A game system you can't refuse?  Not really.  However, here are a few reasons you should at least consider the Gizmondo...

When people think "Gizmondo," the first thing that comes to mind is not the advanced handheld game system released in 2005 (and cancelled just a year later), but former Gizmondo executive Stefan Erikson's mischief both on the highway and off. Somehow, the antics of this lantern-jawed former leader of the Swedish mafia have overshadowed the peculiar portable that made it all possible.

(If you somehow missed the whole fiasco, you can read about it in exhaustive detail over at the Game Revolution web site... just click this link)

Perhaps it's because slicing an opulent sports car in half after a drunken ride down a California freeway is a lot more exciting than yet another handheld game system that didn't stand a chance against the crushing one-two punch of the Nintendo DS and Playstation Portable. Maybe it's because the system had only a few truly compelling games, and nearly all of them were either cancelled before they could reach store shelves or had embarassing names like (gulp) Sticky Balls.

Whatever's the case, a key part of the history of the Gizmondo- ironically, the system itself- has been forgotten by gamers. It's a shame, because the Gizmondo is a fairly impressive piece of hardware. With its 400MHz processor and a graphics accelerator built into the unit, it's at least as powerful as the PSP, and has features like a camera and GPS positioning that even Sony's high-class handheld doesn't offer. Under different circumstances, the Gizmondo could have been an industry leader, rather than an industry joke.

But alas, that was not to be. Thanks to its unsavory reputation, only a few people will be brave enough to actually try the Gizmondo. However, those who get their hands on one generally find that the console far exceeds their expectations. What should you expect from the Gizmondo experience? Read on, and you'll discover what it's like to hold the system in your hands, interact with the interface, and of course, play its small library of games.


The Gizmondo has a rather distinctive design, courtesy of famed Eurotech developer Rick Dickinson. Dickinson also helped create the Spectrum ZX, a home computer that took Britain by storm in the 1980's. At first glance, the Gizmondo looks like a mutated Hostess fruit pie... it starts out as an oval, sloping downward until hitting a flattened bottom edge. The bottom of the unit houses ports for an AC adapter, USB cables, headphones, and an SD card or official Gizmondo cartridges. What's on the top? Two circular silver knobs that act as the L and R buttons.

The face of the Gizmondo has a few of its own surprises. Buried above the modestly sized but crystal clear screen are five interface buttons... the tops of these long silver keys are nearly flush with the unit, but the bottoms are raised slightly to make them easier to press. Well, a little easier, anyway. Fortunately, the action buttons on the right hand side of the Gizmondo are more responsive. Each one is decorated with a symbol straight from a VCR remote... there are keys for play, stop, fast forward and reverse. The buttons perform those specific functions when playing movies and music, but in games, play is generally used to advance through menus, and stop backs out of them.

Then we have the D-pad. It's about the size and shape of a U.S. quarter, with the cardinal edges raised and ridged to give the player more grip. It accepts diagonal input more readily than the PSP's seperated cross, but isn't raised enough to make it as responsive as the directional pads built into the Game Boy Micro or the DS Lite.

The feel of the D-pad might not be up to snuff, but the case is a different story entirely. The Gizmondo has a rubberized coating that resists greasy stains and keeps the system from slipping out of your hands. On top of all that, the rubber shell gives the system its own distinct and rather comfortable feel that no other handheld can reproduce.

Another unique feature is a camera, set in the back of the unit. It's never going to compete with dedicated digital cameras... the resolution is limited to 640x480 (the same as most cell phones), and there's no flash bulb to shed light on dark subjects. However, the LCD display is much larger than the viewscreens in most digital cameras, and the lens can be used to introduce augmented reality to games, making them more exciting and immersive.


Holding the tiny on button near the top of the unit for two seconds powers up the Gizmondo. Not only is this key hard to keep down, but the amount of time it takes for the system to boot falls somewhere between "interminable" and "intolerable." You'll wait nearly forty seconds to reach the main menu, compared to the seven second wait on the PSP and the four second pause on the Nintendo DS. It's even worse if your battery is almost out of juice... a huge "battery low" warning fills the screen, and nothing short of a nuclear missile will remove it.

This is where the old saying is put to the test... do good things really come to those who wait? In this case, it's safe to say "yes." The Gizmondo's main menu is a bit plain; a simple blue and white affair with options listed on the left and a visual representation of the currently selected option on the right. It doesn't have the bells and whistles of the PSP's interface, but it's more consistent and intuitive. The color scheme won't change unless you specifically request it, and every option is clearly visible and easily accessed at all times. Just press up and down on the D-pad to make your selection, then play to confirm your choice. It's that easy!

