Since the days of the original NES, Nintendo has been synonymous with Mario and, let’s face it, Duck Hunt. The NES Light Gun was an insanely gutsy and fun peripheral, yet it didn’t really make a resurgence until the Wii Zapper became its heir apparent, even though the Zapper is just a hunk of well-formed plastic. With the Nintendo Wii’s popularity, particularly during the 2007 holiday season, companies are hopping on the Wii bandwagon faster than you can say “blow in the cartridge.” But dreamGEAR, which has announced a series of Wii peripherals here at CES, may have the one peripheral that outdoes Nintendo: the GameBlaster.
The GameBlaster is taking the Wii Zapper head on, both in terms of its function and form. Like the Zapper, dreamGEAR’s GameBlaster incorporates the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to give players more control over the on-screen action than the old-school Light Gun ever provided. Also like the Zapper, the GameBlaster is a chunk of molded plastic. But this is also where the GameBlaster, which is designed to be equally comfortable for both right- and left-handed players, starts to set itself apart.
Rather than a static piece of plastic like the Zapper, the GameBlaster has a rotating barrel and break-away functionality for tricky in-game maneuvers. The rotating barrel at first seems odd, but when you think about the amount of hand and arm movement involved with blasting enemies, the rotation promotes more natural arm and hand movement without interrupting the gameplay itself. You also may not think the break-away function is all that important, but by touching a single button, players can pull the gun into two pieces and easily transition from, say, a shooting mechanic to a throwing one. Considering the diversity of actions being thrown at Wii gamers right now, this functionality has the potential to be quite useful, particularly looking down the line at holiday 2008 Wii games.
dreamGEAR is using CES to unveil a couple of other Wii peripherals as well, the Wii Charging Station and the Soft Sports Kit. The Charging Station is self-explanatory, as it lets players charge two Remotes even when the Wii is powered off. An LED Charge indicator lets users know when charging is completed, and the unit itself includes two rechargeable battery packs and storage slots for two Wii remotes, memory cards and cables.
The Soft Sports Kit capitalizes on the fact that Wii Sports is included with every Wii gaming system, and that Wii Play is a popular way for gamers to get their hand on a second Wii Remote. Since these two products involve more than a dozen sports minigames, the Soft Sports Kit includes foam extensions into which the Wii Remote easily snaps, turning the Wii Remote into foam baseball bat, tennis racket or golf club. Sure, it’s kind of silly, but the younger gamers who got a Wii this past holiday season are going to eat these novel peripherals right up.
dreamGEAR’s trio of CES peripherals provides some basic functionality, but it does to with an almost “why didn’t I think of that?” approach. The GameBlaster is probably the most ingenious of the three, and with more first-person shooters and action games on the horizon for the Nintendo Wii later this year, we’re eager to run the GameBlaster through its useful paces.
— Jonas Allen