Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review: Game Boy Camera

Smile, the Nintendo Security Agency is watching.

The Game Boy Camera is a prime example of Nintendo's ability to turn inferior hardware into a fun idea. At first glance, it's a worthless relic that can reliably transform an image of a cardboard box into an uninterpretable mess. Hyperbole, of course, but the quality isn't pretty, even by the digital standards of 1998. However, there's a deceptive amount of content packed into this hunk of plastic.

Kids weren't concerned with resolution; in the days when cell phones were things adults had, they were thrilled to have their very own portable camera. What's more, their amateur photography could be shared with friends using the Game Boy Printer accessory, a solid way to preserve the masterpieces that would otherwise have to be deleted to free up the cartridges limited storage capacity. That's all well and good, but a less than mediocre camera and printer only go so far. Luckily, Game Freak bundled in plenty of activities to keep any hyperactive kid busy.

After frantically mashing the A button to escape the nightmarish dancing Mario, players are presented with "Shoot", "View", and "Play" options. The first opens into a Pokemon-esque menu with further commands. Selecting "Shoot" again will activate the camera, "Items" include self-timer and time-lapse functions, "Check" opens the picture album, and "Magic" grants access to trick lenses, a montage feature, horizontal and vertical panoramic modes, and the ability to customize the various minigames with the player's own face. The "Run" option is there for kicks, allowing the player to escape to Mexico. After selecting this option repeatedly, various doodled-on faces will ask "Who are you running from? Don't be so silly!"

Players can create animations and slideshows in the "View" section, while the actual video games can be found in the "Play" menu, presented in the form of a space shoot-em-up. Shooting one ship will open the DJ game, a digital mixing board used to create and save beats, and the other is the classic Ball Game and Watch. Ignoring these options prompts Space Fever II, the space shooter, to start. It's a simple game consisting of three rounds. There are never more than a few enemies on screen, and rate of fire is slow. The fun is derived from trying to hit every ship and scoring bonuses for nailing two at once. At the end of each round, a face boss appears to unleash a barrage of fire. The first two are built-in to the game while the third is customizable, which might very well have been the inspiration for Face Raiders on the 3DS. Clearing the final round starts the loop over, with each subsequent playthrough upping the pace. But it's Space Fever II, so where's the first one? Considering the goofiness observed thus far, it's safe to assume it's a sequel to nothing.

At some point in playing Space Fever II, a third, title-less game is unlocked in which the player has to mash the A button like a lunatic to jump hurdles in an olympic race. Seriously, without using the finger-vibration technique, winning is virtually impossible. There are other goodies to unlock as well, like a variety of photos/pictures including Mario and Pokemon characters. These were meant to be printed as stickers on the printer's adhesive paper. Like modern-day achievements, many are simple and straightforward, like hitting a certain score in a game, while others are archaic and meaningless, such as deleting a certain number of photos. 

The Game Boy Camera is useless as a camera, but remains an entertaining and quirky package that's easy to come by. The printer is a bit more scarce, and the rolls of paper even more-so. Fortunately, it uses heat-activation to transfer images, so regular receipt paper will do the trick if cut to size.

Find a Game Boy Camera on ebay | Amazon

Released: 1998-06-01
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Game Freak


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