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TL;DR: Do you like your pixels razor-sharp? Do you like PICO-8? Then get this handheld.

Looks

This is the new Game & Watch

This is the Game Boy Micro

And this is the new Waveshare GPM280.

Looks good, don't you think?

And it runs PICO-8 perfectly. The screen, oh, yes the screen. In a word: razor-sharp pixels.

Screen

128x128 is such an oddball resolution. Practically no screens in use can scale that resolution easily, the only exceptions are 1024x768 screens and the iPhone 4's 960x640 retina screen. The solution to this conundrum? A smartphone-like high DPI screen plus an intelligent scaling algorithm. An approach taken by the upcoming Analogue Pocket for example. But that won't run PICO-8.

Take a look. On the bottom is the pixel-perfect iPhone 4 screen (5x integer scale), on the top is the GPM280 screen. Also notice the 45° diagonals, on the RG280V they don't look right because of uneven scaling. Here they are perfect. (Right-click on this picture to enlarge.)

Here is another comparison (Right-click to enlarge). Oh, yeah, razor-sharp pixels. How is this possible? Again, high DPI: 286 DPI to be exact. That's almost iPhone territory.

Controls

A responsive D-Pad with some clickyness and buttons with plenty of travel. All good.

Performance

The Pi 3 (in the compute module variant) handles 60 FPS carts with ease. No complaints here.

Battery

This one is really unfortunate. You get two hours of play time. The select and start buttons also show the battery status with green, blue and red LEDs. If it's close to drained the LED starts blinking. The battery will only charge when the power button is in the off-position. Try turning off the Wi-Fi when not in use. If it weren't for the battery situation I would declare this to be the perfect PICO-8 handheld.

Software

I didn't manage to add PICO-8 to recalbox but I succeeded with Batocera. That OS is much more polished anyway. It does have out of the box support for PICO-8 but it's an PICO-8 emulator with some compatibility issues, not the real deal. Let's fix that.

I created an nifty installer package so you can install PICO-8 with very few steps. That includes extra features like shortcuts, sharp picture scaling and swappable controls.

Pixelpunker's PICO-8 Installer

How to install

Prerequisites

  • Download [Batocera for the CM3] and write it to a MicroSD card using the Raspberry Pi Imager. Use a SD card marked A1 or A2 (Application class).

  • Download GPM280 DTBO and unzip it to the overlays directory. Edit config.txt and add the following lines to the end of the file:
dtparam=spi=off
dtparam=i2c_arm=off
gpio=0-27=a2
dtoverlay=dpi24
enable_dpi_lcd=1
display_default_lcd=1
dpi_group=2
dpi_mode=87
display_rotate=3
dpi_output_format=0x7F217
hdmi_timings=480 0 26 16 10 640 0 25 10 15 0 0 0 60 0 32000000 1
extra_transpose_buffer=2
hdmi_ignore_edid=0xa5000080
dtoverlay=gpm280-pwm-audio

Prepare Batocera

  • Turn on the Game Pi Micro. Once you are on the home screen, access the menu with the menu key and connect to your local Wi-Fi under Network Settings/Hostname
    Turn on security under System Settings/Security

  • Now reboot under Quit/Restart System. Write down your IP address under Network Settings. Now write down your password under System Settings/Security.

Finish Setup

Login to your Lexaloffle-Account and download the PICO-8 zip file for the Raspberry Pi to your downloads folder.

Enter this command in Windows Terminal, Mac Terminal or a Linux Terminal.

scp ~/Downloads/pico-8*_raspi.zip [email protected]_IP:/userdata/

It will ask for your password you noted earlier. Now type (and enter your password again)

ssh [email protected]_IP
cd /userdata/
wget https://github.com/Pixelpunker/Pico-Host/releases/download/0.1/install-pico8.sh
chmod +x install-pico8.sh
./install-pico8.sh

After successful installation the system reboots.

Your new home screen.

Features

PICO-8 is properly installed with the following additional features:

  • Sharp scaling
  • Left and right triggers additionally function as ❎ and ⭕
  • Press select for a screenshot
  • Hold select for 0.5 s for a video

Launch PICO-8 in splore mode by choosing 'console' You can also swap controls between "Xbox style" ❎⭕ (which is the PICO-8 default) or "Nintendo Style" ⭕❎.

Browse screenshots and gifs you took with the select key directly on your Game Pi Micro.

Play PICO racer using the shoulder buttons.

Controls

Have fun. The fantasy console is no longer a fantasy. It's in your hands.

P#86878 2021-02-19 22:46 ( Edited 2021-08-31 20:32)

"High DPI"? Well, it's a small screen, but 640x480 still. No, the diagonals on Celeste aren't pixel perfect.
Nice portable console, but why oversell its screen?

P#87957 2021-02-21 01:55

is there a reason the face buttons are labeled 2 times?

P#87994 2021-02-22 05:24

It mimics the design of the Game Boy Micro which also labeled it’s face buttons twice (the Famicom edition, which in turn mimics the original Famicom controller)

P#87998 2021-02-22 08:57 ( Edited 2021-02-22 11:36)

Note:

Installer now works again with the latest version of Batocera.

Additional tips

You can browse the latest and greatest games via splore. Just launch 'console'. You can also use the search function inside splore without a keyboard. Simply move the dpad up or down to enter letters.

P#95289 2021-07-25 19:59

there should be a USB joystick for the second player

P#95292 2021-07-25 20:56

This is absolutely incredible! I bought a GPM just for this & the setup was a breeze. Thanks so much for writing up this guide & sharing :D

@pixelpunker .... silly question, but how do I quit out of Pico8 once I am in Splore? There doesn't appear to be any way to get back to the main GPM launcher screen

P#96707 2021-08-31 02:44
1

Thanks for your feedback 😀
To exit PICO-8:

Tap Menu Key: Exit to splore, tap menu key again, Options, Shutdown pico-8

It‘s a bit hidden, in the future I may adapt the script to support the select+start combo.

P#96739 2021-08-31 20:23
:: merwok

It should be noted that GPM 280 is quite expensive compared to other emulation handhelds of similar size and superior power.

P#96746 2021-08-31 22:54
:: dw817

Adding to this conversation, I run Pico-8 portable with Tac-08 on my Rg-350. The emulator is free and the device itself sells for about $80. The RG-350 runs a ton of things including most other videogame consoles and plays movies besides - but yes, it does run Pico-8 with a few flaws.

Commands FLIP(), CSTORE(), and RELOAD() do not work.

https://0xcafed00d.itch.io/tac08-rg350

P#96752 2021-09-01 00:54
:: merwok

Tac08 is pretty sweet, but I have many games with errors.

Other emulation handhelds are based on ARM processors and compatible with the raspbian build of PICO-8, so they can run the real program.

P#96753 2021-09-01 01:07

@pixelpunker - thanks for the help :)

Another question: what directory can I copy carts into? I tried copying a ".p8.png" file into "/userdata/apps/pico-8/" but it didn't show inside of SPLORE... any suggestions?

Thanks!

P#97741 2021-09-24 03:54 ( Edited 2021-09-24 03:55)
1

@professir You can copy the carts to /userdata/system/.lexaloffle/pico-8/carts/

P#98129 2021-10-02 17:05

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