A controller is like a security blanket that you get to know and love; without it, I am helpless. Even when it comes to racing titles, I feel more comfortable with a Dual Shock in my hand than a steering wheel.
There are some exceptions of course. I will always favor the use of a light gun over doing point-and-shoot on Time Crisis, and when it comes to my Dance Dance Revolution addiction, I absolutely refuse to play with a Dual Shock or my computer keyboard; only a floor mat will suffice.
Still, new controls come out that attempt to enhance gaming experiences, some with more success than others. Radica, under the Gamester namesake, has unleashed several new devices this last year for the PlayStation2. The PS2 Sportsboard is one of these items. Built to resemble a skateboard, it is designed to give the true feel and control of a skateboard.
The board is balanced on a sensor panel, which is then plugged directly into the PS2. A Dual Shock can be plugged into the panel base to perform advanced moves such as grabs, rail slides, etc.
The board itself is a thin piece of wood which for a person of my size, is difficult to maintain balance on. A majority of the time I played I found myself leaning more towards one side than the center. To relieve this balance problem I had to hold onto a chair, but adding the use of a Dual Shock returned my balance problem.
As for the games I tested, they responded well to the controls, but added some problems as well. When playing SSX Tricky I noticed my player was turning in circles because I was leaning towards one side. Attempting jumps with the X button made it more difficult without losing balance and falling off. Tony Hawk 3 played much worse, since more buttons are required to perform ollies, grinds, holds, and spins. Need I say again how that affects my balance?
I will admit though that despite my balance problems that the sensors are quite accurate, and they can be set to both analog and digital. Sensitivity can be altered to three different levels, and I was able to notice a difference, but it wasn’t enough to help me out.
The biggest offense of the PS2 Sportsboard is that the manual recommends a weight limit of 180 pounds. Now I, at 160 pounds, can use it without problems. However, most gamers are, shall we say, on the heavy side? I don’t see how anyone over 180 can use it without any possible damage to the board, or possibly themselves if it breaks during gameplay. And really, 180 pounds is not very large for a full-grown man. I’m about the only member of the male GiN staffers who can safely use the board.
Kids might enjoy the PS2 Sportsboard, but adults, and especially folks over 180 pounds, are going to have some really bad control problems. Perhaps 14-year old skate rats will find the board cool, it certainly awed the entire staff here before most of the guys learned they could not safely use it, but I don’t really think most adults will like or be able to use it.
The PS2 Sportsboard might be an innovative concept, but it fails in its execution. In the end it gets 2 1/2 GiN Gems for its innovation, but that’s about it. Tony Hawk 3 and SSX Tricky play much better with the Dual Shock, at least for me.