Handheld retro game console case turns an Apple iPhone into a working 'Nintendo Game Boy Color' [Review]

When it comes to choosing a phone case there’s no shortage of options. Some offer high quality protection, some just look good. Others offer gimmicks, like a built-in stand, or signal boosting abilities, and some keep your phone charged with a built-in battery.

The 'Game phone case' offers something very different -- an enclosure for your iPhone that turns the back of it into a working 'Game Boy Color'.

I’ve long had an interest in old games having dreamed up and published Retro Gamer magazine in the UK, so this case is perfect for me.

Available for most models of iPhone, the case offers a built-in LCD screen at the top, with a D-pad, red A and B buttons, and grey S/P (select), Sound, On/Off, and Reset buttons.

The case comes with its own battery, so it won’t drain your phone’s power any quicker than normal, and you charge this when needed via USB -- there’s a micro-USB port on the side. It would have been good if you could charge it directly from the phone, but this solution works fine.

When you turn the case on you’ll be greeted with the language screen. Tap the A button to select the option you want, and you’ll be taken to the games selection screen.

From here you can choose one of 36 different titles to play. The list is decent and includes Super Mario Brothers, Tetris (or Tetrisa as it’s called here), Galaga, Donkey Kong, Arkanoid, Pac Man, Mario Bros, Pooyan, Lode Runner, 1942, and Bomb Jack. Are they legally licensed games? Well, I can’t say for certain, but given the cheap price (more on that in a minute) and the fact it comes from China, it seems very, very unlikely.

Pick the game you want to play, and it will start. The quality is excellent -- you need to keep reminding yourself you’re playing a game on the back of your iPhone --  and you can choose from three levels of volume, or turn the sound off entirely. The audio plays through a speaker at the bottom of the case itself, not through your phone.

Tapping Reset at any time will take you back to the game selection screen.

The layout of the case varies depending on which iPhone you own. For the older generations (iPhone 6/6s/7/8) the device’s camera appears at the top left, with the screen below that, the buttons underneath it, and the speaker at the bottom right.

On the iPhone X and XS, and the larger Max versions, the case actually goes on upside down, so the camera is at the bottom right, the speaker at the bottom left, and the screen at the very top. It’s a bit weird at first, but you soon get into the habit of rotating the phone vertically when you want to play a game.

You can see the difference in designs in this photo below.

The case, available in either black or white, is excellent, with decent build quality (although it likely won’t survive too great a drop). However, for me what makes it so easy to recommend is the price. It sells for approximately $20.99/£15.49.

Now, there’s isn’t one particular maker of this case -- mine came from Merfinova, but you’ll also find it under other Chinese brand names like LucBuy, QKArrow, KOBWA, and others. A search for "gaming case iPhone" on Amazon will bring up a number of choices. As far as I'm aware the ones that look like the case in my photos here are all the same.

Image credit: Wayne Williams

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