TheCaseUniverse GameBoy case black upright

This working GameBoy phone case is the ultimate time and money waster

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Yes, that is a GameBoy shell. A fully functional GameBoy case, to be precise. Well, sort of, it’s not an officially licensed Nintendo product.

In fact, I doubt the manufacturer has the rights to market such a close image of the iconic handheld game console, let alone use the name or sell the games. But that’s the current state of Chinese manufacturing, and it’s not like Nintendo is going to do anything that amazing.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Buying Phone Cases

The design perfectly encapsulates the classic GameBoy vibe, which initially appealed to me. Kicker is a set of nostalgic games to give those idle thumbs something to do. If you’re looking for the ultimate retro look for your phone and the time sink that goes with it, well, this case is absolutely what you’re looking for. At least if you have a recent iPhone or Galaxy phone, as the range of compatible models is very limited.

How is it to use?

TheCaseUniverse GameBoy box playing in hand

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

This bit of game runs on a Chinese game emulator, complete with some poorly translated game titles when selecting the English language option. What you have to do at each reboot.

Includes 36 built-in games featuring classic GameBoy titles like Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and Tetris.

Includes 36 built-in games in total; a handful of GameBoy classics, titles taken from other platforms, and a few that I doubt have ever been released commercially because of their sheer shoddy quality. The list includes Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Tetris(a), Ice Climbers, “Boom Man” and a variety of more mundane titles like Soccer, Pinball and Chinese Chess. The selection may keep you busy while waiting for a bus, but it’s not a GameBoy highlight reel.

The case features a soft D-pad and A/B buttons (not solid plastic like the original), along with power on/off, reset, play/pause and sound keys. It can be charged via micro-USB and has a small LED light to let you know when it’s charging.

It also works quite well as a case, in the sense that it is heavy. Now I’m more worried about breaking the console than the phone. There are well-placed cutouts for the usual things like the camera housing and USB-C port, and you can continue to store the Galaxy S22 Ultra stylus with the case on. The soft power button and volume rocker keys complete the design. It certainly looks and feels like part of a pretty tough phone case.

Cheap manufacturing at its finest

List of TheCaseUniverse GameBoy games

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Alright, good stuff out of the way, I regret spending $37 on this epitome of crass consumerism (actually $74, I bought two of them!). While the aesthetic appeals to you, once it’s in your hand, it’s immediately obvious that it’s probably around $7.

With no battery indicator, figuring out when the thing needs to charge is a game in itself.

For starters, the rubber buttons have popped out of their casing on numerous occasions. The speaker is damaged and distorted, the screen is not centered correctly, and it makes the already quite large Galaxy S22 Ultra more than a centimeter thicker. Not to mention, you lose wireless charging capability with the case on, and you have to charge it separately via a micro-USB port. However, it is clearly too much to ask for a battery level indicator. The screen just dims and then goes black when the juice runs out, but the games continue to run for a few more minutes. Figuring out when you need to charge the thing is a game in itself.

There are at least a couple of other things the manufacturer could have done to make this a better product. The opportunity to take advantage of reverse wireless charging, or at least a USB-C accessory to draw power from the phone, is wasted. A microSD card slot for loading other games would have been awesome too, instead of sticking with the built-in library that you’ll tire of pretty quickly. It really isn’t a proper GameBoy experience without Metroid, Pokémon, or Zelda. Serious Nintendo fans would clearly be better off with an Android emulator.

See also: Best Android Game Emulators to Play Old Favorites

This is certainly a case of form over function; I guess that’s what I should have expected anyway. While it still looks undeniably cool and warmly nostalgic, it’s not a well-thought-out enough product to warrant a $37 purchase, never mind the purported RRP of $74 (seems to be a “today only” perpetual discount). However, if that hasn’t put you off, you can purchase the case from the button below.

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