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WorldWideWidgetWorks
URL: www.palmgamepad.com

PalmInfoCenter.com Bottom Line:

The Price:
  • MSRP $20
  • Shipping: $5.95 US; $15.00 Int'l
The Pros:
  • Great construction
  • Very stable on Palm
  • Makes games much more fun!
  • Nice Price

The Cons:
  • Initial difficulty with driver
  • In "non-aware" mode HotSync is disabled

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*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms



WorldWideWidgetWorks Palm GamePad Review
By Robert Zach
3/26/2001


So, you bought a Palm IIIc and can't figure out the best use of color...well the answer is GAMES of course!  And, there sure are plenty of them available for the Palm Platform.  Now color is my preference for gaming, but there are even more, and some excellent at that, games available in black/white and grayscale as well. And, the even better news...almost any of them can be made compatible with the GamePad!

I must admit first off that I have had this product for review for quite some time.  It has taken me so long to get it out because frankly I couldn't get it to work properly.  WorldWideWidget works was very supportive through this process, sending me a new unit in case that was a problem, and offering e-mail support.

I decided to put on my best beta tester's hat and went at it.  I removed hacks, apps, and preferences one by one.  I even performed a hard reset of my device. Nothing....Then about a week ago I noticed that there was an updated driver on the PalmGamePad.com website...voila!  

So here's the review:

The GamePad comes packaged in a nice blister pack that you see here.  There are to drivers in the package (mine came with a reviewer's CD-R with the drivers - I'm assuming this is not standard since the packaging material points you to the website to download drivers), but in light of my initial driver problems, maybe this is a "good thing"; you'll be sure to download and use the latest drivers.

The current driver version is 1.01 and consists of two .PRC files to load on your Palm.  The drivers are both approximately 4K in size (GamePadDriver.prc & GamePad.prc).  The driver .PRC is what hooks the serial port (a "low-level shared library") and the GamePad application is what allows you to configure the button layout of the GamePad (the control panel).

The README.TXT file states:

    Once you have the two files installed, return to your Palm applications screen and select the GamePad application.

    Select "All Games" if you want the GamePad to work with older games that do not support the GamePad directly. This should allow many of the best older games to work with the GamePad.

    Some of the older games do not have the exact same key mapping that the GamePad supports -- but in most cases you can configure each game to work well with the provided key mapping. 

    Select "GamePad Aware" if you only want the GamePad to work with games specifically designed for the Gamepad. You must change the setting to "GamePad Aware" to allow HotSync to work. A future version of the driver will not have this limitation.

    For version, it is best to keep the GamePad on the "GamePad Aware" setting when you are not playing games.

Click for larger image The GamePad is essentially constructed like any other Palm III type clip on device (such as the modem), and attaches in the same manner.  The GamePad also has a large semi-circular support bracket that extends from the top (on the  left side of this picture).  This extension rests behind the Palm device and provides additional support and rigidity.

The GamePad itself has a very nice shape that feels good in the hand.  The buttons are laid out in the typical Nintendo GameBoy™ style.  In fact I compared the shape of my Color GameBoy to the GamePad, and the shape is nearly identical.

The button feel on the GamePad are also very much like the GameBoy; they require a little mashing.  But, I found this appealing, adding a sense of authenticity.

Here's a shot of the GamePad on my Palm Vx.  You'll notice I am using a PalmDockPro here.  This combination is quite secure and works very well.  The Palm feels very stable in the hand, it looks long, but works well.

Here's a shot of the GamePad on the Palm IIIc.  This is my preferred location for the GamePad; love those color games!

See the GamePad for a growing list of compatible games!

What's the bottom line...this is a great addition to your Palm that really steps up the playability!  It's well worth the price.

UPDATE: v1.202 of the driver has been released.  This version now allows "Gamepad Aware" apps to directly turn the driver on (and hopefully off).  You no longer have to remember to turn the driver on for these games, which also means you hopefully won't have to turn them off - remember HotSync is disabled with the driver on.  This version also allows key mapping for non-aware games.  This should make the GamePad compatible for many more games. Great News!

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ardiri.com's comments

ardiri @ 3/29/2001 4:11:52 AM #
ardiri.com received probably one of the first gamepad devices (back in late november 2000) - and we started adding support for the gamepad pretty much straight away. the API required a bit of tweaking (prc-tools) however we got the thing working.


    I decided to put on my best beta tester's hat and went at it. I removed hacks, apps, and preferences one by one. I even performed a hard reset of my device. Nothing....Then about a week ago I noticed that there was an updated driver on the PalmGamePad.com website...voila!

i have been through pretty much all the driver revisions :) and occasionally i have experienced problems with the driver, sometimes it would not detect the unit, it would FATAL EXCEPTION on my for strange reasons - i am yet to try out 1.202 however i am installing right now :)

the only pet-peeve i have with worldwidewidget works is their ability to update the website showing which games are GamePad aware! ardiri.com has produced a number of games that support this hardware (and, most of em are free) - maryo bros, the latest addition plays so well with it.

i also hope they fixed the "power off" timeout bug. if you have a gamepad aware game, and you play (pressing buttons on the gamepad) - the system doesn't recognize that the system is actually being used. i submitted this bug, but it wasn't fixed in 1.201 - i hope it is in 1.202 :) essentially, when a key is pressed on the gamepad, they should inform the system that its not doing nothing :)

// az
aaron@ardiri.com
http://www.ardiri.com/

1.202 driver status
ardiri @ 3/29/2001 4:45:41 AM #
to follow up on my testing, the 1.202 driver solves the issue with the "power off" bug :) a particular nice touch introduced in 1.202 is the ability to actually remap the gamepad keys to what want them to be (not like previously, where it was mapped statically).. nice :)

// az
aaron@ardiri.com
http://www.ardiri.com/
RE: ardiri.com's comments
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/17/2001 9:42:51 PM #
i bought a p[alm gamepad and love it! Oh and Aaron Ardiri give yourself a pat on the back...:)>

Stiff Buttons

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/31/2001 6:33:46 PM #
I put the GamePad to the test - my 10 year old son and 13 year old daughter (both GameBoy addicts) - they love the button layout, but they hate the feel of the buttons (compared to the gameboy, way too stiff). I'll give it a couple of weeks to see if it mashes properly...

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