Essential console extras for your PS2

Are you a real game freak? Do you own so many console games that you're running out of shelf space? If the answer is yes, then you probably already own every piece of conceivable hardware for your machine. If, on the other hand, you only have a console and controller you're going to need to buy a few accessories to ensure that your gaming experience is everything it should be.
Sci-Fi Online takes a looks at those essential add-ons that you can't afford to live without...

It's a jungle out there. There are so many different controllers and add-ons out there, that getting one that does what you want it to is not easy. We've compiled a collection of some of the more reliable products below, but a word of warning. We noticed that all of the hardware (with the exception of lightguns) take a great deal of time to get used to. There is the temptation to say "Stuff it! My old controller is much better!" Don't forget, you've spent years playing with the standard game controllers, and getting used to the accessories will take a little time.

Don't forget your memory cards

What's the first essential purchase? Well, if you haven't got a memory card, then you better get one quickly. There are a number of different versions. But be warned - a cheaper product might not be the excellent value that you at first think it is.

There are some memory cards that you can't simply plug into your console. You also have to put a smaller disc into your Playstation, then once that has loaded, you need to put the game in you want to play.

To be honest, these are more hassle than they are worth and we strongly suggest going for the official PS2 memory card - at least you know that it's been designed with ease of use in mind.

[Order an offical PS2 memory card for £16.99 (RRP £19.99) by clicking here].

Probably the next most important purchase - assuming you have some friends - is a 4-way link cable. This allows you to play against three other friends at the same time.

The best of the bunch has to be Bigben's 4 Player Multitap, as it acts as much more than a link cable - and it's cheap too.

Not only can you have four players (and four memory cards) inserted at the same time, but it also acts as a stand for your PS2. This way you can store your console vertically. And it also allows you to store 6 games or DVDs.

Quite frankly the best multiplayer attachment we've seen.

[Order Bigben's 4 Player Multitap for £22.99) by clicking here]

Fun with guns

The next must own accessory has to be a gun. Those shoot 'em fanatics out there won't be able to play any games properly until they have a lightgun in their possession, but knowing which is the best on the market is not easy. It's also a good idea to check that any gun you purchase is compatible with your make of TV - especially if it is a widescreen set.

First up is the G-con2 from Namco. Now, anyone who owns any of the Time Crisis games will probably already own the first version released by Namco. And, if you are looking to upgrade your current gun, or this is your first purchase, you could do a lot worse than this little baby.

This model includes new buttons for added control - a directional pad plus reload button. It's also suitable for both left and right handed players. It is also compatible with a host of PS2 titles.

An added bonus is that it has been designed for use with most widescreen television sets. But you may experience problems if your television runs at 100hz, or if it runs on the 625 line system.

This is an excellent gun which improves on the original design.

[Order Namco's G-Con2 lightgun £16.99 (RRP: £19.99) by clicking here]

Next there is The Shooter from Wild Things.

This is a stylish looking weapon which looks like a cross between James Bond's trusty Walther P99 and something that Robocop would use.

If you are after a sexy looking gun that also handles well then this will do the trick.

It's stylish, rugged and has a kick-ass design. The only thing that spoils the effect is having "The Shooter" written across it in huge white letters.

[Order Wild Thing's The Shooter lightgun (RRP: £19.99) by clicking here]

Next there is MaxPlay's PS2 50Hz Light Gun - not the world's catchiest name, but it looks the business.

It has many features including auto fire and auto reload. It is designed for balance and comfort and supports all Namco Guncom 1 and Guncom 2 games.

If you want to feel like Robocop when you are blasting the bad guys, then this is the gun for you. It's also the cheapest model we tested and is one of the best guns we've seen.

[Order MaxPlay's PS2 50Hz lightgun (RRP: £15.99) by clicking here]

Wheelie good controllers

If you are a fan of racing games you are going to need a decent steering wheel. We found that by far the best way to play driving games is with a quality wheel and pedals. Be warned though, there are models on the market that don't come equipped with pedals, and there are other models that are not as responsive than others.

One of the best wheels on the market at the moment is Bigben's Speedster Steering Wheel.

This is an official licensed steering wheel for PS2 and PSone and is fully compatibility with DualShock and DualShock 2 controllers.

It can be used on the lap or with its tabletop attachment. It also comes equipped with funky looking racing pedals - not all wheels on the market do. It has F1-style gear shift (i.e. buttons) and realistic gear changing. It has a programmable dead zone and steering sensitivity, as well as programmable horn button and gear levers. You can adjust the vibration function, and it's tracking control prevents skidding.

This is a well priced, and responsive wheel. The addition of the pedals makes all the difference. Without a doubt, this is the model we would choose to buy.

[Order Bigben's Speedster wheel for £39.99 (RRP: £49.99) by clicking here]

Next up is the Driving Force Steering Wheel from Logitech.

It comes equipped with force feedback technology; Rubber hand grips; 4 action buttons; 2 wheel-mounted paddles; Status indicator lights; Dual clamping system; Realistic accelerator and brake pedals and Non-slip floorboard.

This is probably the best designed wheel we've tried, but at £10 more expensive than the Speedster Steering Wheel, it is a little more expensive for the same responsiveness. Having said that, it looks a lot cooler.

