There was a fantastic Kickstarter campaign started late last year, called the RaspiBoy, put out by 8BCraft.com. It was a kit for building your own handheld retro gaming console, based upon the Raspberry Pi Zero (version 1.3) or the Raspberry Pi Zero W. I was one of the final people to get in on backing this Kickstarter campaign, and have followed it closely over the months after it was funded.
Well, after a few delays here or there (not unusual, if you are a frequent Kickstarter backer), the kits have started arriving to Backers, and I must say, it’s a pretty cool device! I put mine together last night, and am now currently scraping the thousands of ROMs I put on it for box art and meta information, to make the display as professional as possible. This isn’t necessary, of course, but I’d rather have my system looking as good as I can, since it’ll be my constant companion pretty much from now on.
Anyway, if you were a Backer like me (or are interested in buying one of these kits for yourself from their website), here’s some information you’ll need to have.
First of all, FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS! Look, I know that might seem pretty obvious, but it really isn’t for a lot of people. Pierre (the designer of the RaspiBoy) has made a great tutorial video, that gives you a full walk-through on how to build your kit. You will need to follow it step by step, don’t jump ahead, don’t think “hey, I got this!”, because trust me… you don’t.
Next, expect to fail, because you will. This isn’t some simple, snap-together child’s toy. It is a learning tool, an electronic device, hell, a fully functioning computer! And it has multiple intricate moving parts, that just don’t take well to being forced together. For example, there are two white rubber pieces that sit behind the rear left and right buttons, and they will slip out of place. Not “they might”, or “they could”, but they will slip out of place, while you try to sandwich the two halves of the kit together. It is frustrating, but it isn’t the fault of the parts, or the design itself, but how you put the pieces together. It seems natural to lay the front half down face-down, then attach the back half on top of it. This will cause one or both white rubber pieces to fall out of place. Better to sandwich the halves together with the top of both halves down, so to mitigate the risk of any pieces moving out of place. But even if you do things perfectly, something might still get out of line, so best to not screw it together until you have tested all buttons to make sure they all work properly.
Another thing to remember about the RaspiBoy is that, once the kit is all screwed closed, you won’t be getting to that SD card again, unless you take it all apart again. So make sure that you have RetroPIe installed, and that you have followed the instructions on 8BCraft’s website for editing the config.txt file, so the video screen will work properly. This is crucial, and a step that many people tend to miss. But, if you aren’t that comfortable messing with the software side of things (if so, why are you building this in the first place?), there is a solution. I made a custom RetroPie 4.2 image for the RaspiBoy, which includes the already-edited config.txt file, so you need not even mess with that part. You will need to install the image on the SD card just like you would a normal RetroPie image, but once that’s done and the card is slotted in your Raspberry Pi Zero (version 1.3 or W), you can continue assembly as normal. You can download that custom image here:
Finally, don’t force it! Remember that you are dealing with intricate electronics, and while they are going to break by a light touch, as I said before, you might find yourself getting frustrated by putting the kit together, and try to squeeze it together. DON’T DO THAT! Trust me, if you get everything put together in the right places, it snaps together just fine, and you won’t have to force anything at all. So treat this as an exercise in patience, breathe deeply, and just try again.
In the end, it is absolutely worth the trouble.