Expand games with music, video add-ons
By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
EyeToy, a new video camera add-on for Sony PlayStation 2, puts you in the center of the action.
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Marc Saltzman, a freelance technology journalist whose reviews also appear on the Gannett News Service.
Game console accessories can add depth to your game play. Add-on controllers make driving and flying games more realistic, and memory cards let you save games so you can continue your play later.
Sony's EyeToy for PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Music Mixer for Xbox are two new console accessories that can enliven game play in fun new ways. Here's a look at both, plus the software that accompanies them.
Game controllers are no longer the only way to move around and interact with game environments thanks to EyeToy, a video camera that connects to the PS2's Universal Serial Bus port.
EyeToy allows you to use body movements to control game play. It projects an image of you on the TV screen in the center of the game action.
The EyeToy ships with 12 mini-games on EyeToy Play disc. They include "Boxing Chump" and "Kung Foo" where you use your fists to knock down fighters, and "Soccer Craze" where you use your head to butt soccer balls in the air. "Wishi Washi," another game, is a window-washing simulation where you wipe away suds on virtual windows by waving your hands and elbows over them.
Video messaging is also possible with the EyeToy, provided an 8-megabyte memory card is inserted into the PlayStation 2. Once a short message (no longer than 60 seconds) is recorded, it can be played back for family members on the TV screen as a sort of 21st century sticky note. Unfortunately, the video messages can't be e-mailed.
While it may look a bit strange to move your body frantically in front of the TV screen, especially if you're playing by yourself, the EyeToy offers family-friendly fun and a little exercise, too.
(Sony, for PlayStation 2, $49.99: rated "E" for everyone, www.eyetoy.com.)
'Xbox Music Mixer'
The Xbox Music Mixer can help you turn your living room into a karaoke lounge for parties and family get-togethers.
Along with the 15 sing-alongs bundled on the DVD (such as Gloria Gaynor's popular club anthem, "I Will Survive"), there are two ways to add more karaoke songs. You can use the Internet-based Xbox Live service (subscriptions run $49.99 a year) to buy more tunes from www.xboxkaraoke.com. For example, 50 Cent's "In Da Club" is a $1.99 download. Each tune you download includes a karaoke version of the song, on-screen lyrics that follow the vocal track and attractive background "visualizers" that change colors. You also can "rip" songs from your favorite music CDs and save them on the Xbox's hard disk. Music Mixer strips the vocal track effectively, but it doesn't offer any way, such as querying an Internet music database, to add and display on-screen lyrics to songs.
Music Mixer also includes a photo album viewer and slide-show feature. It also supports an option for transferring Windows Media, MP3 or JPEG files to the Xbox from Windows computers on an Ethernet home network. The "Xbox Music Mixer" PC transfer tool is a free add-on for "Music Mixer" owners that you can download from the company's site.
(Microsoft; for Xbox; $39.99; rated "E" for everyone; www.xbox.com/en-us/musicmixer.)