Just like any other form of entertainmet, gaming is no stranger to gimmicks and new ideas intended to deliver us a completely new experience. And while many of them do catch on in popularity, none have ever been able to completely de-throne the controller or mouse and keyboard as the control mechanism of choice.
They’re still interesting, though, and still fun to look back on and wonder what the heck we were thinking when we played with them. So without further ado, I present to you the weirdest peripherals and add-ons we’ve ever connected to a console.
R.O.B. The Robot
The Robotic Operating Buddy was the ideal add-on for lonely kids and frustrated gamers during the 1980′s. Meant to simulate a cooperative player, he helped you get through puzzle games that required two players in order to beat. The idea is interesting, and he was partially responsible for helping re-invigorate the video game industry. The problem, however, is that he was pretty complicated and not kid-friendly in any sense. He had to be used with a certain type of television in order to be responsive, wasn’t always reliable, and only two games were made that he was compatible with; the puzzle platformers Gyromite and Stack-Up. Neither were incredibly popular, but R.O.B. has since become something of a Nintendo icon, even appearing as a playable character in some of the Super Smash Bros. games.
Continuing Nintendo’s steady stream of weirdness, the Power Glove was a wearable controller intended to allow players to control in-game characters through the use of hand motions. The idea is interesting; however, the execution was flawed and largely unresponsive, making the Power Glove into something of a mockery rather than a serious peripheral. Only two games were ever released with specific features for use with the Glove: Super Glove Ball, a maze puzzle game, and Bad Street Brawler, a beat ‘em up brawler-type game. Despite its failure, the Glove was actually a pretty interesting technological achievement and went on to become something of a pop culture phenomenon when it was featured in the movie The Wizard.
One of the first-ever experiments with 3D, the Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s attempt to create a Virtual Reality system. It used a unique vision trick to simulate 3D play, but was often accused of being gimmicky and even not being 3D at all. Graphics were presented in an ugly red, the system was awkward to use, and under a million units were shipped out, making this a collector’s item best left in the closet today.
Many of us have our DDR pads rolled up in a dusty ball and crammed underneath TVs and entertainment systems. And sure DDR is not the first time a dance pad peripheral has been used, but it’s hard to deny that the things are a bit awkward and clunky to deal with.
While the Play Station 2 eye toy was one of the first console add-ons to use a camera and integrate players into the game, Kinect has taken us to an embarrassing new level of absurdity, ushering in a new era of wiggling in front of and shouting at your television while playing one of the many broken and unresponsive games. While the Kinect has its moments of usefulness (i.e., turning on Netflix when I’m in a food coma and can’t be bothered to get off the couch), it’s vastly overshadowed by poorly developed games and hardware lacking precision and necessary responsiveness.
Steel Battalion Controller
The Capcom-developed mech game Steel Battalion was a game that featured one of the strangest gaming contollers to date; a 40-plus button layout simulating the inside cockpit of a Vertical Tank mech. Steel Battalion was a niche game with a capital N, and the controller was a task to deal with, making it a game only for the hardest of hardcore. Specific sequences of buttons were required for everything, from starting the mech to operating it and using it in combat.
However, despite its insane amount of work and immersion required in order to make the game functional, it’s still two thousand times more playable than the broken Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor released on Kinect earlier this year.
Even though it looks like something they’d tote around in a 70′s science fiction movie, the seven-year-old in me refuses to say that the Zapper was weird in a bad way. Instead, the Zapper was insanely awesome, as I got to hold a gun and use it in-game with the TV. While it was compatible with a number of games, probably the most widely remembered is Duck Hunt, a hunting simulator that tasked players with shooting ducks out of the air…and trying to shoot that damn dog when he laughed at you for missing. I know, I have anger issues….
Tony Hawk Ride
Featuring a wheelless board “full of technology”, Tony Hawk Ride sought to immerse you in the experience of skateboarding from the comfort of your own living room. In reality, though, it’s the black mark on the Tony Hawk legacy of video games, only managing to sell just over 100,000 units and being met with poor critical and consumer reception. It wasn’t responsive, felt clunky, and found its way to multiple garage sales, game stores, and thrift shops shortly after being purchased.
Wii Balance Board
Soccer moms everywhere rejoiced at the creation of the Wii Balance Board, a peripheral for the Nintendo Wii used in conjunction with Wii Fit as a way to get in shape. Now, why is it weird? Because it’s shaped like a scale and was used in so many different ways to track exercise progress for the week or two people stuck with it before giving up. Now it’s used to prop up shelves, shaky tables, or hide underneath TVs and entertainment systems, much like the aforementioned Dance Pads.
While it could be argued that the Move has some of the most interesting games in the motion-control market, it still feels awkward waving around a wand with a clown nose attached to the end of it. Sure, it’s implementation is alright, but the design is more than a little off-putting.
Sega Bass Fishing Controller
For those who enjoy the rush of reeling in a big catch but can’t always make it out to the lake, there’s always Sega Bass Fishing for the Dreamcast, complete with its own fishing reel peripheral that makes it feel just like the real thing.
Not really. Actually, it looks a lot like the toy fishing rods you could buy for five-year-olds at Toys R Us. But the real question here, of course, is the one of why you’d choose to play a game about catching bass.
Do you remember any of these? What are your thoughts on them? Tell us in the comments below!