Resurrected Entertainment

GP2X from Gamepark

September 12, 2007

GP2X HandheldFor of all, let me begin by saying the GP2X can be many things to many people. You may wish to use it for watching video using their DivX or MPEG4 player, or listen to music using the installed Ogg or MP3 player software, or even set up a web server using the installed version of Apache. However, I would suspect that most people purchased the device because it’s a cool new tech-toy or because they actually want to play games on it. The extra applications can be useful, but if you really wanted to listen to music on the go, why not get a device that is build specifically for this purpose, like an iPod or a clone? The PSP is also better at playing video, so why not just purchase one of those instead? I also don’t want to forget about the Linux crowd, since this is one of the reasons a co-worker of mine purchased the device, at least officially. He admitted to me later on that he really wanted to play Galaga and Space Invaders, though.

Of real interest to me, however, is the ease in which third-party software can be written for the device. As an example, there are a myriad of hardware emulators available for the GP2X. I’m not going to list all of them here, because you can just as easily visit Wikipedia and read about them. There is probably at least a partially functional emulator for whatever platform you’ve got in mind, and theirin lies the problem. Due to the sheer number of amateur programmers who produce free, semi-functional software, finding a program that actually works well is time consuming. One site which helps alleviate this problem is the GP2X Archive. The site is essentially a repository for Gamepark software which includes available titles for the GP32 platform as well as the GP2X. The repository isn’t what makes the site truly helpful, although having a central location for Gamepark related software does make things easier. It’s the various comments left by users and authors for a large number of projects hosted on the site. Not all of them are useful, and many of the comments could use a pass or two from a spelling/grammer filter, but I’m not complaining.

Before you can begin playing your favourite game, you need to find out which platform the game you have in mind actually runs on. If you don’t know that, then you need to do a bit of research first. I have spoken with people many times and most of them have similar reactions when I tell them about the GP2X: “Cool! Can you fire up Ms. Pac-Man?” The question I ask them in return is usually “Sure. Which one?” They usually look at me with a confused expression and ask “What do you mean?” The problem is they have an image in their mind, a game they had played from a long time ago. They haven’t considered that I don’t know what image they are seeing, since many games from the by-gone era of arcade games often ran on several different hardware platforms. Each of those games, although similar in title, usually played quite differently from one machine to the next. An excellent example of this is Pac-Man, which was a brilliant game on an arcade machine but wasn’t very much fun on the Atari 2600.

Once you have the name of the hardware platform in hand, you should visit the GP2X Archive or use the Google search engine to find an emulator that meets your needs. Many of the emulators available are less than perfect, but there are a few diamonds in the rough. One such emulator is the GnGeo2x for the NeoGeo home entertainment console. It takes a fair amount of tweaking and configuration to get it working just right, and the right machine ROMS for your locale (I’m not talking about the games) are very difficult to find. Once you have it up and running, playing NeoGeo software on-the-go has never been easier.

The GP2X is a cool gadget for many reasons (not just the ones I listed above). It’s a completely open platform, and that means possibilities for aspiring programmers who want to work their magic on a portable hardware platform. Sure, there are other portable devices, such as platforms which support Windows CE, and… umm… cell phones. The first choice is too expensive and the other is too boring. Who wants to write software for a cell phone as a hobby? There are far too many cell phones on the market to make that forray very interesting. Not to mention the fact that most cell phones were never designed to play games in the first place.

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