Article - Mugwum examines two of the most interesting GBA peripherals out there
I'm seldom impressed by third party peripherals for handheld consoles. Even useful peripherals like the wormlight and magnifier seem ludicrous. When it comes down to it, I prefer to cradle the bare console in my hands and plug away, even if that means I have to angle it for the light or squint a little. It's not a view everyone takes, but it's something I'm used to, and the idea of spoiling the aesthetic and portability of the smallest of my consoles is sacrilege. I won't have it. It's surprising then that someone like me has found a very exciting and potentially very useful peripheral, and even a light adapter that could feasibly see a bit of use in my hands. But then I'm sure you'll make your own minds up.
GBA Power Station - £19.99
The first peripheral is Gamester's GBA Power Station. It's a rechargeable battery product, but at £19.99 it's the best I've seen so far. It uses two NiMH batteries, different to normal disposables, and instead of removing these batteries every now and then and clamping them in a charging unit away from your console (with all the added trouble of battery back panels getting lost in the process and the batteries themselves going astray), they remain in your GameBoy Advance at all times. The key to Gamester's product is a Palm Pilot-style cradle, which props up the GameBoy Advance. On the underside of the cradle is what looks like a battery compartment, but when you remove the panel it's just dull grey plastic underneath. Confused? This back panel is actually a replacement for the one on the GameBoy Advance, and the original back panel can be stored safely in its place on the under side of the cradle. After inserting the NiMH batteries into the GameBoy Advance, you attach the replacement back panel and plug in the cradle. From then on, whenever you're not using the GameBoy Advance, you just drop it into the cradle and let it charge. The added benefit of this setup is that once you've positioned your cradle you get into the habit of just leaving your GameBoy Advance there, so you don't run the risk of losing track of it either! As far as battery life is concerned, normal AA batteries will last you only a matter of hours. I've had the NiMH rechargeables in the Gamester GBA Power Station last 15 hours with the volume all the way down. Scientist that I am, I left the little thing playing Mario Kart Super Circuit demos on my desk in the morning at about 9am, and it was only by midnight that the power LED was fading. Not bad.
GBA Twin White Light & Magnifier - £11.99
The other peripheral I'm less fond of, although this is perhaps more to do with personal preference than anything though, and it may appeal to you. It's a lighting and magnification tool which clamps on to the front of your GBA. With a thin panel across the front for magnification and lights built into its support struts, it's less of an obstruction to transporting the thing than your average lighting tool (and particularly the worm light), but realistically you still have to detach it if you want to go anywhere. The twin light seems pretty sturdy, and given that it's meant to sit in place atop the console that's important. The magnifying panel is also pretty strong, although I managed to break mine by accidentally bashing it side to side against the edge of my desk. The sort of pressure that a portable games console really needs to withstand. Is it the sort of thing I would buy? Well, I did and it broke. Would the average punter fancy a piece of it? I don't see why not. Really that depends on how annoying you find the GBA screen situation, but one thing you may find is that having a magnifying glass limits the number of angles you can successfully view the console from further still…
While handheld peripherals often fail to impress me, these two just about do the trick. The Gamester GBA Power Station is a real gem and should be on every GBA owner's Christmas list. You'll never uncover all those secret tracks in Mario Kart without it. And if the winter months really get to you, you could do worse than a twin light and magnifier. Just don't play too rough!