Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ten most obscure gaming peripherals

As a kid I was never sold on buying gaming accessories for consoles bar the necessary controllers. I think in my lifetime I've only ever bought one gaming peripheral and that was the G-Con 45 Light Gun to play Time Crisis on the original PlayStation. After completing the game a few times I realised it really wasn't worth the cash.

However, we've now entered a new era; with Kinect on the Xbox 360 and Move on the PS3 catching up with the revolutionary Wii, the industry is completely changing the way we play games.
It’s as if gaming peripherals are now actually rebranding the consoles they belong to. Teaching old dogs new tricks - no longer the gimmicks or fads of older console generations (minus a few exceptions of course).

Here are Megabits' top ten most obscure gaming peripherals to-date (I say to-date as I fully expect there is still room for some mental ideas to escape though the “what were they thinking net”)... As ever, leave your thoughts below.

Kinect “Game Boat”
A peripheral for a peripheral? A gaming first surely! As Kinect on the Xbox360 reads body movement you shouldn’t need an accessory, but that hasn’t stopped the brains at Atomic Accessories putting money into, designing and more amazingly marketing an inflatable rubber dinghy you can place in your living room for when you want to play Kinect Adventures. It sounds ridiculous and looks even more so – for the buyer's sake I really hope there are some more boat related games coming out they can use this for. It’s like parking your car in front of your TV to play Gran Turismo....actually that sounds like quite a good idea.

Sega Activator
As unsuccessful peripherals go, the Sega Activator on the Genesis is one of the worst; it was a huge marketing failure. In essence the Activator was an octagonal ring which was placed on the floor. Players stood in the middle of the ring and their moves were meant to be picked up through infrared laser beams giving a new gaming experience. It was even marketed as a new type of martial arts simulator. On paper it sounds awesome but the truth was that only certain moves you made in the ring could be read and the light beams were easily distorted during play. Gamers were left frustrated, seriously out of pocket and feeling that it would have been easier using a normal controller wearing oven gloves.

The U-Force was a so-called revolutionary game controller for the Nintendo Entertainment System that had a pair of large perpendicular infrared sensor panels. The controller recognised gamer’s movements across the sensors and translated those as button presses. It all sounds very clever and brilliant – rivals in the industry must have thought Nintendo had moved the goalposts...until they actually played with it and found out that it was absolute tat. It just didn’t work. Players, who were forced to use the featured attachable handles which came with it, realised they should have just stayed with their original controllers.

Looking a little like the robot in cult 80’s movie Short Circuit, R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy) could have been the saviour to gamers who really disliked playing on their own or for those who had no friends. Unfortunately, apart from claims it was slightly unresponsive and slow, this oddly shaped game controller companion only worked with two games. Saying that…it is well over 20 years old and I still want one. Quick call out to games designers to create an up to date version!

The Powerglove
I like the normal NES controller and I also like wearing gloves, but I could never enjoy both at the same time…..could I? Introducing the Power Glove, neither useful as a glove or as a controller - this was a big flop. Although it was the first peripheral to try recreating human hand movements on a television in real time. The Power Glove was criticised for its difficult-to-use and imprecise controls. To add to the insanity, only two games were released with features for use with the Power Glove.

Konami LaserScope
What is it with Nintendo and crazy peripherals? Another mad but brilliant idea was the Konami LaserScope - a head-mounted light gun used with the Nintendo Entertainment System. This cool looking (yes, I think it looks cool) headset had a microphone and a laser-guided crosshair that covered one eye. The player just had to say "fire" when the crosshair was over a target and the imaginary gun on the screen would fire at the target – simple. Sadly the crosshairs were a little inaccurate and there were complaints that the headset would fire at any background noise. Not good if you wanted to have a conversation at the same time.

Ultimate Kickboxing Pad
The Ultimate Kickboxing Pad on the PS2 wasn’t just a dancing pad re-jigged to use for fighting games. The player not only stood on a mat in front of the television but also put on four wireless body sensors on the arms and ankles. The movements the user performed and the steps made on the mat moved the fighter and made it punch, kick and grapple. It was fun and did give the player a good workout but its longevity was limited and in the end a bit of a gimmick.

Dreamcast fishing controller
As weirdly thought up peripherals go, the Dreamcast fishing controller has got to be up there with the zaniest. It was specifically made for Sega Bass fishing and the shape of the controller was similar (sort of) to the action of a fishing rod. Now, it’s beyond me that anyone would have fun sitting on the sofa quickly reeling a spinning handle on a plastic controller waiting to catch imaginary fish, but if you did have a fishing game, I can’t imagine you would want to do it any other way.

Atari Mindlink

If you had never actually seen the Atari Mindlink, you might imagine a brilliant new accessory that could read the gamer’s mind which would translate into movements onto your computer. Unfortunately it was never that scientifically advanced and the Mindlink actually read the movements of the muscles in your head through infrared sensors. The Mindlink failed after players frequently got headaches and realised that they looked like tools which were furiously moving their eyebrows.

Trance Vibrator
It was always when and not if a sex toy would be designed specifically to work with a computer console. The Trance Vibrator was a special peripheral which could be purchased (in Japan only) for certain games on the PS2 and pulsed in time with music and movement. I will leave the rest to your imagination, but I guess if your partner began to complain that you were spending more time with your games than with them, this handy accessory could be a happy medium.

Honorary Mentions:

The Pinball Magic accessory
We start with an accessory for the iPhone, which seriously kicked off a new wave of gaming through apps on smart phones. Gaming apps are big money spinners and it was only a small amount of time until accessories started to be produced. However, I think The Pinball Magic accessory is a step too far. Okay, it does turn your normal boring iPhone into a super cool flashing miniature pinball table, but how often are you going to keep taking it apart and putting it back together when you need to use your phone for calls. I give it two goes before getting bored – Once to see it yourself and again to show your mates. It is also steeply priced at around $30, but if you love the idea and have money to burn, there is also one available for the iPad which will set you back a mere $80.

Super Scope
Light guns have been, after the controllers themselves, the most popular gaming accessory for consoles. The idea of actually diving under a bed or sofa, acting like a space guardian, secret agent or hunter who had a strong preference for ducks, was for many gamers too good to be true and there were a lot of good games which came out to support light guns. On the whole I am a fan apart from the issue that games producers do not make enough titles to justify owning one, especially one as obscure and as bulky as the Super Scope on the SNES. I really want to know what the designers were thinking when it came to drawing up plans for the bazooka shaped monstrosity that the Super Scope is. I imagine the chief designer was a big Schwarzenegger fan – nothing else can explain why he thought anyone would want a 2½ foott long gun which rested on the top of your shoulder. It was also powered by six AA batteries, which ran out of juice very quickly.


haha nice awkward gaming peripherals!!!

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