UPDATE: Since posting this review, the BittBoy folks have released new firmware that does allow you to play SNES and GBA games. Unfortunately I have not been able to test the device with the new firmware, so that functionality has not factored into my review.
So here’s an interesting one… The original BittBoy was a pocket-sized retro gaming handheld that came preloaded with 400 bootleg or pirated games. From all accounts, its external design/form factor was great, but the actual games it could play were just garbage. One could easily write it off as a cheap and bogus knockoff, hastily manufactured in China to sucker Game Boy fans into a nostalgia-fueled purchase, based squarely on the promise of a Nintendo software experience it could not actually deliver.
Then, at the dawn of 2019, a new BittBoy appeared…
Unlike their original effort, the new BittBoy features, according its website, “No games built-in. Supports Micro SD external, Save games, NES/GBC/GB, headphone.” It looks fair to assume that the first BittBoy was rushed out the door, because it seems the new model does a far better job at delivering on the original concept. Play your Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and even NES games wherever you’d like, with a crisp, backlit, LCD screen, a rechargeable battery, and even standard headphone jack support.
At first glance, the device is impressive. The colors, body shape, and overall design are clearly an homage to the original Game Boy—even including the speaker vents on the bottom right—though it is quite a bit smaller. Despite featuring a wider screen than the GB, the body of the BittBoy is actually scaled down to be smaller than even the Game Boy Pocket. It’s similar in dimensions to a deck of playing cards. It’s shockingly lightweight as well, as this were just a plastic shell with nothing inside.
The power switch is still on top (though it’s on the right side instead of the left) and there’s a micro SD card slot acting somewhat like an itsy-bitsy game cart slot. Both the contrast and volume rollers have been omitted from the sides, likewise the link cable port is gone. There’s a headphone jack on the bottom, as well as a micro USB port for charging the internal battery. And on the back, the cover for the battery compartment is a charmingly faithful facsimile of the original GB’s, though it contains a rechargeable lithium battery instead of four AA’s. (The cover is also extremely tough to open. If you need to get in there, I recommending using a flathead screwdriver instead of destroying your thumbnail.)
The classic D-pad, A, B, Start, and Select buttons are where you’d expect to find them (more or less). Two Turbo buttons have been added, as well as an “R” button directly under the screen for bringing up a menu. While the D-pad feels familiar, solidly chunky, and apparently the same size as the GB of old, the A, B, Start, and Select buttons are all considerably smaller.
Interestingly, the orientation of the B and A buttons has been shifted diagonally, making their positions more closely resemble the Y and B buttons of the SNES controller. While this might seem like a sacrilege at first, it’s actually a brilliant move. With the BittBoy’s diminutive footprint, the classic GB button orientation would likely have proven uncomfortable, especially during longer play sessions. Even with this change, it must be said, the control real estate is pretty tiny and still feels a bit cramped.
When you first turn on the BittBoy, it displays a “MIYOO Pocket” boot-up screen. If you haven’t inserted a micro SD card with your game roms yet, the BittBoy won’t load anything past this screen, just displaying the same static image until you turn it off. With roms on an SD card, however, the BittBoy will quickly load up its menu screen, which is divided into NES games, original Game Boy games, and Game Boy Color games. The menus are rather lame looking, but they’re certainly functional and easy to navigate.
When you find a game you’d like to play, just press the Start button to launch it.
The first thing you notice is that the BittBoy’s little speaker is super f#^king loud—why is the volume set to 11 by default?—so you’ll want to quickly tone it down. Instead of the old-school volume roller on the side, this device uses preset button combinations to make adjustments. Hold down the Select button and press A (probably multiple times) to turn the volume down. Select + B then turns the volume back up. Similarly holding Select and pressing the Turbo buttons will adjust screen brightness. For some reason, the BittBoy doesn’t seem to register these button combinations every time, you might need to give it a few tries to adjust the volume. Your eardrums will ache in the meantime.
