Turn Your Phone Into A Game Boy: Hyperkin Smart Boy Review

Have you ever thought of turning your phone into a Game Boy? There are several ways to do this, some more legitimate than others, but there’s nothing quite like Hyperkin’s Smart Boy. In the video above and text below, we walk you through some its features, how it works, and whether or not it’s worth the time and money. The device is available now for $50 USD or £60 GBP.

Starting with some of the basic features, it’s an attachment for Android-based phones that connects via USB-C. The Smart Boy is specifically designed with Samsung Galaxy phones in mind, but Hyperkin lists the phones that will fit this device on its website. As long as the phone can dock into the USB-C connector, you’ll be good to go; for example, we used the Razer Phone.

How It Works

The back of the Smart Boy has a slot that reads Game Boy and Game Boy Color cartridges. You’ll recognize the control scheme of the original Game Boy immediately, but of course the twist here is that your phone works as the system itself, with the top half of its screen displaying gameplay. Other than the cartridge reader, USB-C port, and controls, there aren’t any internals in the Smart Boy since battery, processing power, and speakers all come from the phone you’re using.

We had a few classics to play through on the Smart Boy.
We had a few classics to play through on the Smart Boy.

To get this thing to work, you’ll need to download the Hyperkin Smart Boy app from the Google Play store and a separate third-party launching app; Hyperkin recommends using the free version of MyOldBoy. With both apps installed, docking your phone into the Smart Boy will automatically launch the app. At this point, you insert a game cartridge and the app will then temporarily dump the game onto your phone. The Smart Boy app will then direct you to the launch app, which makes you sift through several folders, but the folder titled “HyperkinSmartboySerial” contains the file “smartboy.gb” which will boot the game you just loaded. Note that pulling out the cartridge will stop the app and prompt you with a piracy warning. Despite sounding complicated, the process is fairly simple and you’ll have games up and running shortly.

Is It Any Good?

In terms of running actual Game Boy games, the pair of apps work well together. Games are upscaled to fit the phone’s resolution and look great, and there hasn’t been any perceivable input lag or game-breaking bugs based on our time using it. We had several Game Boy cartridges on-hand to test it, too: Super Mario Land 2, Metroid 2: Return of Samus, Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Tetris, and Mega Man Xtreme 2 (GB Color).

Super Mario Land 2 played using the Hyperkin Smart Boy.
Super Mario Land 2 played using the Hyperkin Smart Boy.

You may run into trouble navigating these applications since the device obscures half the phone screen. You can pull out your phone at any time to access menus and games will continue to run since all the data has been temporarily dumped into the app. However, you’d have to relaunch the apps to continue playing after snapping your phone back into the device. Thankfully, the game state remains untouched.

The device itself is ergonomically similar to the original Game Boy; holding this thing very much feels the same, but the buttons and directional pad have an improved tactile response over the Game Boy. However, the Smart Boy is a bit bulky and isn’t exactly ideal to take on the go. By no means is it fragile, but it does have a slightly hollow, flimsy feel. Another thing to note is that your phone can easily wobble side-to-side if it doesn’t fit snug. In this case, the phone might seem loosely in place, but it was never jostled out of the USB-C port while moving.

It walks a fine line between practicality and novelty; if you have an Android phone and physical Game Boy carts in working condition that you really want to play, this is a great way to fill that void. In a world where there are so many ways to play old games, Hyperkin’s Smart Boy offers a largely authentic experience that meshes well with modern tech, even if it’s not the most practical approach.

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