And what options are available to Gizmondo owners? There are plenty of 'em. In addition to the expected games, you can also choose to play your favorite films and music. Just transfer them onto the root of your SD card, pop it into the underside of your system, and you're ready to rock. Or rap. Or cry a river of tears over that copy of Steel Magnolias you never mentioned to your friends. Hey, we're not judgemental here! The user-friendly interface and conveniently labeled buttons make it a breeze to enjoy your MP3s and WMAs on the go. Music sounds great on the Gizmondo, but movies suffer from a slightly chunky frame rate and a difficult to access full screen option. You've got to tap the R button to bring up a sub-menu, then select the appropriate option to take full advantage of the Gizmondo's display.

The system also features all the functionality of a cellular phone... without a microphone. Wait, what? Nevertheless, you will need a cell phone service contract to take advantage of the Gizmondo's messaging, internet, and GPS features. If you're in a rural area or smaller town, you won't have access to any of these handy options, because the system only accepts certain carriers. If you live in an urban area but don't want to sign up for cell phone service, well, too bad! You'll still have to wade through a registration screen every time you turn on the Gizmondo. This of course means that you probably won't be turning your system on all that often.


This is what you came for, right? Well, all you'll need to do to begin is slip a Gizmondo cartridge, or an SD card filled to capacity with cracked games (bwa ha ha!), into the bottom of the handheld. Once the card is inserted, you'll be send straight to a menu with a list of titles. Select the game you want to play, then after a few seconds of loading, you're ready to go.

Gizmondo games are generally sandwiched between Nintendo DS and PSP software in overall quality. While the console is actually a bit more powerful than the PSP, with a 400MHz clock speed and an Nvidia graphics accelerator, the Gizmondo software rarely demonstrates this superiority. You kind of have to expect this when all the money that was supposed to go to game development went straight into Stefan Erikson's bulging pockets.

A few titles demonstrate what the Gizmondo could have done in the right hands. Sadly, many of them never reached store shelves thanks to the system's short life. The nearly finished prototype Colors is a perfect example, playing like a more linear, mission-focused Grand Theft Auto and looking every bit as good as its PSP counterpart. Another exciting but ill-fated development was Catapult, a medievel stone-throwing contest that used the Gizmondo camera and bi-colored placemats to bring the action into the player's world.

Worthwhile Gizmondo titles that actually did see a commercial release include Sticky Balls (a fun, challenging puzzle game whose only major flaw is its uninviting title) and Trailblazer, a Commodore 64 classic supercharged with high-tech polygonal visuals straight out of the film Tron. You'll find Pocket Ping Pong and Gizmondo Motorcross 2005 resting in the duds column. Pocket Ping-Pong looks gorgeous, but this risque tennis sim gives the player almost no control over the power and direction of their swings. Gizmondo Motorcross 2005 is even worse, with a dirt bike that's virtually impossible to steer.

The average Giz game falls somewhere in the middle, particularly the sports titles which hit the basket cleanly but never try to shoot from the three point line. SSX 3 is probably the best of what's available in this genre, but even that looks like a Playstation game with a little added polish, and feels mushy in comparison to the exceptional console versions.


The Gizmondo is a must for collectors... after all, what other game system was the product of a mafia scam, intended to con investors out of their money? The novelty of a mob-made handheld and the colorful history of the men who funded its design makes the Giz irresistable to Pac-rats. However, if you expect your game systems to earn their keep, you might want to consider a PSP or a Tapwave instead. Cleaner interface aside, there's nothing the Gizmondo can do that the PSP can't do better. On the other side of the fence, the Tapwave (although just as dead commercially) offers more functionality, a wider screen, and stronger homebrew support.

To the Gizmondo's credit, Sticky Balls, Trailblazer, and Colors are all fun, surprisingly well-designed games. Unfortunately, they're not engaging enough to make the Gizmondo a smart purchase... especially when so many more great games are still being developed for the Nintendo DS and PSP. If you're looking for another exotic trophy to hang on your wall, the Gizmondo is the perfect choice, but if you like to play your game systems, you're better off leaving the system sleeping with the Swedish fishes.


Here now are short reviews of the equally brief Gizmondo software library. Each game's quality will be rated on a scale of one to five bullets, with the amount of ammo illustrating the bang you'll get out of each title. Any game that receives a lone bullet is a guaranteed dud, while five bullets is the sign of a sure-fire hit. Not every game in the list was released... these prototypes will be marked with a "P." Finally, games that aren't at least 85% complete will not receive ratings.


