The Arduino-based Creoqode 2048 is a chunky handheld that you build and programme yourself – it’s exciting, but a little expensive too.
Arduino-based game programming
High-quality materials throughout
A little expensive
Bigger than most handhelds
Buttons could be better
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The Creoqode 2048 is a unique bit of kit is an exciting handheld games console that can help people learn to code by programming simple games. It’s a device that you build yourself, and the name comes from the number of RGB LEDs that are used to form the 64 x 32 resolution screen.
The Creoqode 2048 costs $246 (about £189, AU$312), and it emerged from a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2016 that raised more than £20,000 for the London-based company.
The Creoqode arrives in a smart box, with all of its components ready to go and the required tools included – plus it requires no soldering.
The Mini Mega Development Board and rechargable battery attach using small screws to a couple of clear plastic mounts, and these are secured to the rear of the front panel using some chunky risers.
Color-coded cables are used to ground the 2048’s six buttons and then connect each of those buttons to numbered jumpers on the Development Board, and similar cables also hook up the battery and screen to the small black PCB that sits at the heart of this machine.
The battery pack uses a couple of USB ports to hook up to the rest of the hardware, and a chunkier plug attaches the screen to the development board. A plastic rear panel attaches to more risers, although the sides of the system are left open.
It’s fiddly work, especially if you’ve got chunky fingers and when you’re threading wires into the buttons, but Creoqode includes a comprehensive instruction booklet – and those steps are reproduced in greater detail on the website. It took about ninety minutes for us to build the device, although we were moving slowly to try and avoid any mistakes.
Once the system is put together, a tiny on/off button can be used to test the machine. It comes with one game pre-loaded, and a successful boot will see this simple title appear. It’s called Great Escape and is a simple side-scroller that tasks you with shooting aliens, and it gives a flavour of what you should expect from the 2048.
The device, once it’s built, looks like a huge PSP or a bigger Game Gear, albeit with sharper edges and open sides, so it’s only natural to handle the 2048 delicately. The buttons are near to the edges, which helps make the 2048 more comfortable, although younger users may still find its sheer size a little tricky to navigate – it’s 294mm wide and 34mm thick.
It’s a far cry from other Arduino-based handhelds that are making waves. The MakerBuino only costs $51 (about £39, AU$64), but it requires soldering to get its tiny development board working, and it uses a tiny black-and-white screen that looks dated next to the large, colourful Creoqode.
There are four buttons on one side of the device and two on the opposite side of the screen, but they’re only middling. They don’t require a full depression to register, which is a relief, but they still push down too far – and they’re not fast enough. Games coded using this device may rely on fast, twitchy movement, so it’s a little disappointing that the inputs feel so clunky.
The 2048 has two ports: on top of the device is a mini-USB cable for connecting to a PC, while the bottom has a micro-USB connector for charging, which is handy. Both cables are included in the box, although neither are particularly long.
The Mini Mega Development Board looks like an Arduino and bears the “Arduino at Heart” logo, so anyone familiar with this technology should be right at home here.
Under the hood, though, the Creoqode’s Development Board board is actually a clone of the Mega2560 Pro Mini, which is another Arduino board that offers ample features while reducing its physical size, so it makes sense to include its smaller design in a device like the 2048.
It also makes sense to stay within the Arduino system because it means that users can buy and add third-party components to the 2048 in order to increase its functionality – including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modules, speakers, thermometers and other sensors. That’s great, but some larger modules may have trouble fitting into the 2048’s tight confines.
Custom back panels and leather carry bags are also available, with prices at $38 (about £29, AU$48)and $77 (about £59, AU$97) respectively.
Games are coded in the Arduino IDE, and can be shared on Creoqode’s Qode Share website – a tool for uploading your own games, downloading other titles, and viewing tips and tutorials.
Creoqode’s tutorials help, and the firm does ample work to help make coding easier. Much of the code required can be copied and pasted to the Arduino IDE rather than laboriously typed in, and the tutorials provide plenty of basic info before throwing you in to the deep end of game coding.
More tutorials are provided for individual games, but you can just copy and paste the code if you’d like – so the 2048 is ideal if you want to go line-by-line, but also accessible if you want to install a game, see it in action, and then dive into the programming to figure out its inner workings.
Four games and animations currently have tutorials and code available to download on the Qode Share database, with five more of these internal projects listed as Coming Soon – the firm says that they’ll be ready by the end of August.
Creoqode also says that users can upload their own games for others to download, but this will only happen as people buy and use the 2048. Hopefully that happens soon, because the library is pretty bare right now – while the MakerBuino offers about fifty games.
The Creoqode 2048 arrives with all of the parts and tools required, and the clear instructions mean it’s relatively simple to put together, even if some of the assembly is a bit fiddly.
Its compatibility with existing Arduino software means it’s pretty easy to start coding, too, and Creoqode’s tutorials are easy to follow.
The large, colorful screen and solid build make this a tempting bit of hardware, and the rechargable battery makes it more convenient to use.
The stiff buttons aren’t the most comfortable, and the size of this unit could put off kids who are interested in coding.
It’s hardly cheap, too - $246 (about £189, AU$312) for the entire unit.
And then there’s also the sheer patience required for programming. That’s fine if you have an interest in building your own games and applications, but it’s certainly going to be a barrier to entry for some potential users.
The Creoqode 2048 is an expensive bit of kit, so you’ve really got to be committed to make the investment worthwhile – but it’s a high-quality unit, too.
It’s fun to build, it’s sturdy in use, and its Arduino compatibility means programming is relatively straightforward. This is a great idea for anyone with an interest in programming and creating games.
Mike has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has written for most of the UK’s big technology titles alongside numerous global outlets. He loves PCs, laptops and any new hardware, and covers everything from the latest business trends to high-end gaming gear.