After a year of waiting, I finally have an Analogue Pocket. 2022 continues to be a handheld year for me, and adding the Pocket gives me more options. But, after spending a couple of weeks with the unit, I’m not having the attachment I thought I would. Yes, it’s a beautiful piece of hardware. However, I feel as though I could have skipped out on it and not felt like I was missing out.

A collage of different Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, taken from an Analogue Pocket

Such a nice-looking package

When it arrived, I was surprised at how minimal the packaging was. I didn’t get any accessories or adaptors, just opting for the Pocket on its own. Outside the company logo and the word “Pocket” on the front, the only other thing is the contents sticker. In truth, I kind of wish it wasn’t there since it takes away from the minimalist approach the company is probably trying to convey.

I was a bit surprised at the Pocket’s size. Since I can only compare it to the Game Boy Advance, I don’t see how much smaller or larger it is than the original Game Boy. My faint memory of the Game Boy Color, makes me think it’s about the same size as that one. The inputs feel good but the star of the show is its screen. Not only is it huge, but it’s also gorgeous.

That’s probably the best feature of the Pocket. It’s crisp, and the games look fantastic on it. I’ve been playing a bit of everything on it. I can’t believe how good some of these 30-year-old games look. Furthermore, I’ve spent a good chunk of 2022 playing games on a Steam Deck, Switch OLED, and even a Pixel 6A phone, and this is probably my favorite of the bunch. The modified GBA with a backlit screen that I have is no match.

It’s far from perfect, though

While I love the screen, I’m not enjoying the form factor. Considering how most handhelds incorporate the controller hand position (meaning, the screen is in the middle with the controls on either side of it), I wish the Pocket incorporated that style over the OG Game Boy’s look. Although their placements aren’t unnatural, I just don’t like how the Left and Right buttons are behind the screen. Meaning, they are also right beside the cartridge slot.

Which is another problem I have. The cartridge slot doesn’t securely protect games, especially Game Boy games. On multiple occasions, I’ve accidentally caused cartridges to get dislodged, ruining my playtime. I think they probably should have added better “security” measures to prevent someone from doing what I did.

Another issue I have is that even with the beautiful screen, this still feels overpriced for what you get. I waited a year and the wait doesn’t feel justified. Ignoring Analogue’s poor communication regarding updates, the hype they earned last year just went away. Between me ordering the Pocket and finally getting it, I was enjoying playing Game Boy Advance games on a modified backlit unit. Yes, the screen isn’t as vibrant, but it still served me well throughout 2022. I spent about $100 less and got my money’s worth.

A collage of different Game Boy Advance games, taken from an Analogue Pocket

The other stuff

With no Game Gear, TurboGrafx-16, Neo Geo Pocket Color, or Atari Lynx cartridges to my name, I have no reason to buy the available adaptors to increase the number of games I can play on the Pocket. That’s an additional $100+. Unless you already have the games, it doesn’t make sense for most people. Not to mention, you’ll probably still have to wait until mid-to-late 2023 to get your hands on those.

I have been reading up on some under-the-hood stuff you can do with the Pocket. Primarily, the ability to install emulators to play additional games, including those from the SNES and Sega Genesis console families. It sounds pretty easy to set up, so it’s something I might consider doing soon. I don’t have any games to take advantage of this ability, but it’s still something I’d like to see if I can properly do.

There are a few applications on the Pocket, but they aren’t user-friendly. The first is Nanoloop 2, which allows you to create music with the Pocket. The other is GB Studio. That one is meant to be a game creator. Both require you to go online to learn more, and I didn’t find the documentation that helpful. I do want to learn more about openFPGA. I’m not sure that I’d develop my own game, but trying out other people’s projects could be fun.

But that’s about it. There isn’t much more to say about the Pocket. Battery life is decent. I like the fact that you can take screenshots, except they are pretty small and don’t translate well on the web. I put the ones I took and shared them here. But, I had to turn them into collages because I couldn’t just include single shots.

Not sure if I’d recommend the Pocket

For most people, I wouldn’t recommend buying an Analogue Pocket. I have strong memories of playing handheld games, and I have a decent collection. That helps me swallow the high price tag I paid. Honestly, if you don’t have the collection already available, there is no reason to buy one and have to wait anywhere between 6-18 months to get it. At the same time, if you want to save money, I recommend going on eBay and looking for modified GBA units with backlit screens.