My Arcade BUBBLE BOBBLE Pocket Player And ROLLING THUNDER Micro Player Review: Great Aesthetics Marred By Lackluster Screens

Retro accessory and systems maker, My Arcade, has been producing retro-inspired multi-game systems for a number of years now, but the newer, fully licensed, replicas and products are what have drawn my attention to the company most. With a number of mini arcade units, dubbed Micro Players, already available, there is sure to be something that will attract your attention if you are in to retro games. My Arcade has released a slew of new products over the last few weeks, including a new Bubble Bobble handheld and Rolling Thunder mini arcade replica. My question is whether or not these units are worth a player's time and money. My Arcade was kind enough to send out one of each for us to test just that!

What’s In The Box

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We are going to be doing things a little bit different today by looking at 2 of My Arcade’s products. First up, we have the arcade style Micro Player of Rolling Thunder. This guy comes in a nice sized box that is covered in the official art of the game. The box is largely transparent plastic so you can see the Micro Player through it, and see even more cool artwork on the unit itself. On the front, we can see a holographic My Arcade Officially Licensed Playable badge. On the right side is a cool game synopsis that I think is a nice touch. On the back are a list of features of the Micro Player.

Next up, we have a Game Boy Advance-like Pocket Player featuring Bubble Bobble. A picture of Bub sits on the front with an image of the Pocket Player behind him that bears a similar color scheme. The Bubble Bobble logo is also on display, while another badge just below that, shows the Pocket Player comes with 2 additional titles built-in. Lifting the front flap gives us our first glance at the Pocket Player and a brief description of all three included games! The sides of the box feature the Bubble Bobble logo and a nice depiction of Bub and Bob. The back once again shows off the Pocket Player and some of its features.

Both products contain their respective players and a user guide to show basic operation. There is also a pamphlet showcasing My Arcade’s other products.

Aesthetics And Build Quality

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I really like the way both of these units look, especially the Micro Player! It looks like a perfect miniature arcade replica with great artwork on the sides, marquee, and controls. There is even a coin insert and return panel that functions as the unit's power switch! The controls on the front also look authentic to an arcade cabinet, except for being shrunk down to console size. In total there are 4 buttons and a D-Pad. A small arcade stick has been mounted to the D-Pad to give it more of that arcade feel. This stick is removable if you would prefer a traditional D-Pad.

On the back of the Micro Player is a battery compartment for 4 AA’s, and a Micro USB port to power the device. A single mono speaker can also be found just above. At the very top of the unit are some volume controls and a headphone jack. The bottom of the Micro Player features 2 rubber grips to keep the device from moving during use.

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The Pocket player, as mentioned, looks very reminiscent to a GBA. The front features a screen, D-Pad, 2 face buttons, and a Start and Reset button. There is also a single mono speaker here as well as the Bubble Bobble logo and a picture of Bub with some bubbles. The Bub-inspired color scheme also looks really nice! On top of the device, we have a power switch and volume buttons, along with a Micro USB port to power the device without batteries. The bottom features a headphone jack and a wrist strap.

On the back are 2 battery slots that hold 2 AAA batteries each. These slots also provide some ergonomic grip for when you are playing. A few stickers featuring the controls of Bubble Bobble Part 2 and Rainbow Islands can also be found here, along with an indented My Arcade logo. Both units are very lightweight but feel quite sturdy. I was honestly a little surprised by how solid they feel!

Gameplay

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Unfortunately, things for the My Arcade Micro Player and Pocket Player start to fall apart once you look past the cool exterior aesthetics. Both units feature a low-quality screen that have low viewing angles, making it hard to get a clean look at the action. This is an annoyance to be sure, but it isn’t the worst offender of these screens; no, the worst annoyance is the screen tearing. As the screen scrolls, you are met with numerous lines of tearing. The tearing is way more apparent in Rolling Thunder, thanks to its side-scrolling nature, than the same screen action of Bubble Bobble. Now, I don’t typically notice or care about some minor tearing so let that be a measure for how bad it was on these small screens.

Now let’s move on to the games themselves. Everything in the Bubble Bobble collection appears to be running perfectly. Speed feels right and there are no audio hitches, which are typical signs of crummy emulation. Bubble Bobble Part 2 even has a functional two-player mode, so you can pass the Pocket Player between two people for their respective turns.

The Rolling Thunder Micro Player, on the other hand, left me confused. The unit is designed to look like, and boasts numerous times about being, an arcade replica, but it uses the NES version of the game! Now, I can understand having an “insert coin” function must suck, but all this work for an authentic mini arcade experience just falls short with a NES game inside. The good news is that the game does at least run perfectly from what I could tell.

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Moving on to controls, we have another mixed bag. I found the Pocket Player to be enjoyable to play on, with responsive buttons and an okay D-Pad. The circular disk isn’t my favorite design, but it got the job done with enough accuracy to let me beat Bubble Bobble. Though, I am not a fan of the reset button being were select usually resides on a typical controller, as I have accidentally pressed it more than once.

Things on the Micro Player are a little more hit and miss. I loved the miniature arcade stick D-Pad, it felt good to use and I was able to move around as I wanted! The rest of the buttons, though, felt way stiffer than I would like. Each press felt like it took twice as long as it should, and while this was just a textile thing, the feel of your controls is an important aspect to the gameplay. It is also a stark contrast to how good the Pocket Player felt to play on.

What It Could Have Done Better

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Both the Pocket Player and Micro Player could use some refinements to become a go-to solution for retro gamers. The screens in particular need to be seriously considered for an upgrade. While Bubble Bobble was able to mostly get away with this low-quality screen, anything with scrolling and action is going to have a harder time. Improved viewing angles are also never a bad thing, and a better screen would also help get the colors of the games represented better. The next area of improvement is the Micro Player's controls. I am not sure why the buttons between the Pocket Player and Micro Player are different, but the Micro Player can definitely benefit from the Pocket Players buttons. A real D-Pad on the Pocket Player would also be a plus, making it almost perfect! Well, aside from the screen of course.

Verdict

I was really hoping for the best when it came to My Arcade’s Pocket and Micro Players. Both devices look fantastic and mostly feel great to play. I especially love the form factor and response found on the Pocket Player, it is so close to perfect for me! Sadly, both are held back by sub-quality screens that result in poor viewing angles and washed out colors. There is also that crazy amount of screen tearing. Due to the lacking screen quality, I can’t recommend either the Rolling Thunder Micro Player or Bubble Bobble Pocket Player for anyone actually looking to use the devices to play the games. Both devices, however, look great on a shelf and the quality found on the exteriors showcase very well.

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