The official first-party remote control for NVIDIA's SHIELD Android TV set-top box is great. It uses more or less the same mini-remote design as the Nexus Player, Fire TV, Roku, and any number of similar streaming boxes, but it's made out of metal, the buttons are backlit, it has a built-in headphone jack for private listening, and it recharges via a MicroUSB port. The only problem is that unlike the SHIELD controller, it doesn't come in the $200 package - you have to buy it separately for a hefty $50.
These days it's rare to see a game praised for graphics alone - with incredibly powerful hardware available on consoles, PCs, and yes, mobile hardware, it's more about what you can do with what you have. A prime example is Contrast, a combination platformer and puzzle game that first debuted on PC and console download services just under two years ago. It's a perfect intersection of unique art design and compelling game mechanics. Today it's available on Android for $14.99, but only if you have NVIDIA's SHIELD Android TV box.
Contrast takes place in a sort of steampunk-burlesque universe, following a very personal story about a mother and daughter.
Lately it seems that "retro" games have become synonymous with faux NES-era pixelated graphics. And while some pixel art is impressive, it's often just a means of seeming somewhat trendy without having to put in the extra effort and expense of making high-resolution 2D graphics work well. Not so with the latest SHIELD exclusive: Pix the Cat manages to blend truly nostalgic gameplay with absolutely gorgeous 2D visuals for an altogether unique experience. Unfortunately you'll need either a SHIELD Android TV or SHIELD Tablet (and a hefty $10) to play it.
The gameplay of Pix is somewhere between Snake and Pac-Man.
NVIDIA must be paying its developer partners really well. That's the only reason I can think of that so many developers of 2D games, which could be played well on just about any modern Android device, keep creating SHIELD-exclusive games. Heck, half of Devolver Digital's current games could run on a bargain bin tablet ripped from a Wallgreens shelf. So I invite you to wonder just how many potential sales Frima Studio (developer of previous wide releases like Nun Attack) is giving up by making Chariot exclusive to the SHIELD TV... and how much NVIDIA incentivizes developers to make up for those sales.
NVIDIA's customer service department has had a tough time of it recently. After a massive recall of last year's SHIELD Tablet for faulty batteries that posed a possible fire hazard, it's come to light that some SHIELD Android TV units will also need to be recalled. Luckily, this one isn't quite so widespread: the recall only affects the SHIELD Pro model (the one with the 500GB conventional hard drive), and even then, only a small portion of units seem to be affected. Also there's almost no chance of them exploding, which is a good thing.
Looking for something a little different for your super-powered Android TV device (while you wait for all those PC game ports, like Borderlands and Metal Gear Rising, that NVIDIA is being oddly quiet about)? Then take a gander at Battle of Sol, an old-school space fighter sim with new next-gen graphics and a simplified control setup. The game was released on Steam last month after a lengthy Early Access period. It's fashioned after the 90s staples of the genre like Wing Commander and Freespace.
NVIDIA's GRID gaming service, which streams high-end PC games to the company's Android-powered hardware at extremely low latency, has been promoted as one of its best exclusive features. Unfortunately, NVIDIA seems to be having a lot of trouble getting over the last few hurdles to actually launch the thing. GRID has been in beta since late 2013, and was scheduled to launch its paid service in July as of the SHIELD Android TV announcement. Now it looks like the full launch has been pushed back again.
Mulling a Shield purchase in the near future? Well, if you want your Shield TV/console/thing with the official remote accessory (not to be confused with the controller), NVIDIA's got a deal going temporarily that'll get you $25 off a bundled console/remote package. And yes, that means NVIDIA was valuing this remote at fifty bucks previously.
At $25, it's definitely a hell of a lot easier to stomach (honestly, I think this thing should be thrown in gratis, but whatever). The deal is on both Amazon and NVIDIA's own website (link). You have to buy both, sadly - the remote is not 50% off when purchased alone, so current Shield owners without remotes won't be getting any discount love.
Emulating games is hard, y'all. There are a ton of classic game emulators for Android, and most of them work really well... replicating relatively ancient, low-power hardware for two dimensions. Even something like the 20-year-old PlayStation is difficult (but not impossible) to emulate on the latest mobile hardware, which is objectively about a hundred times more powerful. That's what you get when console makers create more or less customized hardware and software that doesn't have to play nice with any other platforms.
NVIDIA's SHIELD Android TV box has only been available for a few weeks, and it's already getting its over-the-air update. This one improves a handful of the SHIELD's app functions and its accessories. Notably, software build 1.2 enables 4K output in Google's Photos & Videos app, provided of course that you have a 4K TV to view them on. According to the changelog it also improves streaming performance for both Netflix and Google Play Movies.