- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Nintendo’s GameCube, Sony’s PlayStation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox have firmly entrenched themselves in home-entertainment centers by offering a wide range of video-game experiences.

The refinement of technology has allowed ancillary companies to also entrench themselves in the consoles by offering an incredible array of peripherals to add both convenience and entertainment value for the seeker of multimedia fun.

Just to highlight a tiny example of the wonders, I offer my annual selection of gaming gadgets that will keep teens and children mesmerized by the worlds defined by frame rate and pixels.

GameCube

mBongos, Nintendo, $49.99. Beatniks can rejoice as Nintendo gives them a way to match them crazy rhythms, daddy-o, through a controller that sits on a musician’s lap. He can tap a left and right drum or follow the beat with a clap (which is picked up by a built-in microphone) to popular tunes as the on-screen antics of a popular acrobatic ape orchestrate the action.

Game worthy of the gadget: The DK Bongos bundle comes with the only game currently compatible with it, Donkey Kong. This rhythmic challenge has up to four players (extra bongo controllers, $29.99) play the drums to more than 20 songs and is especially fun in a family environment. Bongo virtuoso will be happy to know Nintendo will offer Donkey Kong Jungle Beat next year, which also uses the DK Bongos.

mColor game screen, Intec, $129.99. This 5.4-inch LCD TFT mini-monitor with built-in stereo speakers simply attaches to the back of the GameCube unit and transforms it into a portable multimedia system. Children can play games in any vehicle accepting a standard car adapter, and the screen will even connect to a video camera to immediately view family vacation footage.

Game worthy of the gadget: How about a pair of addictive titles that will need to be played on any long car trip? First, Mario Power Tennis (Nintendo, $49.99) allows up to four players to take the court and control famous Mushroom Kingdom characters. Next, the first-person shooting spectacular Metroid Prime (Nintendo, $49.99) has the player control Samus Aran as she battles the forces of the Ing.

Xbox

mWireless dance mat, Intec, $39.99. Gamers looking for an untethered brutal workout using a rhythmic video game and pressure-sensitive piece of plastic get their chance via a peripheral geared for repeated use and abuse. Using 2.4 GHz wireless technology and a pair of AA batteries, the 3-foot-square dance mat works up to 30 feet away.

Game worthy of the gadget: Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 2 ($39.99) gives hoofers all-new dance modes and more than 50 songs as they try to match footsteps with on-screen directions. Players can also compete head to head with other dancers nationwide; conduct online tournaments; and download new songs, dance steps and characters via Xbox Live (subscription required).

• Cordless headset, Logitech, $79.99. Players addicted to communicating with brethren during online gaming sessions will truly appreciate this device that features rechargeable batteries for up to six hours of talk time and 2.4 GHz technology for clear transmissions up to 30 feet away from the Xbox.

Game worthy of the gadget: One of the better first-person military shooters out there, Ghost Recon 2: 2011 Final Assault (Ubisoft, $49.99) gives players the chance to enter the hostile terrain of North Korea to destroy General Jung’s war machine. Online soldiers get 24 multiplayer maps, support for a total of 16 players, seven co-op modes and 10 adversarial modes.

Atari 2600

mAtari Flashback, Atari, $49.99. The older family member just dying for the days when the video game was not so complicated and systems were far less expensive will love this miniaturized version of the famed video-game console from the 1980s.

It simply plugs into the television and with the help of a pair of streamlined joysticks, based on the Atari 7800 designs, allows a pair of friends to play 20 games.

Game worthy of the gadget: The system does not need cartridges but, instead, comes loaded with 15 Atari 2600 titles such as Battlezone, Haunted House and the-never-before-released Saboteur, along with a quintet of classics from the 7800 years, including Asteroids, Centipede, Desert Falcon and Planet Smashers.

PlayStation 2

mEyeToy, Sony Entertainment, $49.99. Sony’s popular peripheral continues to expand its mesmerizing effects on youngsters with even more games to showcase its highly interactive gaming experience. The miniature digital video camera places a player within a video-game screen, and then he uses his body parts to work through various challenges.

Game worthy of the gadget: This year’s EyeToy bundle gives players a camera and the calorie-burning extreme-sports challenge Antigrav. The game takes the EyeToy into new realms of color and body recognition as the player does not appear on screen but controls an insane owner of a hoverboard who makes Tony Hawk look like an amateur.

• Evo Sport Wireless Racing Wheel, Pelican, $59.99.

Drivers in need of feeling like they are fully in control of their high-performance virtual vehicles get their chance through a super racing peripheral.

Boasting a fully rubberized steering wheel, full-size gas and brake pedals, a gearbox that simulates manual transmission, an F1 gear shift on the wheel mount and a battery meter that looks like a car’s fuel gauge, the dream driving device runs for up to 200 hours on four AA batteries.

Game worthy of the gadget: Because I have not enjoyed the ultimate racing challenge Gran Turismo 4 (which will not be ready until next week) and I find the Grand Theft Auto series a bit too violent for my taste, I recommend Burnout 3 (Electronic Arts, $49.99), where crashing the coolest of cars is as slick-looking as taking part in the adrenaline-pumping race experience.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@washington times.com)

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