Late last year, Amazon announced some new ‘gadgets’ that work with Alexa, called Echo Buttons. Basically these are wireless ‘game show’ style buzzers. They connect to your Alexa device via bluetooth and are simply plastic buttons with RGB LEDs inside that can change colour depending on the game being played or action taken.
Sold in packs of two, I bought two sets to allow up to four players to play various games with Alexa. Each set comes in a nondescript black box, complete with a set of four AAA batteries for the buttons (two per button) and a quick set up guide.
The battery door requires a screwdriver to open which is a minor pain but understandable since these will be handheld by the players.
You pair them with your Echo device either by asking Alexa to setup your Echo Buttons or via the Alexa mobile app. I had read of some pairing problems and it was suggested that you label each button as you pair them to make it easier to troubleshoot a bluetooth issue. I used a label maker to make a sticker that has the last three letters of its unique number that shows up in the pairing menu in the app.
Pairing was easy. I did the first one via Alexa – she tells you to simply press and hold a button until it goes orange and once it’s paired with her, it will turn blue. I did the rest via the Alexa app in the Settings submenu for my Echo which now contained a Gadgets option.
That’s it for setting them up. They will eventually time out and turn off.
As I write this, there are currently 14 different games (aka skills) available for the buttons. At a recent game night, we tried a handful of them.
First up was Trivial Pursuit Tap. It works just like the board game where you get presented with questions from random categories in an effort to clear six in order to win (or fill in the pie piece in the physical game). It worked pretty much as expected with everyone getting to buzz in if they knew the answer but we found Alexa’s responses and general chatter to be a bit repetitive and even slowed down the game play unnecessarily. We still ended up playing two full games.
Next up was Party Foul which turned out to be the most fun. The premise with this game is that someone is in the hot seat (and their button lights up) and is presented with a question/scenario that they can choose a yes or no response (yellow or red button press). Everyone hides their buttons (which is actually hard to do since they can be bright and tend to reflect in windows as we found out)….and chooses the response they think the hot seat person has chosen. The questions (and responses) were fun and the game play was quick and allowed time to discuss the round with all players before moving on to the next question. It seemed to be the perfect mix of Alexa interaction, party game and even catchy music while we all made our selections.
The rest of the games were underwhelming. They either were some form of specific trivia game (any kind of sports for example) or some variation on the button sequence memory game. I’d love to see more trivia game options with a tighter gameplay like Party Foul had.
Overall I was happy with the Echo Buttons….Party Foul and Trivial Pursuit made for a fun evening of gaming with friends without the need for a board or game pieces to track. Alexa was pretty decent at hearing everyone across the room with only a few repeats needed which were mostly a timing issue with her not ready for a response yet. Hopefully these ‘experimental’ buttons gain in popularity with game developers and the catalog expands.
Unfortunately, as of this writing the Echo Buttons are only shipped and sold in the US. At $20 for a two pack (US$), they seem like a reasonable addition to any Alexa enabled home.