Augmented reality plays a central role in this first-person adventure title, set in the jagged Mayan tombs of South America. You'll explore these ruins with not only the D-pad and action buttons, but the camera set into the back of the Gizmondo. Tilt and turn the system, and your view of the action changes accordingly! It's a pretty awkward control scheme, not to mention embarassing... you can only imagine how dumb you'll look spinning around in public, trying to get a better view of your surroundings. Still, it's an innovative use of the camera, and the game's packed with plenty of other diversions, like Mayan memory and reversi played with stone idols as game pieces.


There's the right way to do a car combat game... and then there's Carmageddon. Based on a lackluster Nintendo 64 release (wait, weren't they all?) by the Sales Curve, Carmageddon does admittedly improve upon the graphics of the original. Rather than rough, pixelated cars, the death racers all have smoother curves and a lustrous, almost translucent sheen. Everything else, including the unbelievably crappy gameplay, is the same. Rather than actually, you know, racing, you'll find yourself getting rammed by opponents, thrown off the track by an exaggerated physics engine, and lost inside each massive and illogically designed stage. But hey, you can run over stiffly animated pedestrians! That's wonderful, but I'd have a lot more fun with a good game than a gory one.


The title doesn't really tell you anything about this one... for all we know, it could be a rootin', tootin' shooter set in the old west. It would have been a better name for GUN, that's for sure!  Anyway, the designers should have settled for the subtitle, Jenson Button Street Racing. As this title suggests, JBSR is an arcade-style racing game, looking a lot like Project Gotham Racing but playing a bit more like Ridge Racer. Like in Namco's game, there's a strong emphasis on drifting around corners, so you'll be slip sliding your way through each sharply rendered (if somewhat plain) track. Chicane is the best driving simulation on the Gizmondo... a painful blow when you consider that it never got within a mile of store shelves.



Ancient board games aren't the first games that come to mind when you spend three hundred dollars on a state-of-the-art handheld. But hey, if you want classy conversions of chess, backgammon, and checkers, the Gizmondo's got you covered! The games all play well, with a competant computer opponent that should provide a stimulating challenge to most players. I know I've never been able to beat it! On the down side, the boredom of these board games is magnified by Classic Compendium's drab color palette. Even the Connect 4 knock-off uses faded yellow and slate blue pieces. You know what that makes me? Pretty sleepy, sis!



I think I'm turning Japanese, I really think so! Classic Compendium 2 goes East for its selection of board games, including everything from Chinese Checkers to Tai Pei, commonly known to most players as Shanghai. This tile-matching contest is the most accessible game in the collection, but there are tutorials to help you through unfamiliar experiences like Shogi (Japan's answer to chess). Like the previous Classic Compendium, the visuals have a very aged, earthy look to them, but the variety and unique selection of games gives the collection the color that the graphics (and the last game in the series) lack.



It's an unwritten law that every modern game system must have a Grand Theft Auto game, or at least something that could pass for one. Colors is the Gizmondo's very own derivitive of the 21st century's first major hit. However, as dark and violent as Colors is, it parts ways with Grand Theft Auto in several key areas. If you feel like playing in the sand, this isn't your game... although the stages in Colors are connected by a subway system, their maze-like design and nearly empty streets force you to concentrate on each mission. You'll travel across the city, delivering contraband to burned out drug addicts and prostitutes to hardened criminals in need of a woman's touch. Yes, you'll even get a chance to bang a few hos yourself, using hilarious pick-up lines that could only work when accompanied by a fistful of cash. Colors' outstanding graphics, atmospheric sound, and entertaining (if somewhat hollow) gameplay will ensure that you'll be happily surprised with the game, even if it isn't quite what you expected.



This is a squad-based shooter set in the dangerous jungles of 1960's era Vietnam. By "shooter," I don't mean the usual first-person kind. Rather, this is an overhead run 'n gun action title; a bit like Commando or Ikari Warriors but without the ferocious intensity. Or the keenly responsive, user-friendly control. Or most of the fun. Whoops! Handling all the members of your squad is a confusing chore, like mopping the corners of a round room, and the limited opposition coupled with the vast, yet suffocatingly linear levels makes for a surprisingly boring journey into hostile enemy territory.