All the games I played on the BittBoy ran quite smoothly, and I didn’t notice any frame rate or screen tear problems. That said, the emulation isn’t quite flawless. For example, I noticed that the music in Super Mario Bros. 3 plays too fast, as if the BittBoy is overclocked for NES games. There have also been a few times where it felt like not all of my inputs were registering—particularly the A button in a rigorous session of Tetris DX. Since I’m more familiar with the original GB Tetris, it was hard to tell what was my fault, what was the BittBoy’s fault, and what was simply how the GBC game plays.
Each game’s visuals are stretched horizontally by default to fill the BittBoy’s widescreen display. While I think this actually looks pretty good for most games, purists will probably want to change the image back to its original ratio. You can toggle through the display options in the BittBoy’s menu by pressing the R button while playing a game.
That R button menu is also where you can create and load save states. This is especially handy for games that used a password system, like Mega Man or Castlevania. Just save your progress before you turn off the device, and load it right back up the next time you play. Please note however, the BittBoy does not support native game saves, meaning you won’t be able to save or load files from a normal in-game menu. So you must use save states to record your progress on the BittBoy.
Speaking of things the BittBoy doesn’t support, there is no multiplayer functionality. Since there’s obviously no way to connect two or more BittBoys together—again, no link cable port—this handheld is for solo gaming only.
One other function of the BittBoy’s R button menu is to change the output mode from handheld to TV. It even comes with cables to connect the device to a TV. I honestly have no interest in that, so I didn’t test it out, sorry.
If the BittBoy is running very low on power, the power light to the left of the screen will begin to flash, indicating that the device will automatically power down soon. When I saw the flashing light, I just kept on playing Dr. Mario to see how long it would go. In the end, it didn’t instantly power down as expected. Instead, the screen brightness began to gradually turn down, getting dimmer and dimmer. Eventually the image faded away into nothingness and the sound cut out. ‘Twas a slow death.
Ok, so let’s sum up the BittBoy in three specific areas: price, ease of setup, and quality of experience.
At just 40 bucks ($39.99)—or 50 ($49.99) if you order it with the SD card you’ll need—the BittBoy is actually an incredible deal. That’s essentially the same price you’d be looking at for used Game Boy Pocket or Game Boy Color, and this offers far more modern conveniences. If you can get your hands on rom files for all the games in your collection, you’ll have a much easier time playing the lot of them with this device than you would on the original hardware.
Ease of Setup
Getting the BittBoy up and running is a breeze, as long as you have roms for your GB, GBC, and NES games already. Due to Nintendo’s absurdly aggressive litigious crusade against emulation of their games, it might be very difficult (and/or risky) to track down roms for your beloved Game Boy games of old. Assuming you have those roms files in your possession already though, it’s just matter of throwing all of them onto a micro SD card. You can put all files directly onto the card’s root directory, no need for folders.
One minor annoyance that comes with using a Mac computer to set up your SD card is that Macs tend to leave your external drive with incidental hidden files on it. When you plug your card into another device, it will have one nonfunctional duplicate file for every real file you’ve added. This is both annoying and cumbersome to scroll through. To avoid this headache, you’ll want to use app like CleanMyDrive 2 to remove the junk duplicates before putting the SD card in your device.
Quality of Experience
All in all, the BittBoy is legitimately cool. Sure, the controls are a little too small for normal adult hands, the menu interface looks kind of amateurish, and the plastic used in the body feels a tad bit cheap. I’m not sure I trust the buttons to function properly at all times (A and B especially), but it could be that I just need a bit more time to “break them in”, as it were.
Without a doubt, the screen is absolutely gorgeous! Plus it’s backlit, so every single game looks way better than it did on a real Game Boy. From my time testing the BittBoy, all games played quite well, whether from the NES, original Game Boy, or Game Boy Color. Sure, the emulation might not be 100% perfect, but it certainly gets the job done.
In fact, the games play so well on this device that it left me wishing we could play GBA and SNES roms too. (Although, if we’re being totally honest, it would exceedingly difficult to deliver a gameplay experience better than the GBA SP, forever the true king of handhelds.) Perhaps in their next venture, the BittBoy folks will try their hand a GB/GBC/NES/GBA/SNES portable. That would be sick!
So yeah, if you’re looking to revisit your Game Boy library—and you have all the necessary roms to do so—the BittBoy is solid choice.