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Game Over Online ~ SnapNPlay T102 Gamepad

GameOver Game Reviews - SnapNPlay T102 Gamepad (c) TT Tech, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher SnapNPlay T102 Gamepad (c) TT Tech
System Requirements Handspring Visor
Overall Rating 80%
Date Published Monday, January 28th, 2002 at 07:38 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

The SnapNPlay TT102 for Handspring Visor is one of many products from TT Tech, who specializes in making PDAs a better platform for gaming. Although we all know that the keys that come with the PDA are handy with launching calendar functions or scrolling through text, entertainment titles often make more demands on the interface than casual organizer use. Such was the dilemma that came to PC gaming when in its infancy; most titles were tailored towards the keyboard as the primary mode of interface. Later on, usage of the mouse, gamepad, joysticks and other accessories proved to be wildly successful.

This Visor gamepad does a similar thing for the popular Handspring Visor PDAs. Although Handspring's very own Gameface made a loud entrance into the Visor market, I think it is TT Tech's accessory that makes a more solid foray to cater to gamers. For one thing, it is a lot more than a simple overhaul of the existing buttons. The SnapNPlay T102 completely replaces your original buttons and adds an eight-directional d-pad allowing for diagonal movement. The two buttons are slightly disappointing. Initially, I was hoping for the ability to use the existing buttons in tandem with the new ones. TT Tech has included the buttons next to the graffiti area (home, menu, etc.) so you will be able to at least get access to those. Fully configurable software ensures that your buttons will not be useless and that the gamepad will work with virtually any software. Your gamepad buttons will, with the drivers, masquerade launch buttons for date books or contacts.

Perhaps the piece de resistance of this product is the addition of force feedback or what the manufacturer calls 'Shock Vibration Technology'. As vibration technology becomes more and more ubiquitous in mobile devices (cell phones, PDAs, console and PC accessories), I'm surprised that other developers aren't taking a cue on this. Perhaps the need for batteries is suspect but instead of draining your PDA's power, the SnapNPlay uses a single AAA battery. This is a smart thing considering excessive use of force feedback will drain your batteries prematurely (Pocket PC users will know about this with regards to other moving parts like microdrives) and most Visor owners will have an extra set of AAAs sitting around anyway. Another issue that hinders the force feedback effects relates to the software. Most entertainment titles, unlike PC or console ones, do not take into effect that force feedback exists, so its usage is hit and miss. TT Tech has a website of compatible titles but with the rampant and numerous titles released for the Palm OS, it is really hard to implement this fully. Moreover, TT Tech has less leverage than Handspring's Gameface to issue any sort of diktat to mandate force feedback. Ultimately, what you get is a half-implemented feature.

One of the nice things about the Handspring Visor is the relatively stable handheld format. This SnapNPlay product will work with the original Visor, Visor Deluxe, Visor Neo, Visor Platinum, Visor Prism and Visor Pro. That's a long list of products in the handheld world. Thus, with the exception of the Visor Edge and the new Treo, your gamepad is interchangeable amongst most Handspring products; something that isn't standard with the recently released Pocket PC peripherals.

Usage and feel of gamepads are usually subjective to one's tastes. We've all heard the controversies and heated debates over the three console gamepads: Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube. Because the gamepad snaps onto the bottom, there isn't much in the way of ergonomic feel. However, the buttons are easy to press. They have a tactile response and pressing them does not take too much effort, albeit the d-pad is slightly less responsive than the other buttons (for what reason, I have no idea). They're also not recessed or too soft so you don't have to dig into the gamepad uncomfortably. It is not a huge accessory but you definitely will not be carrying this in your pocket while attached to your PDA. It adds quite a bit of bulk to a Visor that is already not aesthetically thin. The force feedback effects are audible too because of the moving parts so it is not discrete in quiet settings.

As I write this article, Handspring is gearing itself towards its Treo line of products and many industry critics claim that Handspring CEO Donna Dubinsky's comments have rung the death knell for Visor handhelds. Although the Visor line is not altogether discontinued (yet), it is not exactly a roaring market either. This gamepad, though it does its job well, will not persuade you to buy a Visor for entertainment purposes. Let us at least be frank on that point. Its value is best for those existing Visor owners, or perhaps a PDA aficionado who has an extra Visor lying around, to put some life back into their dated handheld. It is unquestionably a unique device and a much stronger product than Handspring's Gameface for entertainment purposes. Yet its execution, like the force feedback support, is spotty and not as consistent as one would hope it would be. But hopefully this will not deter TT Tech or other manufacturers from dropping this new and important feature in future products.


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