I Got my GP32, read on for 1st day impressions...
The day got off to a good start when the postie arrived with my GP32 in a nice silver special delivery bag at 8:00. I had just enough time to quickly try and install a few things before I had to leave for work.
First impressions of the hardware when opening the box were that the screen looked even bigger than I expected and that the joystick was similar to the NGPC (microswitched but with more travel) so far so good.
I didn't have any official software to try out so I thought I'd go straight for the C64 emulator and give the Divx player a go too. I've got an official game on the way from Lik-Sang which should be here Thursday so I'll post more on that later.
With the GP32 you need to do a few things before you can start running the emulators and homebrew software that's out there on the net. Step one is to create an account at the official English GamePark website, this is free and easy to do. Next you need to sign in to the site and download the software that is used to connect to register your GP32s unique serial code with GamePark, this again is pretty straight forward. Once you have the software downloaded you connect the GP32 to the PC and switch on, Windows should find the new device and ask for the drivers which you also download from the site. When you have the drivers loaded and the link software running you can start to install things onto a smartmedia card (not supplied, can use 16MB to 128MB cards)inserted into the GP32.
After formatting the SMC with the link software (which creates all the GP32 required folders) the first software you will need to install is what's called FreeLauncher, this is offical GP32 software from GamePark that is used to access almost all other home made/free software (the emulators etc.) Official software is run from the main bootup menu of the system without need to go through FreeLauncher.
For now I am using a 32MB SMC orginally from my digital camera. I quickly copied the C64 Emu (with an IK+ ROM), a Divx AVI and the Divx player software to the SMC and set off to work.
When I first ran the C64 Emu it was great to see that old familiar blue boot screen just waiting for a game to be loaded. The C64 is one of my all time favorite game systems so to have an (almost) fully functioning C64 in the palm of my hand with full screen res and the possibilty of playing all those old classics again was great!
I fired up IK+ and was amazed by the quality of the screen, it is not backlit but it is so much better than the original GBA. The screen res is 320x240 (the same as most PSX games), 3.5" in size diagonally and a lot less reflective than the GBA. It is easy to see the screen from most angles and the lack of a built in light of any kind really isn't an issue unless you want to play in the dark.
The feel of the unit itself is light but well built and comfortable with a nice amount of travel on the buttons and a microswitched stick.
Next up to try was the Divx player, the night previous I had re-encoded an mpeg clip from an episode of Top Gear. Using the GP32 format of 320x240 10fps and 22khz mp3 audio compressed with Divx 4.12 the original file reduced from 35.2MB to just 5.7MB for a 4:20 clip. The quality of the video was very impressive and definitely watchable, I will definitely be using it to watch full movies/TV episodes in future, a 128MB SMC should easily hold a full length film.
At work I made use of the CD that www.gbax.com include with all their GP32 systems, this contained all of the emulators released so far (except C64 which has only been available for a few days). Also on the CD were demo versions of Doom and Day of The Tentacles, these PC ports are very impressive to see in action at their original screen res and using the original PC graphics. Doom looks so superior on GP32 compared to GBA it really shows the difference in the capabilities. Day of The Tentacles runs on a port of the engine used by LucasArts for all their point and click adventures from Monkey Island 1/2, DOTT, The Dig, Indiana Jones, Sam & Max etc. if you have the original PC versions then you can simply copy the main data files onto a SMC along with the emulator (gpSCUMMvm) and start playing.
During the day I also tried several other games including a few more C64 titles, a demo of Pinball Dreams which is being ported officially and a demo of a new beat 'em up by a Korean company. As all software for the machine comes on SMC it allows the release of demos of full commercial games on the net, several of which are already available.
Another highlight was "Wind-Ups" a Windows style desktop interface to all the programs and files stored on the SMC. With Wind-Ups you can create icons on a desktop much like on a PC, it even has a "myGP32" icon which allows you to browse the contents of your card. Included with Wind-Ups are a dictionary/eBook reader/text editor and a contacts database. The desktop is completely customisable, you can choose icons and background images stored as .GIF files on the card (mine now has a pic of me and the GF
) and you can add icons for any program stored on your card for easy access.
Tonight I installed the PCEngine/TG-16 emulator which runs at full speed with sound (some emulators like the SNES ones aren't up to 100% speed and/or lack sound support). After a few goes on Outrun, R-Type and 1943 I knew I had made the right choice when I decided to get hold of a GP32.
Well after all that I hope you didn't fall asleep and maybe even considering purchasing one of these fine machines for yourself. I am very impressed by the amount of things this small piece of kit can do, I didn't even mention the built in MP3 player did I?
For anyone looking for something different or loves gadgets then I can't recommend it enough, sure it'll never have the backing the GBA has but look at what it DOES have and it's hard to resist. I really hope GamePark can sort out an official release for both USA and Europe and get this thing the recognition it deserves.
RadEd, GP32 owner.