers a curated selection of titles from Bad Dudes to Galaxian that make them stand apart from the rest of the pack. If you’re looking for some serious retro gaming on the go, you could do far worse than grabbing an Evercade.

In terms of layout, the handheld has the usual assortment of buttons, including a D-pad, select, start, X, Y, A, and B in addition to the menu button, power, and volume controls. It also features a headphone jack, a mini HDMI port, and a mini USB port. And, of course, the big hole in the back where cartridges go.

Evercade features a lit 4.3” display that looks pretty good regardless of the game, though there are obviously significant graphical differences depending on what you’re playing. It never feels like the device’s fault, however, and every game I played looked solid. A single charge should last you about four hours and change, and it doesn’t appear to lose much in the way of power when left sitting around -- I left mine alone for three days or so, without charging it, and it still had around 75%.

evercade in hands
(Photo: Blaze Entertainment)

The heft of the device is also a nice weight, and while it’s clearly largely just a bunch of plastic bits, it doesn’t feel cheap to the touch. And this might just be me, but the way the shoulder buttons click in much the same way as a mechanical keyboard might is actually really satisfying, though I could see it being annoying for some folks.

The UI overlay for getting into games once you boot the thing up is incredibly sparse, which is fine, but it doesn’t exactly add to the presentation. Also, there’s seemingly no unified control scheme for the variety of games offered via these cartridges, so be prepared to fiddle around with your inputs to discover exactly what does what when you boot a game up. It’s not exactly shocking, but worth noting.

And actually playing the various games on the cartridges is easy enough. While all the usual commands and inputs work as expected, the menu overlay also offers up the one significant bell or whistle for the device: save states. Anyone familiar with emulators will be familiar with this feature, but for anyone that’s not, you can basically bookmark a spot in a game to return to at any point. These appear to be saved to the cartridges themselves, and every game I checked offered at least one slot. Because these retro games often are notorious for their difficulty, it’s nice to be able to quickly jump back to immediately before you accidentally fell down a hole to your doom.

evercade with cartridges
(Photo: Blaze Entertainment)

If there’s one major qualm I have with the handheld, it’s something that the folks behind it are already aware of: the way the cartridges actually fit into the device. There is extremely little wiggle room on these things, and putting one in or extracting one that was previously in use can take some doing as they feel absolutely wedged into place at times. According to the folks making the device, this is an issue that is resolved with the production models, but it’s still worth noting that the most trouble I ever encountered wasn’t within a game or trying to get the device to work as intended; it was in trying to swap out one cartridge for another in order to play Earthworm Jim 2.

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The other most-obvious problem with the Evercade is basically by design. Because it is a device specifically built to play retro games through cartridges, it’s by no means the cheapest way to play these games, and the little handheld will never really match the ability of PCs when it comes to emulating these titles. Even so, if you’re looking for retro games on the go, it’s by far the most solid product I’ve personally encountered and outshines the rest of the limited devices it will likely be stocked near.

The Evercade is now available wherever such things are sold. The Starter Pack, which includes a single cartridge, is $79.99, while the Premium Pack, which comes with three, retails for $99.99. Additional cartridges go for $19.99 and include between 6 and 20 games each. For those technically minded folks, the handheld console uses a 1.4ghz quad-core processor with a 480x272 resolution screen, according to the manufacturer, and includes a 2,000 mAH battery inside. A Premium Pack and launch cartridges were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of this review.

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