DIY: Hydra 8-Bit Game Development Console
By James Grahame
Hydra is the latest video game development kit from XGameStation. It features everything you need to design your own vintage-style 8-bit games. This new XGS console is their most comprehensive yet, offering an updated version of Tiny BASIC for beginner/intermediate coding. The system is based around the new 80 MHz multiprocessing Parallax Propeller chip, which offers considerably more horsepower than earlier XGS units (or consoles from the 1980s, for that matter).
The Hydra console includes everything you need to develop your own games (you can code directly on the board in BASIC or use an attached PC) -- the $199 package includes the main board, mini keyboard, mouse, 9VDC power supply, removable memory cartridge and a Nintendo-compatible game pad. The board itself offers a reasonable of 32K of static RAM, along 128K of removable EEPROM game storage.
The system has some quirky graphic and sound limitations, just like classic units. For example, the Hydra's basic color palette displays only 86 colors simultaneously, and sound is generated using a 1-bit PWM software engine capable of 11-channel lo-fi 22 kHz playback. They suggest that, "Users of chips like the AY8910 and SID chips from the C64, Atari, and other 8-bit computers will feel right at home."