Unusual Gameplay

Control freaks?

Dave Cook looks at some of the more unusual gameplay dynamics that are spicing up the world of videogames

Time to burn your joysticks and throw away your control pads as game developers begin shifting away from the norm by introducing some innovative, unorthodox and plain silly methods of play this summer. If you thought the future was here when the Wii hit the scene, with its wireless Bluetooth controllers, then you haven’t seen anything yet.

Take Locomatrix, for example (www.locomatrix.com). It’s a new technology developed in Brighton that makes use of your mobile phone’s GPS functionality. By triangulating your position you can become the lead character in the game. It all sounds a bit sci-fi, but it is a very clever system.

The first game developed for Locomatrix, Fruit Farmer, asks you to stand in a field or similar open space with your phone and physically run around collecting fruit displayed on the screen, while dodging wasps and other enemies. The idea is to get people more active while playing games, although the inconsistency of Scottish weather may make this a wash-out. To watch a live demo or, if you’re feeling brave enough to download it, visit the developer’s webpage.

Chances are you will be familiar with band-simulators Guitar Hero and recent rival Rock Band (www.rockband.com), featuring an electronic musical backline including guitars, drum kit and microphone. However, Guitar Hero developer Neversoft has gone one step further and released a trimmed-down version of its game on Nintendo DS (www.guitarheroontour.com), complete with a fretboard grip accessory, touch-screen strumming system and a plectrum-shaped stylus – perfect for shredding power chords while on the road.

Fans of the movie Minority Report will get a kick out of what student at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and all-round tech wizard, Johnny Chung Lee can do with his Nintendo Wii. Lee guides everyday gamers via his website (www.cs.cmu.edu/~johnny) and explains how they can control their PC desktop and indeed, games, by using their hands. Want to open up a Word document on your computer? No problem, just place your finger over the icon and double-point. Likewise, if you want to collect a coin in a game, just reach out and grab it. It’s a very smart method of control and could be how we play games in the future.

Coming September is yet another piece of Wii mastery in the form of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (www.lucasarts.com/games/theforceunleashed). For the first time, gamers can take Wiimote in hand and face off against a huge roster of characters from the movie saga. Just imagine a fight between Yoda and Darth Vader with you behind the lightsaber. You can swipe, block, parry and even use force powers as you duel to the death in a range of intergalactic battlefields. Awesome, it will be!

While new methods of control add a bit of fun to a game and offer the player a new experience, many developers try hard yet fail, making something that is clumsy. However the creators of the games and technology above are masters of their trade and understand what makes control fun. It’s hard to imagine a world where control pads have become obsolete, but then again, that’s what they said about the joystick isn’t it?

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