The Analogue Pocket was first revealed on October 16th, 2019. It was billed as the ultimate portable retro game console, allowing you to play original Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance cartridges on a luxury device. The games would look better, thanks to modern screen technology, but they would also look authentic, thanks to extra processing power that allows the Pocket to emulate the subtleties of the old platforms. Everything about it was designed in the spirit of accuracy, while bringing the experience to modern day standards.
Analogue already had a reputation for making high-end retro consoles, with 1080p versions of the Sega Genesis, Nintendo, and Super Nintendo that all played original cartridges, but the Analogue Pocket was on another level. On top of the above features, cartridge adapters would allow the Pocket to play Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket, and Atari Lynx. On top of that, Analogue planned to release a dock, which would allow you to connect the Pocket to your TV screen, just like a Nintendo Switch.
I heard about it that day, and was immediately interested. I waited for pre-orders, which didn’t become available until a brief (sub-60 second) window on August 3rd, 2020. I managed to secure a place in that initial group, being among the lucky few to do so.
It wasn’t until December 18th, 2021 that my Analogue Pocket finally arrived. More than two years after its initial reveal, this very unique gaming device was finally in my hands. In the days leading up to its arrival, I watched as one glowing review after another poured in. And even though I’m no YouTuber, my friends asked me to do an unboxing video. I obliged, excitedly opening the Analogue Pocket, Dock, and screen protector while my wife recorded.
The irony of that unboxing video is that it is generally positive, just like the many far more thorough teardowns I watched in the days leading up to release. It wasn’t until we cut the camera to set up the Dock that the problems began.
The Analogue Dock I received, despite many different attempts to fix it, appears to be a dud. I emailed support that day, and continue to try to fix it. I poured over Reddit threads, formatted every USB stick in the house with the Dock’s 1.0 firmware, and docked the Pocket over and over. Every attempt has been the same—four lights on the front blink white from left to right, then green, and then nothing. I’ve never seen video output, and the Pocket tells me to upgrade the Dock’s firmware again and again. As of this writing, Analogue has not gotten back to me.
A faulty Dock wouldn’t be so bad on its own. After all, I figured I’ll eventually get a new one, or a firmware update solution that fixes it. Plus, this is ultimately a handheld platform. For now, I figured I should enjoy it as such.
Scouring Reddit, I saw many others having a variety of issues. Some are minor issues with individual games, while others are far more serious, like dead pixels and electrical arcing between the Dock and Pocket. One thread stuck in my mind while playing a variety of games throughout this week. In it, user xukkorz warns that the Pocket deleted a save file from his Pokemon cartridge. As an anecdote with (at the time) no similar stories, I tried to take it with a grain of salt. I wasn’t willing to risk my 220 hour save file of Pokemon Blue, but anything else was fair game.
That attitude treated me well throughout the week as I brought it around, showed it off to some friends and family, and played entirely too much Tetris DX. The portable itself feels sturdy and comfortable, and the screen is no joke. I can’t argue with that. There is some real magic happening on this thing, especially with some of the old black and white Game Boy games.
But I let a friend try it out, and without them knowing the Pocket was in sleep mode, they took out the cartridge, putting it back in before turning it back on. It should have been fine, and it was a completely reasonable thing for a curious person to do. But when they turned it on, the Tetris graphics were all messed up. After restarting the Pocket and reseating the cartridge, I came to discover that my saves were wiped out. No big deal for Tetris, but you can’t unring that bell. Now, until a firmware update confirms a fix, the Analogue Pocket is unsafe to use for a majority of my games.
It has been one week. After over $300 and a more than two year wait, the Analogue Pocket’s “do-it-all” feature set has been reduced to useless dock and a handful of short games that don’t use save files. It will probably collect dust in a drawer until a firmware update or two is released.
Hopefully support will reply to my email one day.
I think the craziest thing about all this is how reviews almost unanimously declared the Analogue Pocket a complete and utter victory. Compare that to the actual out-of-the-box experience for so many paying customers, and it really makes you wonder what went wrong with the final units.
And for now, that’s really all I can do. Sit and wonder. And play my Switch instead.
Update: Since writing this, a super helpful Reddit post solved the issue with my Dock and I was finally able to get it working. Analogue support got back to me but was not nearly as helpful, other than to tell me that my Dock “appears to be functioning correctly.” Had that been the extent of the support I ended up getting (thanks again to that Reddit user), I’d still be in the same boat, possibly running around buying other USB sticks in an attempt to follow Analogue’s vague advice.