The original Evercade was created in 2020, and relaunched the hype for cartridge based handhelds, allowing those that miss reading manuals, trading games with friends and blowing cartridges a chance to fall in love with a new product.
New handheld emulators are launched almost every week, but handhelds like this come less often than I would like.
It revisits the magical moments that some of us were lucky enough to experience from the 90’s and gives new gamers and old gamers the chance to revisit this ever distant memory.
This isn’t a console for emulation fans, nor modern gamers it’s a handheld dedicate to those that love retro game collecting.
The Evercade EXP takes everything that was great from the previous handheld, and makes it even better.
Many of the flaws that were mentioned in our previous review have been eradicated, and the Evercade EXP now feels like a high quality handheld that hasn’t cut corners on the build quality.
Like always the Evercade has visually pleasing packaging, adding to the overall quality of the product experience and grabbing attention when its on shop shelves.
Once you pull the Evercade EXP out of the box you will be greeted with a long, wide yet slim device with a very unique button layout.
We received the White edition, which is the most common and although I love the colour it does have a tendency to show dirt and grim, so I had to make sure I kept it clean every week or so.
Table of Contents
Product Design & Build Quality
The Game Library
The Gaming Experience
Product Design & Build Quality
Immediately I was impressed with the build quality upgrade they have made to this device. It feels much sturdier in the hand, little rattling of the internals, the matte faceplate feels incredibly modern and the back has a textured feel to it which is perfect for hiding bumps and scratches.
The front is certainly unique, if you look closely you’ll see two sets of A and B buttons, this is useful because the Evercade EXP can play TATE games using a vertical mode, a great feature that no other handheld I know of uses.
The DPAD has a circular, bouncy motion to it, and feels oversized in a way, but that makes it more enjoyable to play even if it means there is more motion in your left thumb. It works well, and adds a hint of characteristics to the device which many other DPAD’s do not.
The screen is unfortunately nothing to shout about.
Firstly the large bezels like this are a little outdated and make a device launched in 2022, look like something that is 20 years old.
Secondly, it doesn’t have a HD resolution, coming in at 800 x 480, which isn’t a major problem as most of the games are native to low resolutions, but the ability to scale up to HD would have been nice.
Then finally, I noticed some minor issues with the screen. One is that it doesn’t sit flush with the tempered glass screen, creating some distance inside which again feels a little outdated. Two, I also found myself wanting the screen to be brighter when playing in the day.
And finally three, in the top left hand corner of my screen I notice flickering, and pixelated artefacts as if the screen when the console is charging. As if this is causing some visual interference somehow?
This is barely noticeable in game, but quite obvious when in the menus.
On the right you’ll find your nicely sized action buttons placed in a small bowl, these are soft and have a quiet click to them, whereas the menu button below that is incredibly clicky, loud in fact and sits very close to the rubber pads underneath.
The start/select buttons also feel completely different, making all of the buttons feel different in one way or another.
One of my favourite features of the Evercade EXP and as you know from our previous review of the RG505, it can make or break a handheld, and that’s the quality of the shoulder buttons.
These remind me of the Retroid Pocket 3+ are incredibly soft and very nice to hold, giving you nice grip and superb comfortability.
However, my partner did comment on how loud the shoulder buttons are, so if you do like to play your handheld on the sofa next to someone take that into consideration, because these buttons are very loud.
Between the shoulder buttons you will find your mini-HDMI out, your cartridge slot and your power on/off button.
The cartridge slot feels much better, our previous handheld had a sticky, tight movement to it whereas this Evercade EXP is a little softer but it’s still no Gameboy cartridge level of nostalgic sound.
On the bottom there’s a turbo button, a headphone jack, a uSB-C port for charging a LED indicator and volume buttons.
I couldn’t seem to mute the Evercade EXP, it would lower it to almost unnoticeable levels, but when I stick my ear to the speaker I can still hear some sound coming from it, which is slightly annoying but can likely be fixed with a future update over WiFi.
Admittedly there are some minor issues with the build quality and product design but I can’t ignore how good this feels in the hand.
It’s a genuine pleasure to play on for long periods of time and the team have made great iterations from the past Evercade.
They should be really proud, often handheld manufacturers take one step forward and two steps back, but in Evercades’ case, there’s no steps back.
The Game Library
As mentioned previously in this review, the Evercade EXP plays cartridges only, and not just any cartridges, exclusively their own.
The great thing about this is that they feature boxes, manuals and cartridges allowing you to collect them just like you did back in the day.
They have a wide number of cartridges to choose from, featuring close to 300 different retro games from developers that have chosen to partner with them.
For example there’s ATARI games, Earth Worm Jim, Pacman, Millipede, Burger Time and a whole lot more, you can view their full cartridge list on their website.
It’s a great selection and you’ll lose hours upon hours across their library. Yes, there’s plenty of retro games missing such as Nintendo and SEGA games, but getting the licences for these games are near impossible, so Evercade are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Do I think the minimal library holds the console back from being incredible? I would be lying if i said no, as I can think of thousands of retro games that i want on here, but I know for a fact Evercade are trying their hardest to release as many new cartridges and games as possible.
Cartridges vary in price but range from £13 to £20, so it does have the ability to get very expensive if you add a few cartridges on top of the £129 console price, so do take that into consideration when buying one.
The Gaming Experience
Let’s start with the menu. Just like the Evercade Versus the main menu is incredibly clean and shows you three sections.
The first being the loaded cartridge, featuring your game’s artwork on the main page, allowing you to search, sort and play. When you press the artwork it will give you even more detail about the game, when it was released, the description and whether or not you want to load your last save state.
Secondly the next menu shows you the pre-loaded games featured on the Evercade EXP, and because Capcom have teamed up with Evercade to showcase their games it has 18 Capcom games built in for example 1942, Bionic Commando, Breath of Fire, Mega Man and Street Fighter II.
This cements my previous statement that Evercade are doing everything they can to increase the quality of their games library and these Capcom games are a very welcome addition.
Then finally the last tab on the main menu is settings, here you can change the overall theme, connect to Wifi, change aspect ratios, and languages.
Once you’re in a game you’ll notice flawless gameplay. This is because the console is emulating RAW official ROM’s from the developers themselves allowing silk smooth frame rates, impeccable audio quality and zero crashes (from our testing).
Every game runs as it should, and combining perfect game quality with a very comfortable handheld is what makes this an absolute pleasure to play on, especially when you pick up from a save state made weeks ago.
Most games play in a 4:3 aspect ratio, so most of the time the whole screen is never in use, but that’s where the magic of TATE games comes into play and uses all of the screen real estate, alongside the menus too.
The Evercade EXP is a great handheld targeted at a very niche retro gaming audience.
Does it compete with handheld emulators? Of course, there’s handheld emulators out there for $150 that can emulate the best Playstation 2 games, but this is aimed at those that want to play official games, insert cartridges, collect boxes and read the manuals like the good old days.
This brings back retro gaming in an incredibly authentic way. It has character, charm, precision and comfort all wrapped up into a loveable portable gaming device.
It’s not perfect, there’s still areas of the device that need trimming and obvious games that would take this console to another level, but for now, I have enjoyed my experience with the Evercade EXP, and it’s a handheld i’ll keep going back to for when I want to experience the nostalgic, simple gaming experience of the past.