Fathammer has a pretty loose definition of the term "classics," if the games in this set are any indication. What you get is exactly one lame shooter, one incredibly lame racing title, and the one saving grace of this collection, a puzzler that's not lame at all. Angelfish is the aforementioned lame shooter, and the chance to catch the pilots as they bail from downed enemy fighters is the game's hook. Yeah, that's pretty much it. Angelfish is boring, but at least it's not also ugly and confusing like Stuntcar Extreme. Hey, Gizmondo! The 32X called. It wants its video game back! Fortunately, the congeal-icious jelly-stacking action of Super Collapse II... well, it doesn't redeem the whole package, but then again, what could? Fathammer should have trimmed the fat in this collection and released the meaty Super Collapse II on its own.

NOTE:  A free Windows version of Angelfish can be downloaded by clicking the picture shown in this review



Are you ready for some football? Well, you're going to be disappointed, because this is what we Americans call "soccer." And it's a pretty good recreation of the sport, even if your team members are small enough to be mistaken for specks of dust clinging to the screen. The graphics are only good enough to get the job done, but the gameplay seems reasonably solid... if a bit sluggish. You're going to want to abuse the turbo button as much as possible if you want to maintain possession of the ball for more than a couple of seconds. Oh, did I mention that this game is tough? Even at the Beginner setting, Pele himself would have a devil of a time scoring against England's worst teams.



Contrary to popular misconception, Hit and Myth isn't a role-playing game at all. Instead, it's an omni-directional shooter with large, fully explorable stages. It's exactly like the early Playstation title Loaded, with all the tasteless gore and that hideous cast of characters replaced by a tongue-in-cheek fantasy setting and a wagonload of increasingly awful puns. When your hero, the unfortunate lovechild of Dragon's Lair's Dirk the Daring and John Cleese, is surrounded by enemies, he can cast spells to tilt the odds in his favor. What he can't do is find a cure for the monotony that eventually sets in after slaying thousands of ridiculous and rarely ever threatening monsters. There's a big pay-off at the end of each stage in the form of hilarious conversations between Dirk Jr. and the villains he fights, but you're probably better off just listening to the wave files on your computer.



What do you do when you can't afford to feature authentic teams in your hockey game? Why, you make it XXXTREME, of course! Hockey Rage is full of incomprehensible rap, tired insults, and butt-ugly charicatures taken straight out of the later Road Rash games. What it doesn't have, aside from professional players and good taste, is satisfying action. When the characters aren't packed together like sardines, they're off the screen entirely, and fights over the puck are reduced to bouts of desperate button-mashing, immediately followed by one of the goalies holding the puck until a penalty is called. The only time the game ISN'T constantly being interrupted by the referee is when you're riding around the rink on an ice-cleaning zamboni... but that's no fun either!



Take StarFox. Now remove the cast of animal characters. Next, take out the cinematic flair, the exciting level design, and the brilliantly conceived boss fights. Is there any charm left over? Yeah, better throw that in the garbage too. What you have left is Interstellar Flames 2, or as I prefer to call it, Generic Futuristic 3D Shooter No. 01379. The game is as dry as it gets despite the polished graphics... enemies fly straight at you, never altering their flight path in order to make things challenging for you, and you shoot them. Repeat this mind-numbing pattern until you reach the end of the stage, and most likely your patience. You've been waiting a long, long time for a handheld version of StarFox. After playing this, however, you'll decide that it wouldn't hurt to wait just a little bit longer.


You might as well, right? This far from finished prototype is the first ever video game adaptation of free-running, the sport where hip young athletes use their feet and the world around them to pull off amazing stunts. Jump had a long way to go before it was completed, but you'll quickly understand what the designers had in mind for this game. As a jagged free-runner, you'll race up walls, climb over ledges, and get stuck in digital limbo after you take a flying leap off the side of a building rooftop.



Crap, crap, motor-crap! Sure, the game looks fine from a distance, but you too will discover the incomprehendible horror of Motorcross 2005 when you try to guide your polygonal dirt bike through a long stretch of pre-rendered track. The trails are so thin and the control so touchy that it's a miracle to even reach the finish line, much less do it before the computer-controlled racers. Motorcross 2005 tops even the legendarily lame Pocket Ping-Pong as the most unplayable game on the Gizmondo... and there are no gigantic breasts to cushion the blow of the terrible gameplay.



