Ploylab contacted me a while ago stating that they were soon to be selling a new product and asked me whether or not I would be interested in writing an article for it.
As you know, Ploylab have sponsored a few of my reviews, but in no way does that change my opinion of a product, and the same is going to be the same with this new one, the K-Play made by a company called Keku.
So what is the K-Play, I hear you ask? Well, the premise is this: It will play not only retro games but also Android ones, as well as streaming apps including YouTube and Netflix. In fact, the K-Play can do so much more than what the Pandora Box can do, which I think many will compare it towards.
The first thing you will notice when you pick up the box before even opening it is just how heavy it is, considering it is all made of a strong plastic. Open the box and you are greeted to a multitude of cables, including HDMI, power adaptor, USB cable, USB C to USB (also a USB C convertor adaptor), wireless mouse and 3 spare buttons.
Very similar to the Pandora Box, you get everything that you need to get going. I’m unsure why they give you a wireless mouse though, but hey, it’s included, so don’t complain.
I promised myself I would not mention Pandora Box in this article, but I’m sorry, it’s just too difficult to not compare the two. They have similar styles when it comes to the design, as well as the buttons and sticks, which are commonplace when looking at this type of product.
As you can see in the pictures provided, it is designed for use with one or two players. You have the usual six-button setup, as well as the start buttons for each one, and not forgetting the two sticks. I want to get this out there straightaway, do not expect Sanwa clones, you will be greatly disappointed if you do. Whilst they all feel okay to the touch, they do not come close to the quality of buttons that come as standard on most Pandora Boxes, let alone Sanwa buttons.
The buttons are not very clicky when you press them, and the sticks, whilst functional, have a sort of flimsy feel to them, though they do have a click sound to them when moved. That’s not to say that the sticks or buttons are poor quality, as they are not. But you will notice a great difference between using these if you have ever used a Pandora Box.
Design-wise, it’s quite minimalistic compared to the bright manga designs that you find on the Pandora Box. You get a clean white case with yellow images of planets. Some may dislike this and prefer a more ‘in your face style’, but to be honest, it’s nice to see a company move away from that a little. Though I did think at first that this was a gaming machine aimed more at children than adults. But the K-Play is aimed more at families and the fun they can have together, so I totally understand the design route they have gone with.
On the back you won’t be surprised to find similar ports that you would find on a Pandora Box. This includes HDMI out, DC 5V USB C, USB, audio out, pause button and reset button, as well as a silver power button (which lights up blue). You also get a micro SD card slot, which comes with a 16GB card included.
Looking underneath the K-Play, you will notice part of the unique selling points, which set it away from the standard Pandora Box.
First of all, you will notice two lock switches; release them and the K-Play can be split into two, allowing two people to have their own K-Play, for simultaneous play.
You can easily connect the included shoulder base into the grooves and lock it into place. It’s a pretty good idea and actually well implemented.
Whilst you can get some Pandora Boxes that come with two controller bases, I’ve not seen many with this design or ease. How many people would play like this, I’m unsure of, but this links into the next unique feature.
The K-Play can be connected as a controller to a PS4, Xbox One, PC, and the Nintendo Switch; however, both the Xbox One and Switch connections are currently unavailable. The company behind the K-Play have promised frequent updates, so hopefully this may change over time.
There is a neat cable storage system that you can use to keep everything nice and neat if you are connected to a console, which is another nice feature.
Power the K-Play on and you are greeted with a blue screen showing ‘the future is unlimited’, relaying that this can do more than just play games. You are then greeted to a man and child playing video games together. I’m really unsure why Keku chose this image, which you end up seeing regularly in-between resets, as they aren’t even playing with the K-Play…..bizarre!!
Once at the home screen, you are greeted with a number of tiles showing different apps already installed on the system. This also includes a number of retro games, around 450 in total. The great feature on the K-Play is that you are not just stuck with playing retro games, unlike the Pandora Box. You can access the Play Store and download Android games and apps. This really does open up the versatility of the K-Play as you have the luxury of choosing current or retro gaming.
Not only that, but you can also watch Netflix and other streaming sites, such as YouTube. I can reassure everyone that when watching the streaming services, the image quality was excellent with full 2K support, and I was hard-pressed to see the difference when watching a 4K video on YouTube.
I’ve already mentioned that the streaming apps work fine; however, when it came to gaming, it’s not as straightforward, I’m afraid.
You have the option of playing your old retro games or Android games, so I want to look at each option and explore how the K-Play handles them.
First off are the Android games. The games that come with the K-play are a mixture of basic driving games, puzzle games, and some others, including a Star Wars game.
What I found was that most of these games were not suited to be played on this type of arcade machine. Most of them even displayed controller settings, which were not mapped well to the K-Play. Button positions were very awkward, as well as the stick not being responsive enough, particularly for driving games, etc.
I also found that some games experienced lag between me pressing the buttons or moving the stick before that translated to the onscreen action. This was only slight lag most of the time, but even a small amount of bad response time is going to impact on your enjoyment.
Age of Zombies was a perfect example of the many frustrations that I found when attempting to play Android games. The button mapping was all over the place, especially as the buttons are used for firing up, down, left and right. The stick is used for movement, but when firing the button placements don’t even make sense, often leading to you forgetting which buttons fire up or to the right. When enthralled in a game, it is way too easy to forget which button does which action.
I also found that when I had finished playing an Android game, there was no way to go back to the main home screen as for some reason the return button on the back of the console only worked with retro gaming. This meant having to switch off the machine altogether and sit through the boot-up screen, which becomes very tedious.
I really don’t think Android games are the best use for this console, at least not at the moment. Hopefully, Keku will do some future updates to solve the lag issue and also to allow you to remap the controls, but as it stands, you will find more frustration than enjoyment when playing Android games.
When it came to retro gaming, it was also a mixed bag. I found the resolution of some games to be blurry, but this may have been down to playing the console on a 55-inch 4K television, bearing in mind that most games do look better on a smaller screen.
The biggest issue I found was, again, with the response time between moving the stick and the onscreen action taking place. It was more noticeable in playing 1942 where you really do need to be quite reactive and quick to respond. I died multiple times purely because the response time was not quick enough.
Though when playing Aliens vs Predator, I had no issues at all, and it played quite well. I’m really hoping this is an issue that can be resolved through a firmware update to the K-Play, and to be honest, Keku should have made sure that these types of issues were resolved before bringing the product to market.
Even playing when Mario Kart, it proved too difficult to control, and I lost interest within a few minutes. I’m not going to say that you will have this issue with every game that you try as there are over 400 games built into the K-Play, and I only tried a very small fraction of these.
I also had issues with the Happy Chick app as it kept stating that I was not connected to the internet, even though I was. It failed to download any games when I tried. This being another issue, is it because the app requires updating, or is the version of Android they are using a lower one? Unfortunately, specs on the K-Play are hard to find.
I can totally see what Keku are trying to do with the K-Play, and I take my hat off to them for attempting to bring something new to the market, especially when you see the large numbers of Pandora Boxes out there. But as it stands, it still needs a fair bit of work done to it before it is going to take a chunk of the retro and Android gaming market.
It is of decent build quality and looks okay in the design department, but it’s just lacking something that would make you want to invest time in this. Fingers crossed that Keku listen to the criticisms made and find a way to iron out the issues. If they do, then we may be looking at the next Pandora Box for gaming.