- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

One in six Americans plays video games, according to the Interactive Digital Software Association. Not only does that mean a bunch of blistered thumbs and fingers manipulating controllers, but also an easy gift choice for the last-minute holiday shopper. The amazing peripherals available for the four major systems come in all shapes and sizes, and those looking for the perfect present for the serious gamer in the family may find it in this selection of helpful gadgets.
GameBoy Advance
WormCam, NYKO, $39.95. So why not have the ability to shoot photos using a video-game system? Storing up to 80 pictures at a 10-bit, RGB, 356-by-292-pixel resolution, the camera connects to and works in tandem with the GameBoy Advance to view and edit images. It includes software and a cord to download them to a PC. This device will not replace the more sophisticated resolutions and technology of current digital cameras, but it works perfectly as a child's introduction to the fun of photography.
Game worthy of the gadget: How about playing "spy on an older sibling"? The WormCam has motion-detection and time-lapse photography modes to prove who broke mom's favorite vase or who was gaming instead of doing chemistry homework.
Spider Action Light, Naki Technologies, $19.99. Nintendo's non-backlighted, hand-held gaming system may create a generation of squinting adults, but Marvel Comics' ol' webhead is coming to the rescue. This superbright playing lamp is attached to Spider-Man and his extended arms and perfectly lights the GameBoy's 2-inch-wide screen. Requires two AAA batteries (included).
Game worthy of the gadget: What better way to enjoy Spidey peeping over the GameBoy Advance with his glow-in-the-dark eyes than by playing Activision's intense Spider-Man ($29.99) simulation. One player battles the likes of Green Goblin, the Vulture and the electrifying Shocker in colorful 2-D environments.

GameCube
The AirFlo, NYKO, $24.99. Falling under the "Who comes up with this stuff?" category, this cool controller simply blasts air into the hands of gamers wielding the device. A dual-speed fan that blows air through vents in the rubberized grips does away with sweaty palms.
Game worthy of the gadget: I can't think of a better need for the AirFlo than Capcom's pulse-pounding, perspiration-inspiring Resident Evil: Zero ($49.99). The third-person horror-survival franchise debuts a new chapter on the GameCube and gives adults a try at defeating H.P. Lovecraftian creatures overrunning Raccoon City.
WaveBird, Nintendo, $34.95. The only wireless controller for the GameCube forsakes vibration enhancement for the ability to harness radio frequencies and play up to 20 feet away from the main console. Up to four WaveBirds can be plugged in and used simultaneously, thanks to a clever 16-channel configuration involving numbers that must be matched up with receiver and controller to communicate. Requires two AA batteries (included).
Game worthy of the gadget: Parents with children addicted to Nintendo's Animal Crossing ($49.99) will certainly appreciate the cordless WaveBird, as junior will be able to enjoy his computer friends and still change clothes and eat without knocking over anything. For the uninitiated, the immersive game simply involves living and interacting with extremely cute talking animals in a real-time, forested community.

Xbox
Steel Battalion, Capcom, $199. This massive, 3-foot-long controller uses 40 buttons and three levers in conjunction with three foot pedals to immerse one player in the world of Steel Battalion. After the three sections are connected and screwed together, users will be able to perform such virtual tasks as operating a widescreen cleaner, putting out an onboard fire, communicating at different frequencies and aiming and firing twin pod rocket launchers. Players will need the help of a table and a comfortable chair to complete the in-the-cockpit experience, but it is the premier at-home arcade adventure.
Game worthy of the gadget: Of course, for the $200 price point, Capcom includes the only game that uses the controller. Steel Battalion will thrill the Robotech/Mech Warrior teenager in the family with its 24 levels of first-person perspective, vehicular engagements and the chance to control multiple varieties of 10-story-tall tank-bots.
Blaster, Mad Catz, $39.99. This compact, light gun features auto-fire and auto-reload settings to shoot up to 360 rounds per minute, vibration and a slot for a memory card that resembles where an ammo clip attaches. Just plug in the blaster, quickly calibrate it with a few shots and appreciate the 10-foot cord (which has a breakaway connector) to hide conveniently behind a couch while you're terminating the bad guys.
Game worthy of the gadget: Adults will appreciate the chance to blow off some steam by blasting to bits hordes of zombies in Sega's House of the Dead III ($49.99). Through first-person, guided levels of bloodcurdling mayhem, up to two players fight for survival against frightening odds. The violence and gross-out factors are high, and the game even offers the full version of House of the Dead II and a lengthy preview of the upcoming live-action movie.

PlayStation 2
WOW Adapter, Saitek, $39.99. WOW stands for With Out Wires, and Saitek has jumped on the radio-frequency-controller bandwagon with a creative system that allows any two corded controllers, wheels or sticks in the PlayStation family to be used up to 30 feet away from the console. The magical achievement is made possible with two devices, one that plugs into the console, while two peripherals plug into the remote receiver. A self-charging power pack juices up in two hours for eight hours of play, and the WOW Adapter comes with a spare cartridge, sans batteries, to keep the action going.
Game worthy of the gadget: The device screams two-player gaming event using either the brawling extravaganza Legends of Wrestling II ($49.99) from Acclaim, which features more than 65 superstars, including the late Andy Kaufman, or Capcom's 2-D fighting universe, Marvel vs. Capcom, which has 56 playable characters.
X-Arcade Fighting Stick, XGaming Inc., $149.95. The video-game arcade truly is brought to the home entertainment center with XGaming Inc.'s slick device, which mimics controls players would see on a free-standing coin-operated game at the local mall. Two players each get a stick and nine buttons to use in battle, and although the 2-foot-long controller may cause opponents to feel cramped, the responsive, rugged unit makes up for it.
Games worthy of the gadget: Either Sega's Virtual Fighter 4 for the teenager or the latest edition of the father of fighters, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance ($49.99), for the adult will make the case.
Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC, 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]).

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