Wii Wireless Sensor Bar
- Mad Catz, GBP 12.99
- Nyko, GBP 9.99
Ever since the Wii appeared, wireless versions of the sensor bar have seemed like a bloody good idea - so it's no surprise that most manufacturers have one to offer. There are tons of these in the shops, but we've picked two of the best to have a look at - and found pros and cons with each of them.
Firstly, Nyko's wireless bar comes in lovely cylindrical packaging - which may not seem like much, but if you'd ripped your hands to shreds opening the evil shrink-plastic wrapping on a few boxes of accessories, you'd appreciate it too. It's a fairly chunky slab of plastic, with sticky pads for the bottom to affix it to your television, and has a bright LED on the front to indicate that it's in operation. In a nice move, it also comes with batteries - which you'd definitely appreciate on Christmas morning.
The Mad Catz bar, meanwhile, is a couple of quid more expensive - but it's a much more slimline offering, only a little larger than the original Nintendo sensor bar and slightly curved at the edges. Like the Nyko bar, it has an LED on the front to indicate operation, and a set of timers so that you can set it to switch off automatically after a while. Unlike the Nyko bar, however, it comes with a cable on the back which allows you to connect it up to the Wii for wired operation. The downside? No batteries in the box, so you'll need to stock up on AAAs for it.
Wii Charge Station
- Nyko, GBP 24.99
Another accessory that simply makes sense, in our view, is a charging station for your Wiimotes - which should save you a fortune in batteries over the course of a few months. There's quite a range of these on the market, but many of them suffer from the same basic problem - they don't actually come with the rechargeable batteries required for them to work, so you'll need to buy those separately, and this often isn't very clearly marked on the packaging.
Not so the Nyko variety, a very simple charging station which comes bundled with a pair of specially designed battery packs. On top of that, it also throws in a nice added extra - the replacement battery covers which it gives you (they're required because they have the electrical contacts for the charger station on them) have grooved, rubberised backs on them, which make the remotes significantly easier to grip - and less likely to get sweaty and nasty during prolonged Wii Sports sessions.
The other version to try out is definitely the Joytech Charger Station, which also sells for GBP 24.99. Unlike the Nyko version, it actually attaches directly to the console (great as long as you aren't pushed for space around the TV), and it uses the Wii's own power supply too. It also comes with custom battery packs, so no worries with buying batteries here either.
PS3 Wireless Gamepad
- Mad Catz, GBP 19.99
PlayStation 3 accessories are a little thin on the ground this Christmas - well, decent ones are, anyway. However, we were quite taken with this wireless gamepad from Mad Catz, which is a fair bit cheaper than Sony's Sixaxis offering but has full Sixaxis-style motion sensing and really nice build quality.
The pad is generally nice to use, albeit a little heavier than the Sixaxis due to the inclusion of a battery compartment for a pair of AAs rather than a built-in rechargeable battery. There's good travel on the face buttons, the sticks aren't too loose, and the D-pad is nice to use in fighting games. However, what we were really sold on is the triggers - which have a lovely, springy action, and are shaped properly so that your fingers don't slip off, unlike the Sony ones.
The biggest problem with the pad is that it doesn't actually hook up to the PS3 over standard Bluetooth - instead, it comes with a dongle that you need to plug into one of the console's USB ports. It is, admittedly, a small and inobtrusive dongle - but it's still another USB port used up. That said, as a budget controller to keep handy for when friends come around for a game, it's definitely best of breed.
DS Lite Charger Grip
- Nyko, GBP 19.99
There are plenty of accessories for the DS on the market, but very few of them are even worth a second look - lots of tacky replacement stylii or vaguely pointless screen covers, for the most part. Nyko's Charger Grip, however, is one piece of kit we won't be taking off our DS in a hurry - especially if 2008 beings with it any long-haul trips abroad.
Fitting snugly onto the back of your console, and held in place with an ingenious little dowel that slots into the stylus socket, the charger grip includes a fairly hefty battery and some nicely shaped hand-holds in a single, remarkably light package. The grips make the DS Lite much more comfortable to hold for games which focus on the face buttons, rather than the stylus - although they do make it a little unwieldy when trying to hold it like a book, as for Brain Training.
The real killer here is the battery, though, which extended the playtime of our trusty DS by over nine hours - enough to make up for that horrible discovery that your DS' charger isn't compatible with overseas power supplies, when it's already too late to pick up a new one. Also good for sticking on the back of your console and hiding away from your family over Christmas, we might add. That's our plan, anyway.
PS2 Frontman Controller
- Nyko, GBP 34.99
Finally, we didn't really see ourselves putting any PS2 products in this list - after all, this is pretty much the last Christmas where the PS2 will be of any interest at all to us hardcore gamer types - but the Fender Frontman Controller for Guitar Hero was just too good to pass up, and has rapidly become our favourite way to rock out (in the small plastic button mashing sense).
It's a wireless controller for the PS2, so it comes with a little dongle to stick into the console's controller port - which, in a nice touch, looks a little like a pedal. Pairing the two pieces is remarkably easy, and from there on, it just works exactly like any other guitar controller. The big plus is that it comes with a lengthy USB cable, so you can play it as a wired guitar with no batteries inserted - or recharge as you play with some rechargeable AAs inserted.
What really makes this into our favourite console axe is that it's got lovely modern styling, and feels weighty and balanced - leaving the official Guitar Hero controllers feeling rather insubstantial by comparison. The buttons, too, have a nice action; our only complaint is with the distortion bar thing (if I knew the name for it, I'd be playing a proper guitar, dammit), which isn't very responsive and doesn't let you play with notes as much as we'd like. Other than that, though, brilliant. You'll be hitting 100,000 points and getting that knock on your door in no time.