8 - USB Microphones
For use with SingStar
PlayStation 2, 2004
Imagining what it would be like to be able to talk to a computer is a common occurrence in sci-fi, from the efficient and largely silent computers in Star Trek, to HAL in 2001, capable of complex (if murderous) discussions on the nature of life. It’s somewhat ironic then, that in the early 21st century, the most successful microphone based input software is a karaoke game. Belting out Kylie and Queen might not have the moral depth of HAL’s impeccably cold ‘I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that…’
, but SingStar succeeds because it grasps what HAL can’t – it’s a great social experience.
Like many games in this list, SingStar pairs a realistic controller with a game that is a far cry from being a simulation of the activity it depicts. However, this makes SingStar all the better, as it’s all the easier to pick up and play. HD graphics and HDMI ports might be what Sony is boasting about when it comes to the PlayStation 3, but there are plenty of gamers for whom the killer app will be SingStar with a huge, downloadable catalogue of songs.
SingStar isn’t the first or even the most innovative microphone-driven game – and one that certainly deserves an ‘honourable mention’ is Seaman, an obscure virtual pet game for the Dreamcast which mainly involved talking to a bitter, bizarre mutant fish-man. Leonard Nimoy, AKA Spock, provided narration (this will not be the first time the Dreamcast gets a mention in this list, and probably not the first time you wonder quite how Sega expected to sell any consoles.)
7 -Trance Vibrator
For use with Rez
Sony PlayStation 2, 2002
Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi has often talked about his desire to provide players with a greater sense of immersion than the standard combination of graphics, music and levels that most games offer can give. From such noble, esoteric ideals was born the filthiest add-on controller in this list.
The Trance Vibrator was a USB add-on sold only in Japan. Unlike the other devices in this list, it’s not a controller, but rather an additional piece of equipment, that along with the screen, gamepad and speakers, aims to increase the depth of Rez’s 'synesthesia'
- a union of senses.
In less wordy terms, Rez is very trippy, thanks to the way that its gorgeously expressive wire-frame graphics and music are tied to the player’s actions. The Trance Vibrator adds a fourth element, buzzing away as you speed through the game’s virtual worlds. For a full account of just how this vibration adds to the experience, check out Game Girl Advance’s justly famous ‘hands on’ review.