The Game Boy is one of Nintendo's most iconic products; an industry-defining device which managed to comfortably outsell technologically superior rivals thanks to its portability, stamina and library of amazingly addictive games. Despite rumours regarding a Game Boy Classic proving to be somewhat optimistic, the handheld is surely a likely candidate for re-release at some point. If you can't wait until then, you may wish to check out the GB Boy range of handhelds – granted, they lack Nintendo's official seal of approval but they're surprisingly good for knock-off clones.
Produced by Chinese firm Kong Feng (or Gang Feng, depending on which day of the week it is), the GB Boy range consists of the "Classic" system – which is basically a clone of the Game Boy Pocket – and the GB Boy Colour (our hearts are warmed by the use of the British spelling), which, as you might imagine, is a replica of the Game Boy Color. Both systems are compatible with original cartridges and run off the same power sources (AAA in the case of the Classic, AA on the GB Boy Color).
The GB Boy Classic has a monochrome LCD screen which is quite blurry – perhaps even more so than the original Game Boy Pocket – and the sound appears to be pitched slightly higher, too. Having said that, battery life is stunning and the controls are tight and responsive – making this an acceptable replacement for the real deal – and at only £22.99, it's hardly going to break the bank, either. While it's possible to pick up a Game Boy Pocket for around that price on the secondary market, this is a brand-new system and won't bear the scars of 20 years of use.
The GB Boy Colour is arguably the more interesting of the two handhelds, as it is capable of playing a wider range of software. Monochrome and Color cartridges are supported and the console's excellent back-lit screen (almost on par with the Game Boy Advance AGS-101) means you can play in the dark, too – something that wasn't possible on the original Game Boy Color. The screen isn't quite the same aspect ratio as that of Nintendo's console so games do look slightly squashed, but you quickly get used to it. Battery life isn't quite as robust as the original Game Boy Color, either – a consequence of powering that lovely lit screen – but it's still more than respectable.
The cherry on the top of the cake is the fact that the console comes with 188 games pre-loaded (technically there are 66 games, as many of them are duplications). These include the likes of Super Mario Land, Contra, Tetris, DuckTales, Donkey Kong, Alleyway, Tennis and Dr. Mario, making this even closer to the mythical "Game Boy Classic" than you might imagine. In fact, if Nintendo does plan to release such a device, we'd guess it would adopt a similar setup to this - a back-lit colour display with pre-installed games and a cartridge slot for original software.
The GB Boy Colour costs £39.99, which is a complete and utter steal in anyone's book, even if it does somewhat fly in the fact of ethics by including a bunch of games the manufacturer is highly unlikely to have secured licences for. Putting aside such moral questions for a moment, this is a brilliant little handheld which scores points over the Game Boy Color by including a back-lit screen; even with DIY modification, it's tricky to get the original hardware to look this good; most mods use LEDs to light the front of the screen (the TFT panel has a reflective layer which means backlights don't work) and these don't give even lighting.
It's worth noting that both of these systems support the Game Boy Camera, and the GB Boy Colour is also capable of running flash carts like the GB Everdrive. The GB Boy Classic cannot run flash carts due to the power demands being too much for the AAA batteries.
Nintendo may well release a Game Boy Classic in the fullness of time but if you're in the market for a replacement right now, don't discount these Chinese imitations; the GB Boy Colour in particular could show Nintendo a thing or two about how to revive one of its most famous brands.
Thanks to Tom's Retro Shack for supplying the consoles used in this review.