Build Your Own Handheld Game Console With Makerbuino

Updated

There are plenty of kits that let you make your own robot, but how about putting together your own portable game console? Makerbuino is a Game Boy-style handheld that lets you play a variety of grayscale games on the go. However, the real pleasure is in the journey, not the destination.



For a starting price of 49 Euros (approximately $59), Makerbuino gives you a all the components you need to build the handset yourself, including a customized Arduino board, a fiberglass chassis, a rechargeable battery, an SD card with the OS and default games already installed, and plenty of wires and buttons.

Makerbuino Credit: Tom's GuideMakerbuino Credit: Tom's Guide

You can pay 10 Euros extra to buy the kind of tools you need to complete the build, including a soldering iron, needle-nose pliers and a screwdriver. There's also an Inventor's Kit version that comes with extra parts for experimentation, such as LED lights, a potentiometer and a breadboard.

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Albert Gajsak, who invented the Makerbuino and founded the CircuitMess company behind it, says that a typical build time is five to six hours. The company provides a variety of instructions on its website.

Credit: Tom's GuideCredit: Tom's Guide

Because its uses an Arduino board, and other common do-it-yourself electronic components, the Makerbuino is imminently hackable. The games are all written in Arduino language, which is a subset of C/C++, and the site provides some helpful tutorials on how to program your own titles.

The Makerbuino handheld is an impressive feat of engineering, but don't expect it to replace your Nintendo 3DS. The monochrome screen has a resolution of 84 x 84, and all of its games are 8-bit. The Arduino board itself has only 2 KB RAM.

Credit: Tom's GuideCredit: Tom's Guide

Despite its technical limitations, the Makerbuino can play some addictive Atari-style games, including titles that look and feel like Breakout, Asteroids, Tetris and Pole Position. During a demo at the CircuitMess CES 2018 booth, Gajsak showed me a game with a first-person perspective to demonstrate that the device can even support very basic 3D graphics.

I had the most fun, however, playing Pong with two players. Using a simple wire, you can connect two Makerbuinos together, so that each player sees the game from his or her own perspective.

Credit: Tom's GuideCredit: Tom's Guide

There's also an interesting story behind the Makerbuino. Gajsak started working on the project when he was only 16, and launched a successful Kickstarter for it last year. The crowd-funding project aimed for $10,000, and ultimately earned $100,000. Now, at age 19, he's running his own company.

The company is targeting slightly older children (ages 11 and up) and adult hobbyists. Whether you're an experienced maker or you've never worked with circuit boards or soldering irons before, the Makerbuino provides a great way to develop and sharpen your skills.