A lot of handheld video game consoles have been released over the years. The original Nintendo Game Boy and all of its successors have been immensely successful, while other examples, like the Atari Lynx, Sega Game Gear, and Sony PSP, have also been fairly popular. Some, like the Tiger Game.com — the first console I ever purchased for myself — were complete failures. Others, like the Playdog Blackbone, were never actually sold in stores. That’s because it’s a custom handheld built by maker Mangy_Dog, but it sure looks like something that would have been on the shelves at Toys ‘R’ Us in the mid-‘90s.
Mangy_Dog goes into great detail about this project in two different build log videos. Like many of the ambitious projects we makers attempt to tackle, this one ended up being far more expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating than Mangy_Dog originally anticipated. That’s not surprising with a project as complicated as this one. Mangy_Dog designed this handheld console almost completely from scratch. The original plan was to modify a cheap Sony PSP knockoff, but those were so uncomfortable to hold that the idea was ditched altogether in favor of a custom design.
The brain of this console is an Orange Pi Zero Plus2, which is a single-board computer similar to the Raspberry Pi Zero W, but with more impressive specifications. That connects to all of the other components through a custom-designed PCB, which Mangy-Dog had to revise and have fabricated a few times. Other components include an HDMI-connected IPS LCD display, buttons and joysticks monitored by an STM32 microcontroller, small speakers, and even a cooling system. Two high-capacity 18650 LiPo battery cells are tucked into the grips of the console and provide all of necessary power through a LiPo charging and protection circuit.
The final challenges of the build were introduced by the enclosure, which was designed in Autodesk Fusion 360. It was originally going to be printed on a FFF (Fused-Filament Fabrication) 3D printer, but Mangy_Dog couldn’t get the case to finish successfully. They then turned to a resin 3D printer, but the resins Mangy_Dog tried were either too brittle or ended up warping considerably. Eventually, however, they had an enclosure that looked good — though it didn’t fit together as well as hoped. The finished Playdog Blackbone seems to work very well, and looks convincingly like a real product. With some emulators, the Playdog Blackbone can run a variety of popular games.