[Order Logitech's Driving Force wheel for £49.99 (RRP: £59.99) by clicking here]

There are a lot of bike simulators out there and thankfully there is a good controller for this market in the form of Pro Play's Motorbike handlebars for PSone and PS2.

This controller includes vibration feedback on handle bars (Dual Shock & Dual Shock 2 compatible); Realistic non-slip rubber handgrips; Analogue throttle and brake controls on handle bars to give precise acceleration and braking; 4 direction buttons and 13 function keys; Knee top attachment for extra comfort; Ultra strong desk clamp plus 4 heavy duty suction cups allow easy mounting to desk or table.

Thank goodness someone is catering for the bike market. Sadly though, we can't think of any decent games that do this justice... so it's a little redundant in today's market. Although, you could plug it in and play it when you grab a bike on Grant Theft Auto: Vice City... but that seems a little silly.

[Order Pro Play's bike handlebars by clicking here]

Give it some stick

If you want to feel like your playing an arcade machine or simply want a controller that is a little different there are plenty on the market.

First up is the Pro Arcade Stick from Spectravideo. This fine looking joystick is tough and reminded us of the old Kempston joystick many of us used to bash around on the old Spectrum 48K computer. Well... the stick itself looks similar, but their are many more buttons.

This quick action 8-way joystick includes rubber hand bumper and contoured rubber palm rest to enhance control and comfort. It also comes equipped with arcade-style fully analog fire buttons for that authentic arcade machine feel.

It's a little beefy, but it feels great once you get the hang of it.

[Order Spectravideo's Pro Arcade Stick (RRP £17.99) by clicking here]

Skateboarding games are something that have caught the gameplayer's imagination (there are plenty of Tony Hawkes clones out there at present) and, until recently, there was no controller that would allow you to feel the thrill of really skating.

Bigben's sportsboard tries to solve that problem with its full size skateboard controller. A word of warning though. Just like the real thing, this is difficult to get the hang of and you'll be tempted to give in after a few tries. Don't! The results are worth it in the end.

In reality this controller simply allows you to go left and right, by tilting your weight from one side to the other. There are also two buttons (one at the front and one at the back of the board) The rest of the controls can be accessed by plugging a standard joystick into the board. It almost works as well, but we think that the majority of users will probably fair better with their trusty hand controller for games where you are required to do tricks. It's fine for games where you don't have to do tricks, but almost impossible to control when playing games like Tony Hawkes.

[Order Bigben's Sportsboard for £34.99 (RRP £39.99) by clicking here]
Type "Sportsboard" in the searchbox once you are redirected to the store.

Finally we thought we'd have a look at the real arcade experience. We've always wanted to have an arcade driving game here in the office. And you can have the next best thing with Ash Design's GamePod GT2 with Rockingham seat.

It has a super comfy chair and adjustable legroom so that everyone will be able to reach the pedals comfortably.

It comes in a variety of colours and finishes and seems a little on the expensive side, until you realise that it is the same price as a decent armchair.

If you have the money lying around, and you have the space, you really need one of these.

[Order Ash Design's GamePod GT2 by clicking here]

Dance the night away

Out of nowhere a dance craze has emerged and middle-aged people, who should know better, have changed from normal citizens during the day into dancing divas come the hours of darkness. Now, we are not advocating this pastime - what people do behind their own closed doors is up to them. However, we get the feeling that in another 10 years we'll all be looking back at the 2000's and cringing with embarrassment at our dance parties. But, if we still can't persuade you to stop it then we urge you to practice safe steps. Here is our idiots guide to the best mats around.

First up is Joytech's dancemat. It looks simple enough, and it does the job. But it scores a big thumbs down for it's appearance. The colours and graphics make it look very old fashioned and why are the well known Playstation button symbols jazzed up?

It took us a long time to get used to the placement of the buttons and this would have been helped by having the X, circle, square and triangle buttons in the same style and colour as they are on your standard controller.

Sadly, unless you are in your mid to late 30's you are not going to think the design of this mat is cool. There are some plus points. It's cheap and works on the PSOne as well as the PS2, but this is probably one for the mums and dads only!

[Order Joytech's dancemat for £12.99 (RRP £14.99) by clicking here]

Next up is Bigben Interactive's offering in the form of the funky looking Dance:UK mat (for our separate review of this product and the game it was designed for click here.)

Again, this is not an easy mat to get the hang of and it suffers from the same points raised with the Joytech mat - i.e. the X, circle, triangle and square buttons are all over the place and don't look like the buttons we are familiar with (in fact the X button looks like the square button.

But, it does look a lot funkier, and can still be used on the PSOne and PS2 consoles.

[Order Bigben's dancemat for £9.99 (RRP £19.99) by clicking here]

Lastly, there is Spectravideo's Metal Dance Stage - which is an arcade style metal platform with flashing lights.

If you can get hold of one of these little babies, it's well worth it. You can't get much cooler that this. However, it's not going to please those of you who want need to keep looking at the floor to see which is the X, circle, square and triangle buttons - all you get here are arrows.

It comes with 8 heavy-duty pressure pads under each directional arrow, as well as 60 non-marking rubber feet on the bottom to protect the platform and the floor and ensure that it doesn't move whilst dancing. It also has a built-in control box and LEDs for easier set-up. As with the other mats, it is compatible with all dancing games for PSone and PS2.

[Order Spectravideo's dancemat by clicking here]

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