Ooh, speak of the well-endowed devil! This is probably what most people had in mind when they heard that Rockstar was making a table tennis game. The truth of the matter is that Rockstar played it straight when designing their game, while Gizmondo completely sleazed up- and screwed up!- this one. All the stars in Pocket Ping-Pong are shapely women in the most revealing of two-piece bikinis. They look every bit as sexy as that description would suggest, but the gameplay is coyote ugly. You can't even see your character while the ball is in play, and it's impossible to aim your return serves, resulting in a lot of random match outcomes. Even the catchy Caribbean soundtrack can't make this terrible-tennis game any more attractive. Forget the white collar crimes and the car theft... games like this are reason enough to send Stephan Erikson up the river!



What a great game this could have been! Point of Destruction is an old-school shooter, borrowing heavily from the work of Jeff Minter. He's the eccentric Brit who developed Tempest 2000 and Gridrunner, the blisteringly fast Centipede clone that POD most closely resembles. Unfortunately for all of us, he only inspired the game... he wasn't directly involved in its design. You can see his influence in POD's slick rendered graphics and its thumping techno soundtrack, but the key ingredient of Minter's best work- the intensity- just isn't here. After sitting through ten straight rounds without so much as a single death (thanks in large part to ineffectual enemies and an overabundance of game-breaking power-ups), you'll start to wonder where the challenge went. Wherever this point of destruction is, it's sure not where you're standing!



Ah, there's nothing like the sport of rally racing! The cheering crowds! The picturesque country scenery! The massively frustrating steering! All right, maybe that's not such a great part of the experience, but it's accurately captured in Richard Burns Rally along with all the more appealing stuff. You'll slip-slide your way through each track, taking audio cues from a robotic backseat driver and struggling to reach the next checkpoint before your all-too limited time limit expires. With loads of detail in both the background and the dirt roads you'll race across, the game looks (to quote another famous Burns), "eeeeexcellent." Be warned, though... just like that other Mr. Burns, Richard will show you no mercy!


Arlo Guthrie's Signs has never been more annoying than when halfwit techno artist Fatboy Slim takes a single lyric from the song and repeats it over... and over... and over again until you start bleeding from the ears. I've got a sign for you, Fatty! No dogs allowed! Luckily, things can only go up from here in Electronic Arts' famous downhill racing game. The graphics have taken a hit from the console versions, but there's still fun to be had racing down the icy slopes, launching off ramps and performing rapid-fire chains of slick tricks. All the music is here, too... and the majority of it is a whole lot better than that butchered Guthrie track.

STICKY BALLS (tee hee!)


All right, knock it off with the chuckling. Forget about the more than vaguely sexual title for just a second... Sticky Balls is the best damn puzzle game you're going to find on the Gizmondo. Part of its appeal comes from the game's originality... this ain't just another bland block-dropping Tetris clone, no sir! You use a spring-loaded rod (still haven't gotten it out of your system, have you?) to fire brightly colored orbs at each other. Bouncing the balls against the table walls doubles the score of your shot, but beware! If you hit a ball of a different color, or nothing at all, you'll lose a turn and possibly the entire game. Sticky Balls' audiovisuals are bright and lively, and the gameplay is mercilessly addictive, making it the ultimate guilty pleasure.



Here's a toy that will bring no joy to gamers and golfers alike. Most golf games tend to be frustrating, but Toy Golf goes above and beyond the call of duty with shots that are damn near impossible to make. The power meter is equally infuriating... either you'll barely tap the ball, or you'll send it sailing over the playfield. Either way, your score for every hole will come dangerously close to hitting double digits. The setting is very clever... your ball is roughly the size of a pea, and you'll knock it past cups, stacks of books, and sinks with gaping wide drains (now that's a hole in one you don't want!). The excellent graphics really sell the miniaturized courses, but the gameplay just doesn't measure up.



Finally, we have Trailblazer, a next-generation conversion of a Commodore 64 favorite. You'll send a living tire through a futuristic race course littered with holes and orange traction strips. The trick here is to dodge all the pitfalls in your path and slide past the finish line in the fastest possible time. The graphics are breathtaking, evoking fond memories of the film Tron with a glowing blue track swallowed by a swirling tube of light. As you might expect from the 31st century visuals, the soundtrack is composed entirely of techno tunes that get repetitive quickly but fit the setting perfectly. Like Gripshift on the PSP, Trailblazer is an even blend of racing and puzzle action, but never having to worry about the exact speed and angle of your vehicle makes it a much more exciting, and far less frustrating, experience.

 Special thanks to Gizmondo Central and Gizmondo News
for supplying pictures of the system's games


tech specs


Samsung ARM9






SD cards




GeForce 3D 4500









best games

Sticky Balls

worst games

Hockey Rage 2005
Interstellar Flames 2
Motocross 2005
Pocket Ping-Pong