They say that as people age, they go through a second childhood. One look at the average profile of the Nintendo Wii player and that statement does seem to be true.
No wonder more and more companies want to make gaming consoles for senior citizens too. Catching up with the likes of major players like Nintendo and Sony, Hewlett-Packard too has come up with a motion controlling gaming device called the HP Swing.
The controller, looking like an over-sized TV remote control, now comes bundled with all HP desktops starting from a certain price range and upwards. A simple, black, slick-looking accessory with four buttons and a short, stubby joy-stick are the only gaming controls.
Setting up the device involves installing the software with the CD provided and plugging in the Bluetooth receiver that comes with the HP Swing. The suite of games show up as a ‘FlingPC' icon on your desktop.
However, before you launch the games you'll have to pair the Swing to your computer via Bluetooth for the controller to function. Click on the pairing icon on the screen and the Swing Bluetooth controller buzzes to confirm that the connection has been recognised. The manual advices users to hold the Swing with the wrist strap tightened so as to not fling it across the room and smash the controller to bits as you play virtual Lawn Tennis.
The gaming options included in the Fling PC platform were categorised into four groups — Games, Advanced, New (latest game launches) and Hot (most popular ones). Although, there was an overlap in the games within these categories, there were enough options to keep us occupied for three full working days.
We tried our hand at the usuals like Lawn Tennis, Ping-Pong, Snooker etc. But a couple of more interesting ones like shooter games and adventure games didn't get installed in the PC and weren't available for play with the CD provided to us.
The first time we paired the Swing, it acted quite like a virtual horse on rampage. Getting to control the cursor via the Swing takes some getting used to. Motion sensitivity also seemed to malfunction when the controller was held too close to the laptop or PC. But when held at a distance, which you are supposed to while playing with the Swing, the controller performed quite satisfactorily.
However, the Bluetooth occasionally malfunctioned, and the controller tended to freeze for a few brief seconds mid-game.
Playing games on the Swing involved replicating the actions that you would in real life while playing a sport for e.g., serving a ball in tennis or a backhand flick at the TT table.
It was mostly responsive and easy to manipulate. However the Swing controller does not have a sensor for force, which means that if you try to literally ‘smash' a ball, the effect doesn't translate into a swift move on the screen.
Playing on the HP Swing was similar to using the Nintendo Wii. We thought that using the controller with a laptop or desktop PC would be a hampering experience as compared to using a TV, but we were pleasantly surprised at how user-friendly it was.
There were other games called ‘Mini Sports' which tested your endurance, virtually at least. This suite of games included Fencing, Weightlifting , Trampoline and Vaulting. Other games included Fishing, Snooker and Bowling and all of these games come with hints and prompts for you to know exactly what to do to get the ball rolling with the Swing. For example, with weight lifting, you had to move the Swing rapidly back and forth in order to gain momentum to lift the weight. Similarly, with the trampoline, you had to follow instructions on the screen which told you what actions you needed to perform in order to score a high jump or a make twist or flip mid-air.
With games like bowling and snooker, the Swing lets you change and review your position so you can take the best shot, as you would in real life. There are also games like easy fishing, which would be a delight for the kids.
The HP Swing is a good companion to your desktop at home or you can even pair the one you have with your laptop. It's a refreshing break from the sit-and-glare-at-the-screen routine that most kids are stuck with while playing games on the PC. And, the Swing is good enough a controller to make you want to bring out the child in you once in a while.