To listen to the hype surrounding Sony's Move and Microsoft's Kinect, motion control is poised to become all things to all people. This is the explicit message of Sony's "this changes everything" ad campaign, which rattles off a range of game genres and play styles before concluding that Move "changes everything." Microsoft's unorthodox, skeleton-sensing Kinect seems custom designed for more obscure applications - evidenced by the blood-chilling spectacle that is playtime with Skittles the Tiger. This is all well and good if you are a casual customer wondering if you'll get your money's worth, or, say, a precocious child wondering if you'll get to command an adorable jungle cat as your own unholy familiar. But I am a simple man, with simple tastes. I don't need a device that does everything. I'm on the lookout for one very specific thing.
How does it feel to just up and punch a guy?
I know I'm not alone. In fact, older motion control systems have often boasted exactly this type of gameplay, not that they have always been up to the task; most now have been left to the garbage heap of gaming's history. Always being up for a bit of the old ultraviolence, I decided to track them down, dust them off, and see how they stacked up against our modern expectations. Not as games, or even as technologies, but as something far cruder - as punching simulators. Which ones pack a punch, and which ones are just punchy? Old pitted against new, literally mano-a-mano. Not for me, or for gamedom in general. For civilization.
Round 1: Platform: NES Peripheral: Power Glove.
Let me just get this out of the way: There was always a part of me that cowered in awe of the Power Glove, thanks to its pop culture canonization in The Wizard. As the villainous videogamer Lucas Barton's weapon of choice, it looks sleek and lethal, the kind of device that might shoot lightning or force-crush an opponent from across the room. "I love the Power Glove ... " he murmurs with a fierce intensity. "It's so bad."
So in strapping the Power Glove on for the first time, I felt a flush of Bartonian awesomeness swell up within me. Somewhere, faint in the distance, there was the squeal of electric guitars and synthesizers. I wiggled my fingers menacingly. Let the games begin.
Or, I guess, just "game." Because there were only two games specifically made to be enhanced by the Power Glove, and only one of them had anything to do with punching. That little beauty was a beat 'em up called Bad Street Brawler, and in the name of Serious Game Journalism, I had made sure to obtain a copy to try it out. Upon turning it on, the game advised me to "never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you," which is the sort of sentence that reads like a printing error at a fortune cookie factory.