Ridiculous Handheld Peripherals
Consoles have had some pretty dumb add-ons, including nerf Wii tennis rackets and cooling fans that overheat Xbox's, but portables have it even worse. Trust us...
What extra hardware have you ever bought for your handheld? For me, it goes about as far as a carry case and that's about it. Yet there is an entire world of add-ons and accessories for our consoles. I've got a sneaking suspicion that most of them exist entirely to entice your parents into buying a dodgy value bundle, with the likes of carry cases, in-car adaptors and screen "protectors" being the most popular "freebies". Go into any decent games retailer though and you'll find a whole range of expensive items that in some way or another attach to your machine in an attempt to increase your entertainment factor. I've never seen the appeal in them myself but they must sell, or they wouldn't be there on the shelves.
Let's take a peek at some of these craptastic add-ons, are they all entirely useless? Surely not.
The Light Magnifier
These were the first things I ever saw people attaching to their Game Boys and Game Gears back in the early 90's. The idea was to make your screen BIGGER than it actually is with a simple piece of warped plastic suspended a couple of inches above your screen. The Game Boy versions often packed a teeny tiny lightbulb next to the magnifier that would do its best to illuminate your screen if you happened to be playing in the dark. I remember borrowing a friends one and being completely unimpressed at its weak lighting abilities. That and the fact you had to ram an extra pair of AA's into it to power the weak-ass light.
The spectre that is the magnifier has never left us. They continued to be made for the Game Boy Advance and now they're even available for the PSP, still looking as ridiculous as they ever did. It's true they're a cheap way to increase your screen size but don't you think the PSP's screen is large enough as it is?
As we all know, the original Game Boy Advance had the most useless screen of quite possibly any handheld ever. You had to be in direct sunlight basically, that or sit with a lamp right over your shoulder. So some clever chaps invented a little light on a wire that plugged into the GBA extension socket and behold gave you LIGHT! There has to be a snag though. Yep, the light was a super bright white LED. Concentrating all its light in one point. I found the centre of the screen was over bright, with an unavoidable reflection of the light itself. I tried all kinds of solutions, trying to stick tissue paper over the light in a weak attempt at diffusing the light. Yeah, pathetic I know. Didn't work. Another 15 bucks down the toilet. GBA restricted to daylight use only until the arrival of the SP.
Never very loud, these handhelds. Something to do with conserving battery life maybe? So what you gonna do? Stick some extra speakers on! The first of these I ever saw were the NUBY Game Boy Amplifier speakers. They were both huge and loud. Loud to the point of distortion and almost pain. They were impressive enough but surely the audio of the Game Boy wasn't the most pleasant to be played loud. Combine this with a Light Magnifier and your Game Boy started to take over the house.
There's a bunch of speakers still available for the GBA and the GBA SP, The SP ones looking pretty neat actually, folding out from behind the screen to give you decent stereo sound. Ones made for the original GBA however, still manage to look stupid.
The PSP however has more speakers available for it than any other system that came before! They aren't quite such a crappy add-on though due to the machines multimedia capabilities. One thing I found while trawling the web though seemed to pretty much define uselessness. The PSP charger dock. No speakers or anything, just a... charger. Surely all PSP's sold kinda come with a charger included?
What's with these!? They look like someone, somewhere decided it would be a great idea to glue the design of a Playstation controller onto your handheld. Maybe some people find them comfortable, but you can't deny that they just look utterly insane. What's even more disturbing though, is one particular grip for the GBA, combining grip, light and joystick add-on.
This thing is enough to give you nightmares:
PSP on TV
Surely playing your PSP on your TV is quite a pointless exercise? Seeing as if you've got a PS2 already, ain't most of the games the same? ( Oooooooh, controversial!). Well, there's actually a few cases where it'd be nice to play your PSP games on the big screen, say RPG's, where you would otherwise be spending a long time staring at your small screen. Early on in the PSP's life there was much rumor and speculation that someone was about to let loose an ingenious device that plugged into your PSP and outputted a signal direct to your TV. What we actually got though, was this...
This monstrous contraption is just one of what was unleashed upon us as a PSP to TV converter. Essentially, it appears to be a webcam in a black plastic container, stuck onto the screen! Unlike the PSP2TV mod, which actually requires taking your PSP apart to install it, this device simply points a camera at your PSP's screen, then sends it down the connected cables straight into your TV. Sounds cool? Well, the picture quality is let's say, a little on the underwhelming side. The fact that you have to actually play your PSP with the thing attached to it? I think I'll stick to staring at the small screen thanks.
Konami Hyper Boy
Thought I'd save the most ridiculous til last. I only ever saw one of these once. A guy I knew brought it into school to impress us all. At the time, we all thought it was the most amazing thing ever. Looking back, it seems to be the most insane peripheral ever created for a portable system. I think you can see from the pictures exactly what it's supposed to be.
As you can see, the unit is pretty much a magnifier, light, amplifier and fancy joystick all in one immense unit. It was very well built, nice and sturdy. I should expect so too seeing how expensive it was at the time. Just check out that joystick, that's craftsmanship I tell ya! The Game Boy itself fits snugly inside the unit, almost disappearing completely into the murky plastic abyss. The only problem was that with the combination of light and audio, the thing chewed through batteries pretty damn quick. So you often ended up just playing a darkened, magnified screen with a big joystick. Not exactly exciting. Indeed the machine looked impressive to us kids at the time but really, it wasn't portable, it consumed valuable batteries, you would use it maybe for a few hours every now and then but it soon enough found itself languishing in a drawer or under a bed.
As you can see, companies will push out all kinds of bizarre garbage in order to lighten our wallets. If you think they're cool, go ahead and buy 'em. Just don't come crying to me when you've burst your pockets wide open 'cos you tried stuffing that Konami Hyper Boy in your pants.