A puzzling survival puzzler
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The AmBX tech of immersive hardware to spruce up your games have been around for years now, albeit with very limited marketing. The hardware challenges to take the immersive aspect of video games out of the limits of your screen bezel and add a few extra elements to it with their shiny light projection effects. But do they achieve their desired effect?
The Mad Catz Cyborg gaming lights are the only set of AmBx products to be licensed outside of tech giant, Phillips. Packaged in an average box, the products themselves are anything but. Inside are the twin spotlights in their closed clamshell design along with twin USB-miniUSB plugs, the power adapter and your usual host of papers and driver discs. Unpackaging the lights, you’ll quickly notice just how well built they are. Sturdy and slightly weighted, the Cyborg lights shine with a cold brushed metal feel and manage to sit anywhere along your setup to kick its coolness level up that much more before they even do their job.
Set-up isn’t exactly a breeze however. You’ll be shifting things around for while to experiment with their effects. The idea is to place each light a few inches to either side of your computer monitor facing a painted wall – preferably white. The connections on the hardware itself can be a little awkward to hit and do in fact get in the way with some placement choices, but look at the hardware itself and you’ll notice there probably wasn’t a whole load of other options the designers could have worked with anyway.
Repositioning will take a hour or two of you’re time in order to get the best effect, but once you find that sweet spot, you’ll undoubtedly fall in love. The Cyborg lights take the experience of all kinds of computer usage to the outside of your screen. They’ll react to light sources in-game, brightening the walls as your left flank gets hit with explosives or just flash in sync to your gun muzzle. They’ll dim to dark areas and flare up in the sun. But for the first few hours, you’re guaranteed to stare and watch as they change rather than actually focusing on your game and letting them do their work just from pure awe. The below video will demonstrate how the lights react to MMO game, Age of Conan.
Once you get past the initial “new tech syndrome” they’ll become one of those beloved and unique little additions to your set up. You’ll forget they’re there but defiantly notice a toned down experience when they’re not. At which point you’ll really appreciate their other uses. Within the included amBX software you’re able to customise exactly how the lights react to just about anything. They’ll auto-detect any game mentioned on the compatibility list meaning any tweaks are unessential but still possible. Windows Media Player will auto-detect the lights and strobe vividly to your music filling your room with the colours of your sound or react to movies much like how they react to your games. What’s best is that you can adjust anything from their intensity, virtual compass positioning and their colours through the included software to make just about anything more immersive and flashy – including Windows itself.
We kept our tests to a very “Gaming” centred focus. Music tested came from the soundtrack of Sega’s beat heavy title, Jet Set Radio, with games such as Resident Evil 5 and Dirt 2 being our main gameplay test titles whilst we stuck to the theatrical version of Max Payne for our movie test due to it’s dark noir style and heavy gun fire – We were not dissapointed by any. Games work flawlessly in time with the lighting effects being taken from anything from lens flare, muzzle flash and even menu effects whereas music was a little trickier to work through. The lights reacted with far deeper colour variety but seemed a little delayed or just somewhat random at times. Our test movie also showed a slight delay but nothing serious enough to affect the experience negatively.
Through the use of unofficial software mods – those unsupported by Mad Catz themselves – you can enhance the usage of the lights to work in conjunction with services like YouTube with its millions of videos or even the positioning of your windows on-screen or set them to flicker and glow with relaxing colours to wind you down after a long day. What’s best is if you’ve got the cash (and the USB ports) you can set up a total of 24 lights to cover your room in flashy ambient effects and effectively turn your room into a completely immersive virtual experience paired with your sound system and fancy OLED screens.
While the set-up procedure wasn’t exactly pain free, we settled to blame most of the issues on our unprepared corner desk station. Once the lights were up and running we could see instantly the amount of joy these things can bring just from the coolness factor alone. They certainly kick the immersion efforts of your games up a notch and act as another way to show off to your console cramming friends. While movies are not really designed for multiple viewers on a computer monitor, you’ll be able to appreciate their effects on your own just fine. Just a single set of two lights will be enough to get you hooked on these, just make sure you have enough USB and power sockets before you go buying more and you won’t regret a thing.
Final Score: 4/5