Few areas of home computer hardware development are as diverse as that of input devices - controls which convert human movements into instructions for machines - and game controllers are some of the most unusual among these. Not only are games very popular, with a recent Bureau of Statistics survey indicating that they are enjoyed in 58 per cent of households with a PC, but their imaginative and playful nature encourages innovation by builders of digital entertainment accessories. The Firefly is an example.
Designed and manufactured by Melbourne company Complay, this controller looks a little like a bicycle seat with a handlebar at the front. The seat swivels through about 120ø horizontally, while the "handlebar" has 30ø freedom of movement in the vertical plane. At the top of the bar are a twist-grip similar to a motorbike throttle on the left, and a fixed joystick handle with several buttons on the right.
By moving your body from side to side, raising and lowering the handlebar, and twisting the throttle grip, you can control a variety of simulated vehicles in popular games. The Firefly emulates a three-axis joystick with four-way hat switch and four buttons, and uses standard joystick drivers that are included with Windows 95 or later. The Firefly plugs into a standard game port.
In action, it takes a little time to get used to the Firefly, but after 20 minutes or so I found myself becoming more proficient. Once I was used to the new way of flying, I found it an excellent controller for my favourite helicopter simulators, and quite good for flight sims and bike or car racing games. Since I was actually moving my whole body rather than just my hand, I found myself getting more involved in the action - even to the point of once turning so hard that I fell off the controller!
Like all game controllers, whether you like the Firefly or not is very much a case of individual preference. If you like vehicle and flight simulations, and think a little movement could be healthier than spending hours sitting like a zombie, you might want to try it out.
Price: $345; Phone: (03) 9312 3448; URL: http:\\www.complay.com.au