I Like To Move It

I Like To Move It
I Punch the Body Electric

Brendan Main | 12 Oct 2010 12:37
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After centering and calibrating my glove, I was good to go. The Power Glove itself boasts a number of programming modes, all of which promise to do something other than what they seemed to do for me, which was to leave the game's main character in a jittery heap in the middle of the screen, punching and kicking in every direction. After some experimentation, I discovered I could leapfrog forward by flailing my arm in place. So I hopped along, one flail at a time, until I encountered my very first opponent - a bright orange bulldog. Through no manual control on my part, my bad dude continued his hail of punches and kicks, beating that poor dog to death.

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And then ... nothing. Right after that first dog, the game froze up. So I reset, recalibrated, started up. Never trouble trouble, got it. Jump, jump, jump, another dog pounded to burger, and then another freeze. Third try, third dog, third freeze. It was around this time that I realized that I was being punished for my sins. Thank you, Nintendo, for this dog-punching purgatory.

I hate the Power Glove. It's so bad.

Round 2: Platform: Sega Genesis. Peripheral: Sega Activator

Having never owned a Genesis as a kid, everything I knew about Sega's infrared-based motion control system came from its widely-maligned instruction video, a 90s fever-dream comprised of equal parts lies, damn lies, and statistics. The video depicts two extreme gamers with extreme haircuts, harnessing the power of their punches and kicks toward their extreme gaming. In one part, the narrator helpfully explains that the infrared beams are invisible, but hints that if you could see them, they'd look awesome. In another part, a kid is shown jump-kicking in place faster than his friend can press buttons, while the narrator boasts that moves are delivered "at the speed of light." Now I'm no physicist, but I'm fairly sure that kicks don't go at the speed of light. Kicks go at the speed of kick.

The Activator itself is a set of eight plastic panels that click together to form a large, interlocking octagon, earning it the distinction of being the gaming peripheral that most resembles a diabolical portal to The Plains of Leng. Next comes calibration, which requires you to keep three feet away from the damn thing for 20 seconds every time you turn the console on. In a brilliant feat of doublespeak, the Activator's introduction video boasts that "it seems simple ... because it is!"

As it turns out, it doesn't, because it's not. Adding to this growing list of non-simplicity is the way that you hit the start button: by fanning your arms back into a 270 degree angle, thus requiring you to begin every game with a protracted bout of frenzied flapping. After familiarizing myself with the punch-and-kick based controls, I tried my luck at a few fighting games, the type of game at which Sega boasted the Activator excelled.

We begin with Mortal Kombat. I lose. We switch to Street Fighter 2, and I lose. We briefly try Shaq-Fu, and I lose - though, when it comes to Shaq-Fu, really everyone loses. It isn't merely a matter of my real-world punches and kicks travelling slower than good old fashioned button-mashing - it's also that the particular layout of the Activator renders any sort of combo impossible. Directional keys are set at the cardinal points, and the buttons are placed between them, meaning that even a simple command like a down-to-forward punch requires a physical investment of your entire body. I stick my right leg in. I pull my right leg out. This is not kung-fu. This is not even Shaq-Fu. This is the hokey pokey.

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